With its tall spikes of dusky purple flowers towering over dark green leaves, the foxglove is instantly recognisable to most gardeners. But there are many other striking varieties that will fill your garden with colour all summer.
Digitalis purpurea subsp. heywoodii 'Silver Fox' is one of the most beautiful dwarf Foxgloves for the cottage garden and border. Growing to just 60 to 70cm (24 to 28in) tall, it is named 'Silver Fox' for its attractive silver-grey foliage, which contrasts well with upright flower spikes.
Blooming from June until August, the creamy-white speckled bells are flushed with soft lavender-pink.
This short-lived perennial plant will grow a leafy rosette the first year, bloom and set seed the second year. You can count on abundant seeds to carry on in the garden, but it won't become a nuisance.
Foxglove 'Silver Fox' seems to go with everything in the garden. The silver leaves are attractive, even when the flowers aren't blooming. An elegant and rare foxglove that is ideal for borders or containers.
Sow indoors: March to May or Sow directly outdoors in May to June or September to October
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 in March to May, 10 to 12 weeks before last frost. 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. Transplant to the flowering position planting 30cm (12in) apart.
Sow in May to June or September to October directly in a well prepared seedbed. Sow seed very thinly in drills 30cm (12in) apart. Firm down gently. Keep the plants moist and free of weeds. Thin out the seedlings to 15cm (6in) apart when large enough to handle.
Foxgloves are biennial which means that 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 and, if you wish, you can reseed from the second showing.
Self-sown seedlings producing different shifting, untutored patterns of flowers each year, they can be easily transplanted to the location you want them to bloom. They 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 only where children or animals will not have access.
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.
Foxgloves originate from parts of Europe, Asia and north-west Africa. They come in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes and range in height from 30cm (12in) tall to whoppers soaring above 7ft
There are 25 species and distinct geographic or varietal forms found throughout Central and Southern Europe.Digitalis purpurea subsp. heywoodii is from southern Portugal, where it grows on granite outcroppings.
The genus Digitalis was traditionally placed in the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, but phylogenetic research led taxonomists to move it to the Veronicaceae in 2001. More recent phylogenetic work has placed it in the much enlarged family Plantaginaceae.
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”
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
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.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 50mg Average Seed Count 625 Seeds Family Plantaginaceae Genus Digitalis Species purpurea ssp. heywoodii Synonym Digitale piccolo Common Name Aka 'Pink Champagne' Hardiness Hardy Biennial Hardy Hardy to minus 15°C (5°F) Flowers Creamy-white speckled bells, flushed with soft lavender-pink. Natural Flower Time Late spring to mid summer Foliage Silver-grey Height 60 to 70cm (24 to 28in) Spread 20 to 30cm (9 to 12 in) Position Partial Shade to Full Sun Soil Well-drained/light, Clay/heavy, Dry or Moist Time to Sow Sow indoors: March to May or Sow directly outdoors in May to June or September to October Germination They will usually germinate in 2 to 4 weeks at around 20°C (68°F).