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Digitalis purpurea

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Scrophulariaceae (Figwort)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, heathland, hedgerows, moorland, rocky places, woodland.

Variable in colour, 1 petal
Tubular purple flowers appearing on tall unbranched stalked spikes. Flowers sometimes white and oftentimes speckled dark purple.
A capsule containing many tiny seeds, 15mm long.
Simple, toothed, ovoid, leaves with serrated margins. The basal leaves which form in the first year are large with long stalks. The older stem leaves are smaller and shorter stalked. The stem leaves alternate along the (usually) single main upright stem. All of the leaves have prominent veins and pointed tips. All leaves are covered in soft downy hairs, often giving them a fluffy or woolly appearance.
Other Names:
Bloody Bells, Bloody Finger, Common Foxglove, Cow Flop, Dead Man's Bells, Dog's Lugs, Dragon's Mouth, Fairy Cap, Fairy Fingers, Fairy Gloves, Fairy Thimbles, Fairy's Petticoat, Finger Flower, Flap Dock, Folk's Gloves, Fox Finger, Gloves of Mary, Lady's Fingers, Lady's Gloves, Lion's Mouth, Lustmore, Pop Duck, Throatroot, Witches' Bells, Witches' Fingers, Witches' Glove, Witches' Thimbles.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Digitalis purpurea, also known as foxglove, is a species of flowering plant in the plantain family. It is native to western and central Europe, but has been introduced in many other parts of the world, including the Americas and Asia. The plant is known for its tall spires of purple, pink, or white flowers that bloom from late spring to early summer.

Foxglove is a popular ornamental plant, and is often used in cottage gardens and as a border plant. The plant is also a source of the cardiac glycoside medication known as digoxin, which is used to treat heart failure and certain types of irregular heartbeat.

The plant has some toxicity and all parts of the plant are considered poisonous, especially the leaves. Eating the leaves can cause serious heart and kidney problems and even death, but the plant is also used medicinally, in small dosages and under medical supervision, to treat heart conditions.

Cultivars are available in many different colors, including red, yellow, pink, and white. Some cultivars have spotted or speckled flowers, and there are also varieties with double flowers.

Foxglove is generally considered easy to grow, and prefers partial to full shade and well-drained soil. It is often propagated by seed, but can also be propagated by division or cuttings.


Foxgloves, or Digitalis purpurea, are a striking plant species that have captured the attention of gardeners and nature lovers for centuries. These tall, spiky flowers with their bell-shaped blooms come in a range of colors from pale pink to deep purple, and their height and size make them a favorite for adding vertical interest to garden beds and borders.

The origins of Foxgloves can be traced back to Europe, where they are native to many regions, including the British Isles. The plant has been used medicinally for centuries, with early references to its healing properties found in ancient Greek and Roman texts. The plant's botanical name, Digitalis purpurea, is derived from the Latin word digitus, which means finger, referring to the plant's distinctive bell-shaped flowers that resemble the fingers of a glove.

Foxgloves are a biennial plant, which means they complete their lifecycle over two years. In the first year, the plant grows a rosette of leaves close to the ground. In the second year, the plant produces a tall stem that can reach up to six feet in height, topped with a spike of flowers that can contain as many as 50 individual blooms.

Foxgloves are a popular plant for attracting pollinators such as bees and butterflies to the garden. The flowers produce nectar, which is an important food source for many insects, and the bell-shaped blooms provide a convenient landing platform for bees and other insects.

In addition to their ornamental value, Foxgloves have long been used for their medicinal properties. The plant contains a compound called digitalis, which is used to treat a range of heart conditions, including atrial fibrillation and heart failure. However, it is important to note that digitalis is a powerful drug and should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Despite their many benefits, it is important to handle Foxgloves with care, as the entire plant is poisonous. The leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds all contain cardiac glycosides, which can be toxic if ingested in large quantities. Therefore, it is essential to wear gloves when handling the plant and to keep it out of the reach of children and pets.

Foxgloves have become a popular plant species among gardeners because of their easy-to-grow nature and low maintenance requirements. They are ideal for planting in borders, cottage gardens, and wildflower meadows, and their height and structure make them perfect for adding vertical interest to any garden.

Foxgloves prefer a partially shaded position in fertile, well-drained soil, and they are tolerant of most soil types. They can be grown from seed or purchased as young plants and should be planted in the garden in spring or autumn.

