Foxglove may be one of the most common wildflowers, but that doesn't take away from its distinctive and unique beauty. Found throughout Europe and North America, these biennial plants produce vibrant, bell-shaped flowers in hues of purple, pink, and more. Foxglove stalks can grow nearly six feet high, each one blooming with up to 80 individual flowers in the early summer months. It's essential to note, however, that foxglove is highly toxic to people and pets despite its beauty, so care must be taken during cultivation.
Foxglove is self-seeding, making it easy to grow outdoors from scratch. For the best results, sow the seeds in your garden between June and August. If you're starting with partially-grown foxglove, you'll have better luck planting in the early fall or early spring months. That said, the hardy foxglove will generally grow well no matter when it's planted — as long as the ground isn't frozen solid. Keep in mind that foxglove is biennial, so you won't see any flowers until the second year.
Given how prevalent foxglove is in the wild, it should come as little surprise that it can adapt to various soil types. The plants prefer light, sandy soils that drain quickly after watering, but they can also grow well in heavier, clay-based soils. Loams are a great middle-ground for foxglove, combining the drainage of sandy soil with the fertility of clay.
Foxglove needs ample sunlight to produce its vibrant flowers, but it's important not to overdo things, either. Try to plant your foxglove in an area that receives four to eight hours of direct sunshine every day. If your garden layout doesn't allow for that, these plants can also grow in partial shade or under the dappled shade of a tall tree.
Foxglove loves water just as much as it loves sunlight, so it's important that it's never left thirsty. The soil of a foxglove bed should be kept constantly moist, which means supplemental watering is often necessary during the summer months. Adding two inches of mulch around the base of your plants can help keep moisture levels up in drier climates. That said, overwatering your foxglove can be just as problematic as letting them dry out. If they remain soaked for too long, the plants may rot and die before they've even flowered.
Many common garden pests enjoy feeding on foxgloves. Aphids cluster on the stems and leaves to drink the sap, while mealybugs often invade the shaded areas of the plant. A small gathering of these pests is nothing to worry about, but large swarms are best removed by hand or with water jets before they cause damage. Japanese beetles, on the other hand, rarely cause serious damage to foxglove despite how harmful they are to other plants.
Since foxglove is fairly hardy, it is not susceptible to many diseases — but there are two you should watch out for. Brown and white leaf spot can form when the weather is humid and stagnant, causing leaves to shrivel and die over time. Well-draining sandy or loamy soil goes a long way in preventing the disease. The second condition to beware of is powdery mildew, which attacks and kills leaves in the late summer. Ample sunshine helps to prevent mildew growth, or you can kill and wash away the spores with water.
Suitable for novice and established gardeners alike, foxglove doesn't require any special care to thrive. These plants are robust and adaptable, so they'll grow into tall and healthy plants without any picky tending or chemical fertilizers. Instead of man-made interference, foxglove prefers the natural nutrients that come from a light spattering of compost or manure. Gently mix this into the flowerbed soil during the planting stage, and top up as needed.
The foxglove plant is easy to propagate, even for beginners. The most common method is to split the stem at its natural breaking point and replant both sections. If you want even more foxglove plants, the tiny sets of leaves that grow close to the stem can also be pulled and replanted. Alternatively, if the plants are left to their own devices, they will eventually reseed themselves.
Along with bringing a unique pop of color to your garden, foxglove is also beneficial to wildlife. While they're toxic to pets when ingested, they're also a crucial pollen source for the declining bee population. Bees are attracted to the vibrant flowers, which are shaped to provide the perfect landing spot. While feeding, bees also spread the pollen from plant to plant, helping your foxgloves reproduce.
The most common varieties of foxglove produce pink and purple flowers, but this plant can be grown in a wide spectrum of colors. Polkadot Polly, for example, is a hybrid variety with apricot-pink flowers. If you're opting for a more muted garden design, Pam's Choice blooms in pure white with burgundy insides. For those who just can't settle, the Mountain Mixed foxglove produces flowers in several colors and features uniquely upturned buds.