ISSUE 22  |  Outdoor Living

Field Guide: Foxglove

June 02, 2014 6:00 PM

BY Amanda Gutterman

Foxglove, Digitalis: “The Queen of Camelot”

Where would a cottage garden be without foxglove? Or the Tuileries, for that matter? And did we mention that foxglove also will spread like a wildflower? Wild foxglove can be found in the shadier parts of fields in all the colors of silk and satin gowns. Varieties of foxglove are in cream, apricot, mauve, beige, sky blue, and just about any color you can imagine.


Above: For more photos, see Foxglove in our Gardenista Gallery.

Some of the most beautiful foxgloves have flowers that fade, almost like a tie-dye pattern from dark into light.

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Above: The Tuileries at sunset. Photograph by Alice Gao.

Cheat Sheet

  • Foxglove is toxic to a variety of invasive species, keeping deer and rabbits at bay while welcoming hummingbirds and honeybees.
  • Works wells as: a middle of the border plant that will lend height without blocking the bloomers behind it.
  • Foxglove has an “awkward stage” when blooms fade at the end of the season. For cover, it needs attractive and hardy companions like ferns or begonias.


Above: Photograph by Fiona Gilsenan.

Keep It Alive

  • Foxglove likes full to partial sun, except for in very hot climates, where they prefer even partial shade.
  • In the garden: regular watering and plenty of space (about 2 feet per plant) will help foxglove spread.
  • Happiest in growing zones 4-9.

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Above: Photograph by Alice Gao.

They are at once incredibly showy and laid-back, rustic charmers. Or for a more unusual look, Camelot Cream foxglove boasts milky flowers with exotically speckled, violet throats. You have to see it to believe it.


Above: Photograph by Kendra Wilson.

Depending on the species of foxglove, it can be a perennial or a biennial and re-seeds itself freely and easily in the garden. Extracts from the common species, Digitalis purpurea, have been used for medicinal purposes–to treat cardiac patients–since the 18th century. An overdose is toxic and so is the entire plant: don’t eat foxglove flowers, stems, or roots.

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Above: Read about more of our favorite plants in our Field Guide archive. Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.