Digitalis purpureum

The wild variety of this popular hardy biennial herb is used in modern medicine to strengthen the heart. As a poisonous plant it is grown only as an ornamental in shady areas of the garden where the purple tubular flowers provide food for bees and insects. 9x9cm pot (8cm depth)

9x9cm pot (8cm depth)

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  • Attracts bees and insects
  • Good plants for shadier areas
  • Used in modern medicine
  • Poisonous plant

William Withering, an English physician and botanist first described the effects of foxglove extract on diseases such as dropsy in the eighteenth century. It was in Denmark that digitalis leaves were tested for cardiac glycoside activity in the nineteenth century and standardised powder used in tinctures, infusions and tablets. 

Plant Care

  • Height: 30-60cm
  • Type: Hardy
  • Aspect: Shade
  • Soil: Any/alkaline
  • Flower colour: Purple
  • Flowering period: May-September

Foxgloves prefer growing in dappled shade and though not too fussy on soil type, they like a well-drained moist soil, they don't cope well with soils that are either too wet or too dry. In areas of the UK where they grow wild, it is in places with high rainfall, but growing in spots with adequate drainage. As biennials they flower, set seed and die in their second year and so it is worth planting them two years on the trot for  continuous flowering each year;  the initial foxgloves will have self-seeded and be putting on their first year of leaf growth, whilst the ones planted in the second year will be flowering.


The foxglove is a poisonous plant and shouldn’t be ingested in any form, nor medicines made from it. It contains compounds which act directly on the heart muscle by increasing output and which are used by the medical profession for patients with congenital heart failure. Don’t let this put you off growing this attractive herb – it is loved by bees and other pollinating insects.




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