Digitalis purpurea (Foxy Group)

Common Name: common foxglove 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Plantaginaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Pastel shades of purple, pink, red, cream, yellow and white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Hummingbirds
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer


Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, organically rich, acidic soils in part shade. Soil must not be allowed to dry out. Performs as an annual or biennial. If grown as an annual, seed must be started indoors early and transplanted outside in spring (usually blooms 5 months from seeding). May also rebloom the following spring. May self-seed under favorable growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Digitalis purpurea is a biennial foxglove that produces only a basal rosette of light green, oblong leaves in the first year from seed. Flowers are borne in the second year in terminal, one-sided racemes atop leafy, 2-4' tall (infrequently to 5') spires arising from the centers of the basal rosettes. Pendulous, 2-3" long, tubular, funnel-shaped, dark rose-pink to purple (sometimes white) flowers with purple and white spots inside are closely grouped along each spike. Flowers are attractive to hummingbirds. Plant leaves are a source of the drug digitalis and are highly poisonous. A late spring bloomer that reaches its peak about the same time as roses begin to bloom. After flowering, plants can become somewhat scraggly by late summer, and, because they are biennials, consideration may be given to removing them from the garden as soon as they release their seed. Individual flowers resemble the snipped off fingers of a glove, hence the common name of foxglove.

Genus name comes from the Latin digitus meaning "finger" for the flower shape.

Specific epithet means purple.

Foxy Group plants, unlike most biennial Digitalis, are noted for their ability to produce flowers in the first year. Flowers are borne in terminal racemes atop leafy, 2-3' tall spires arising from the centers of basal rosettes. Flowers are pendulous, 2-3" long, tubular and funnel-shaped and come in carmine-red, pink, creamy yellow or white all with heavy maroon spotting.


Powdery mildew and leaf spot, if left untreated, can depreciate foliage considerably by early to mid-summer. Dense crowns may rot in soggy, poorly-drained winter soils. Potential insect pests include aphids, mealy bugs, slugs and Japanese beetles.


Tall spires provide striking color and good architectural height to the border and are particularly effective in front of dark backgrounds such as those provided by a wall or shrubs. Also effective in woodland gardens or naturalized areas.