Digitalis purpurea

Family: Plantaginaceae

Countries: Africa, Belgium, Corsica, Czechoslovakia, England, Europe, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Sardegna, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Wales

Digitalis purpurea is the botanical name for one of our stunning wildflowers – the foxglove.  Foxgloves are charming plants that produce towering spires of handsome pink-purple flowers in June, July, and August.  We may chance upon Digitalis purpurea plants during country walks.  Groups of Digitalis purpurea flowers brighten our walks as we traipse through woodlands or heathlands, along coastal paths, over banks and hillsides, and alongside hedges and towpaths.

This stunning plant is often seen out in the countryside of England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, as well as in our parks and gardens.  Foxgloves are not exclusive to the UK, Digitalis purpurea commands a wide home range; this wildflower can be found in Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Sardegna, Spain, and Sweden.

Digitalis purpurea thrives in partial and dappled shade, in any moist but well drained soil.  Steer clear of sites that are prone to water-logging and boggy ground, as Digitalis purpurea plants don’t want to sit in water.

This statuesque biennial (occasionally plants become short-lived perennials) is easily grown from seeds.  In the UK, I’ve found that the best time to sow Digitalis purpurea seeds is from May to August.  These seeds need light for germination, so avoid the temptation to bury or cover the seeds with soil or compost; instead scatter your seeds on the surface of the soil.  For maximum success, sow Digitalis purpurea seeds in trays or containers filled with peat-free compost.

In their first year, Digitalis purpurea seedlings form plants with a typical rosette of leaves.  However, during their second year, Digitalis purpurea come into their own and show us their full glory in June, July, and August, when plants send up stunning spires of flowering stems that are decked out in raspberry-pink tubular, spotted flowers.  Digitalis purpurea flowers often reach 1.8m (almost 6ft); with their upright habit these are superb plants for small gardens as well as country estates.

If you’ve sown seeds in containers, plant out Digitalis purpurea seedlings in their final positions during August or September.  This will provide your plants with sufficient time to establish themselves in your garden, ready to flower next year.

Digitalis purpurea is a superb plant for bees and a wonderful garden plant.

Digitalis purpurea is poisonous.

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