How to grow Foxgloves

Foxgloves have performed very well for us this year. I grew them from seed and planted them around the oak tree and my garden studio in the spring garden. I also planted a big patch at the edge of the Bluebell wood – they flowered twice, as usual in spring and then quite unexpectedly again in autumn. You can cut the flower stalks right back when you tidy your garden in autumn and some people like to remove the plants as soon as flowering is over. As you know I prefer to leave some seed heads on my plants so that tiny creatures have hiding places and seeds to eat over winter. And here’s my bonus. Here’s what’s left of my Foxgloves this year. Just the tall stalks with seed pods. But aren’t they amazing?


Most Foxgloves are biennials… if you sow them this year they will flower next year. What is brilliant about biennials is that you can grow lots of plants very easily and inexpensively from seed and then remove them after flowering to grow something else.

Easy – Sow in late summer or early autumn and they will grow and develop through the winter with little or even no attention from you as long as your garden has sufficient rain! Then they burst into life in spring sending up tall spires of blooms so you will have masses of early flowers in May and June.

Inexpensive – Foxgloves produce masses of tiny seeds. If you have friends with foxgloves in their garden they will probably be delighted to give you some of their seeds. Alternatively you can buy a packet of seeds for just a couple of pounds and choose the colours that you prefer.

The bright pink wild form which is Digitalis purpurea. They also come in white and cream and lovely pastel pinks and peach too. Many of them have beautiful markings inside each bloom which acts like a landing strip for bees and other pollinating insects.


If you haven’t already sown your foxglove seeds this year ready for flowering in spring 2016 don’t worry. You can still grow Foxgloves in your garden. All good nurseries and garden centres will have Foxglove plants for sale in early spring and there are some Foxgloves which you can sow, grow and flower in the same year.

How to sow Foxglove seeds.

Foxglove-seedlingsFoxglove seeds need light to germinate. I prefer to start them off indoors in trays of compost. I have found that sowing a tiny pinch of seed in just 10 cells of a module tray is the best way to raise Foxgloves. Sowing in cells like this means that you don’t sow too thickly. If you aim to sow just 10 seeds in 10 cells then you will have 100 Foxglove plants. That should be enough for most gardens!

Growing them in cells means that each tiny plant has more space and light so your newly germinated seedlings won’t damp off and rot away. They will develop into nice healthy seedlings which can be pricked out into their own individual cell to grow on. They are quite hardy and don’t need heat at this stage. You can pot them on as they grow then plant them outside when you are ready.

Apricot-FoxgloveFoxgloves are really woodland edge plants. Like most woodland plants their broad leaves will make the most of the sunshine in early spring before the leaves form on deciduous trees. And then wooosh… up come the flowers in late spring. They prefer partially shaded positions and moisture retentive soil.

You can cut the flowers for a dramatic display indoors. Flowers last about 5 days in nice fresh water. Once you remove the main flower spike the plants will send up side shoots with more flowers… these will be smaller but still gorgeous. If you prefer to leave your blooms in the garden then please take some time to sit and watch the insects make a bee line for your Foxgloves.

Do you grow Foxgloves in your garden?   Gillian


12 thoughts on “How to grow Foxgloves

  1. Thanks for the sowing tips.
    I prefer the wild ones and let them self seed. Sometimes they come white, which is welcome.
    I learnt something new this year when I tried transplanting some and discovered their very extensive root systems, even with tiny plants. They did survive, however, and will now establish in another part of the garden.
    We have sandy soil and they don’t seem to mind too much! Love them!

  2. Biennials are often under-rated plants. No cottage garden is complete to me without a few foxgloves. The only thing I don’t like is if they are lined out in rows with equal gaps between them as I once saw in an expensively planted US garden. I love to see them planted artfully in nooks and crannies, as if they had self-seeded – as they may well in future years, especially with a bit of encouragement!

    1. I think it’s all about timing really. Waiting until year 2 until they flower seems like such a long time… but the rewards are so worthwhile.

      1. I don’t mind waiting for most plants as it’s well worth the effort and patience. Acers can be quite slow to get going I agree

  3. You are good to bother to sow the seeds. I take the shell and shake it around where I would like to see foxgloves and let mother nature do the rest. Usually works. Love them!

    1. I always shake some seeds around but our garden is windy and we have clay soil – I am guessing that’s why the seeds I scatter don’t do well. The brilliant thing about gardening is there’s always another way to do things. I’m happy it works for you Dorris. They are gorgeous aren’t they?

  4. Luckily I have some wild pink foxgloves that seed around my garden. I just leave them to it, removing or transplanting ones in the wrong place.This year I planted some seeds for some apricot coloured Foxgloves – some in the ground and some in a seed tray. They were very kindly sent to me by Joanna of Edinburgh Garden Diary. Here’s hoping. . . . Thanks for the tips.

  5. I find it hard not to grow foxgloves in the garden, they self-seed like crazy and the hills around where I live are covered in them. I like them but they are, of course, highly toxic so need to be treated with care – especially if there are children around.

    1. Yes – you must take care with your toddler Matt. One of my friends daughters used to eat everything in the garden which was quite frightening. Lots of things can make you quite poorly but according to a specialist brought in to advise the worst are Yew berries and Monkshood/Aconite which can kill humans. Many garden plants are poisonous or irritants… even daffodil bulbs!

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