Digitalis lanata, commonly known as the 'Grecian' or 'Woolly' Foxglove and with marketing name of 'Café Crème', this unusual foxglove has a beautiful 'Coffee and Cream' colouration.
From late spring to mid summer it produces tall spikes of densely packed, fawn coloured flowers each with a pearl coloured, protruding lower lip. Each of the blooms is delicately patterned with pale coffee-brown veins.
It produces many dense woolly spikes, often reddish-purple in colour, and the mid-green, lance shaped leaves sometimes have white woolly hairs on the leaf veins.
Well-worth trying in a shady, well-drained spot in the garden, this perennial variety grows to a height of only 60 to 72cm (24 to 30in), and produces many stems which are very suited for use as cut flowers.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Digitalis lanata has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Sowing: Sow indoors in late winter to spring or sow directly outdoors in late summer to autumn
Sow indoors in late winter to spring or sow directly outdoors in late summer to autumn.
Sow seeds on the surface of a peaty soil. Do not cover or bury seeds as the seed needs light to germinate, just press seeds lightly into the earth. Keep seed in constant moisture (not wet) they will usually germinate in 2 to 4 weeks at around 20°C (68°F).
Sow seed thinly in trays of compost and place in a cold frame or greenhouse. Once germination occurs keep in cooler conditions. Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays to grow on. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out once all risk of frost has gone. Plant 30cm (12in) apart. Water well to help them establish.
Sow directly in a well prepared bed. Sow very thinly in drills 30cm (12in) apart. Firm down. Keep the plants moist and free of weeds. When they are large enough to handle, thin out the seedlings so that they are eventually to 30cm (12in) apart
The plants establish and grow leaves in the first year, it will send up large spikes, then flower and produce seeds in the second. As a rule, they are hardy plants and can cope with any soil unless it is very wet or very dry. They are fairly disease resistant, although the leaves may suffer slightly from powdery mildew if the summer is hot and humid. If you cut the stalk down before it goes to seed, it will generally rebloom through August and, if you wish, you can reseed from the second showing.
Self-sown seedlings are best transplanted when the leaves are about 10cm long. Make sure the newly moved plants are watered very well to help them establish.
Cover the flowerspikes with paper bags (such as those used by bakers to wrap baguettes) to collect the seeds. When the seedheads have dried, shake them to remove the seed and scatter them where you want them to grow.
Digitalis is a source of digitalin used in cardiac medicine, it slows the heart. The whole foxglove plant is toxic, no part is edible and if eaten it will cause severe discomfort, in a child or small animal it could cause death. Fortunately it tastes very bitter and causes irritation of the mucous membranes in the mouth, actually causing pain and swelling. It also causes diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, so if it does get in, it soon comes out!
Because of these factors, it is not really a problem for wildlife, human or otherwise. However if you ever find a child who has been around this plant with symptoms of oral irritation, grab a stem or two and get to the emergency room.
Wear gloves when handling plants or seeds, plant where young children will not have access and educate older children to potential dangers.
Shade/Woodland Garden. Cottage/Informal Garden, Cut Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds, Wildflower Gardens or Wildlife Gardens
If foxgloves are grown near most plants they will stimulate growth and help to resist disease and if grown near apples, potatoes and tomatoes their storage qualities will he greatly improved. Foxgloves in a flower arrangement make all the other flowers last longer - if you do not want the actual flowers in the vase make some foxglove tea from the stems or blossoms and add to the water.
The name Digitalis is a latinisation of the German name 'fingernut' from the Latin digitus meaning 'a finger'. The flower resembles the finger of a glove. The English name comes not from foxes, but from the phrase 'folks' gloves' because it was thought that the flowers were used as gloves by fairy folk. Another common name is “Fairy Thimbles”.
The species name lanata means wool. One of the common names is Woolly Foxglove, referring to the white woolly hairs on the leaf veins.
Digitalis lanata can often be found with the marketing name of Digitalis 'Café Crème'
Folklore & Legend:
The flower meaning is insincerity – Folklore tells that bad fairies gave the flowers to the fox to put on his feet to soften his steps whilst hunting ! The foxglove was believed to keep evil at bay if grown in the garden, but it was considered unlucky to bring the blooms inside
As home to the fairies, children were told it was bad luck to disturb the plant as this would lead to the fairies being homeless.
Digitalis lantana is a flowering plant in the family Plantaginaceae.
Native to Eastern Europe it is found growing wild in Italy, Hungary, Turkey and The Balkans. It is thought that it was first introduced to the U.K in 1798 subsequently this evergreen perennial has naturalised in certain areas.
Digitalis lantana is the species grown commercially for pharmaceutical use.
The National Collection:
The National Collection of Digitalis is held at T.A. Baker, The Botanic Nursery, Rookery Nurseries, Cottles Lane, Atworth, Melksham, Wiltshire SN12 8HU. Tel: 07850 328 756 for opening hours.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 100mg Average Seed Count 240 Seeds Family Plantaginaceae Genus Digitalis Species lanata Cultivar Marketed as 'Café Crème' Common Name Grecian, Woolly, Perennial Foxglove Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to minus 15°C (5°F) Flowers Fawn with pearl lower lip Natural Flower Time Late spring to mid summer Foliage Often evergreen Height 60 to 75cm (24 to 30in) Spread 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16in) Position Partial Shade to Full Sun Soil Well-drained/light, Clay/heavy, Dry or Moist Time to Sow Sow indoors in late winter to spring or sow directly outdoors in late summer to autumn Germination 2 to 4 weeks at around 20°C (68°F).