These cottage garden favourites are tall, strong, colourful plants. Ideal for a shady border, informal garden area or a woodland scene. One of their greatest virtues is that they don't normally require support, even though they can reach up to 5ft (1.5m) in height.

Family: Plantaginaceae (plantain)
Botanical Name: Digitalis
Common Names: Foxglove

Foliage: A basal rosette of simple soft green leaves.

Flowers: Tall erect spikes of dainty bell-shaped flowers, in shades of white, pink, red or yellow.

Flowering Period: Early to mid-summer.

Soil: Any moist but well-drained garden soil (clay, chalk, loam or sand).

Conditions: Sun or semi shade, dappled shade.

Habit: Columnar/Upright.

Type: Semi-evergreen biennials or short-lived perennials.

Origin: Europe, western and central Asia and northwestern Africa.

Hardiness: Fully hardy throughout the UK (down to -20).

Toxicity: All parts of this plant are highly toxic if ingested.

Planting and Growing Digitalis

Best planted in a humus-rich soil in partial shade and in a sheltered location. They dislike very wet or very dry conditions.

A good choice for cottage or informal gardens, also prairie and wildlife gardens. They make excellent border plants and look their best when planted en-masse in a shady wild corner of the garden.

All forms are excellent as cut flowers.

Taking Care of Digitalis

Once the main flower spike has finished flowering, remove it to encourage side flowering shoots to form.


Deadhead once flowers have faded unless collecting seed or allowing to self seed.

Pests and Diseases

Prone to attack by aphids. Leaf spot and powdery mildew can be a problem.

Propagating Digitalis

Propagate by seed sown in-situ in late spring. Foxgloves are good self seeders. Hybrid forms will not however come true from seed.

Popular Varieties of Digitalis Grown in the UK

Several good varieties have been developed from our native foxglove 'Digitalis purpurea'.

'Alba' (Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora) a tall variety with pure white flowers. Height up 50in (120cm). Available from Thompson and Morgan.

'Excelsior' a range of hybrids with tall flower spikes. Height to 60in (150cm), spread up to 18in (45cm). Available from Thompson and Morgan.

'Dalmatian Mixed' hardy short lived perennials in a good mix of colours. Height to 20in (50cm), spread 16in (40cm). Available from Thompson and Morgan.

'Foxy' is a good short form in white, cream, pink and red. Height to 3ft (90cm). Available from Mr Fothergill's.

'Suttons Apricot' tall flower spikes in an attractive shade of apricot. Available from Gardening Express.