One of the benefits of Foxgloves is that they readily self-seed, meaning that they will often return to the garden year after year without any intervention. However, it is important to keep the plants well-watered during hot, dry periods to ensure that they continue to thrive.

The flowers of Foxgloves are particularly striking and are often used in floral arrangements or as a cut flower. They have a long vase life and can be used to add height and interest to floral displays.

Foxgloves are not only beautiful, but they also have a rich cultural history. In medieval times, Foxgloves were thought to have magical properties and were used in potions and spells. The plant also features in many legends and folktales, including the story of the Fairy Queen, who was said to have worn Foxglove bells on her fingers.

Foxgloves are not only loved by gardeners and pollinators, but they also have important ecological roles in the wild. They are commonly found in woodlands, heathlands, and grasslands, and provide valuable habitat and food for a range of wildlife.

The leaves of Foxgloves are an important food source for the larvae of several species of moths, including the Foxglove pug, the Magpie moth, and the Mullein moth. The flowers are also visited by a range of insects, including bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies, and hoverflies, all of which play important roles in pollinating plants and maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Foxgloves are also a valuable source of food for small mammals such as field mice and voles, and the plant's tall, spiky structure provides a sheltered habitat for a range of invertebrates, including spiders and beetles.

In addition to their ecological benefits, Foxgloves have also been the subject of scientific research. Scientists have isolated and studied the plant's cardiac glycosides, which have been used to develop medications for a range of heart conditions.

While Foxgloves are generally low maintenance plants, there are a few things to keep in mind when growing them. Here are some tips for growing healthy and vibrant Foxgloves:

  1. Soil: Foxgloves prefer moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. They do best in soil that is slightly acidic with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0.

  2. Watering: Foxgloves should be watered regularly, especially during hot, dry weather. However, they do not like to be waterlogged, so make sure the soil is well-drained.

  3. Fertilizer: Foxgloves do not need much fertilizer, but they will benefit from a light application of a balanced fertilizer in the spring.

  4. Pruning: Deadhead spent blooms to encourage the plant to produce more flowers. Once the flowers have finished blooming, cut the entire stem back to ground level.

  5. Protection from pests and diseases: Foxgloves are relatively pest and disease resistant, but they can be susceptible to leaf spot and powdery mildew. To prevent these diseases, make sure the plants have good air circulation and avoid overhead watering.

  6. Winter protection: Foxgloves are hardy perennials and can survive cold temperatures, but they may need protection from harsh winter weather. Mulch around the base of the plant in the fall to insulate the roots and protect them from freezing.

In conclusion, Foxgloves are a beautiful and fascinating plant species that provide a range of benefits to gardeners, wildlife, and the environment. With their striking flowers, easy-to-grow nature, and low maintenance requirements, they are an excellent choice for any garden or natural habitat. By following these simple tips, you can grow healthy and vibrant Foxgloves that will add color and interest to your garden for years to come.

Blog continued...

Foxgloves have a rich history in folklore and have been associated with both healing and magic. Here are some examples of the ways Foxgloves have been used in folklore and witchcraft:

  1. Protection: In folklore, Foxgloves were believed to have protective properties and were often grown near the entrance to homes to ward off evil spirits. Some people also carried Foxglove flowers with them to protect against witches and fairies.

  2. Healing: Foxgloves have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. In traditional medicine, the plant was used to treat a range of ailments, including heart disease, edema, and epilepsy. The plant's leaves and flowers contain a powerful cardiac glycoside called digitalis, which can be used to treat heart conditions.

  3. Magic: Foxgloves have long been associated with magic and were believed to have potent magical properties. In medieval times, Foxgloves were believed to be the favored plant of witches and were used in potions and spells. The plant was also associated with fairies and was said to attract them to gardens.

  4. Divination: Foxgloves have been used in divination practices to foretell the future. In some cultures, it was believed that if a person placed a Foxglove flower under their pillow at night, they would have prophetic dreams.

  5. Symbolism: In some cultures, Foxgloves were seen as symbols of love and romance. In the language of flowers, Foxgloves represent both beauty and danger, due to their toxic nature.

Overall, Foxgloves have a long and fascinating history in folklore and witchcraft. While many of these beliefs are no longer widely held, the plant's beauty and medicinal properties continue to make it a valuable addition to gardens and herbal medicine cabinets around the world.


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