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Cottage Garden- 8 things to know about Foxgloves

Some of my favorite cottage gardens are filled with blooming beauties tall and small- blooming in
shades of whites and pinks mingling with sages and silvers  and pretty little apricots. 
And one of my favorite plants for a pop of color, drama and beauty is foxglove.

Foxglove is an often misunderstood plant. 
It doesn't bloom like many others and has a bit of a reputation of being difficult- 
and poisonous.

While I was at the garden center the other day a couple stopped and chatted with me about my cart full of foxgloves and wondered what they were and I shared with them a couple of foxglove facts.
I always get so many questions when sharing them- so I thought I would do a quick post about what I know about these beauties.

The first time I brought foxgloves home was about 15 years ago maybe. 
I found them at the market and fell in love with their pretty spikes and popped several into the cart. 
And the next trip- a few more. And so on. 
(remember how I shared that I planted every single pretty face when starting up the gardens here? They were one of the first plants I included)

I had no idea that they were a medicinal plant- or that they were poisonous. 
I just knew they were pretty. 
And I knew that every year there seemed to be more of them in garden- 
and to be honest,  I didn't really do much to keep them happy other than water them. 
I planted rows of them in a large flower bed by the cottage- and they rewarded me with beauty all season long - coming up in droves again the next year. And the next. 
And then one year- they didn't come back at all- and I wasn't sure just why.

stock in a basket in front of foxgloves

 And then there was the big drought here in California- which meant not a whole lot of planting other than the window boxes and tending to established plantings going on for several years. 
And then last year- I walked into the garden center looking for a few plants to include by the greenhouse- and there was a row that had a whole big end display of foxgloves

2 double stacked carts. 
Into the back of my car. 
I think I bought of them. 
And I fell in love with them all over again.

So what are some fun or interesting facts I know about foxgloves and growing them?

#1. They are tall and stately- and biennials.

They are not perennial. They are not annual. They live for 2 years and bloom the second and seed freely. So plant them the first year- again the second and you should have blooms popping up each year. The blooms which grow tall-  can grow to be around 6' tall so they are perfect for planting towards the back of gardens for height and interest. 

Interestingly... I have a couple that re-seeded and that are new tiny baby plants that are already growing flowering spikes-  even though they shouldn't this year.  I can't explain it since they are not supposed to do that until next year. 
 I am thinking that maybe they are over achievers.

#2. Foxgloves are medicinal plants

From Wikipedia: A group of medicines extracted from foxglove plants are called digitalin.The use of D. purpurea extract containing cardiac glycosides for the treatment of heart conditions was first described in the English-speaking medical literature by William Withering, in 1785,[13][14][15] which is considered the beginning of modern therapeutics.[16][17] It is used to increase cardiac contractility (it is a positive inotrope) and as an antiarrhythmic agent to control the heart rate, particularly in the irregular (and often fast) atrial fibrillation.

#3. Warning- yes, Foxgloves ARE  poisonous

Something that might not be well known about foxgloves is that they are poisonous
None of the plant- flowers, leaves, seeds, etc. should ever be eaten. 
I have read articles that advised wearing gloves when handling, that the water from cut blooms is toxic, etc. And even after the blooms have been spent- that they should be handled with care. I am  totally not a master gardener- so I take all the advice I can get and work with it. 

We have grown them for years- and we have had several dogs, outdoor cats and yes- children- 
that have never gone near them, tried to eat them, or even gave them more than a second glance.
We also have deer that roam through the property- nibbling on everything it seems all the time.

But who is to say when a visitor or another pet might wander over, grab a flower, nibble on a leaf, etc- so if you have one of those curious types- or are concerned a curious type may venture into your flower beds-  you may want to skip planting them all together.
 And if you decide to include them:
Make sure your animals, young children, and even adults who might not know about the toxicity of Foxgloves are aware and do not eat any part of them
leave them out of your garden if you are concerned.


#4. Foxgloves come in an array of colors

If you decide to add  them to your garden- foxgloves come in a variety of colors- and types.
I have found a ton of the Rose color this year- which is more like a pink/purple really.  
But my favorites are probably they the light purple and white. I have yet to find white this year - or an elusive peach that I am coveting. 

These are pink beauties behind that wicker chair. 

Here is a close up. 
You can see how they range from pink to more purple as the spikes mature. 
These are all the same variety.

And here is a newly planted young yellow. 
I took a chance on finding these at the nursery- hoping they would be white as they opened... but I think they will stay yellow. It is next to a white larkspur.

#5. Foxgloves come in different varieties

This is a totally different variety of foxglove that I tried to leave behind last week. 
And I bumped into several more at the next stop- and that was it. I brought 2 home. 
The leaves are different- and the flowers a bit of a  different look.  These are going into pots on the patio instead of in the garden. 

#6. Foxgloves are great in containers

I have been known to plant foxgloves in old metal buckets and in wood containers- like whiskey barrels. This is just 3 plants grouped and it makes a stunning cottage garden display.

#7. They are also great mingling with other plants in the garden

As mentioned before- they are great for simply mingling with other cottage garden style plants. Growing in front of a fence or tucked in between Lavender, Lambs Ear, Salvia and Catmint- they are stunning. They will continue to grow spikes of new blooms as old ones fade. I leave the old ones as long as possible to encourage reseeding- and then clip them off.  
These newly planted foxgloves are mingling with delphinium, sweet peas & lavender.

#8. They thrive in part sun, sun and shade

I have these beauties in sun, part sun and shade. And they are all happy. Again- I think they are overachievers and bloom where they are planted. 

To sum it up:

They are biennials- blooming just 2 years. 
They are tall- sometimes growing to 6'.
They are poisonous to animals and humans- take precautions when including in your garden.

Up next- going to talk about another couple of cottage garden favorites- Larkspur (above) and one  that rewards me with big old leaves that are as soft as a 'lambs ear' -
 yes, we are talking about Lambs Ear- 
and why I am obsessed with it and it needs to be in your garden. 

Not a master gardener or expert. I love foxgloves- but they aren't for everyone. Take precautions and be aware of their dangers if including them in your garden. 


  1. I love foxgloves, but it seems we will have to buy seeds next year to grow them. We went looking for them and could not find any plants at the stores around us.

    1. I have seen them at Home Depot and Lowe's as well as local gardening shops this year- you might try there. Otherwise-I think they do very well from seed as well. :)

  2. They really are beautiful. I wonder whether they are OK for birds, bees and butterflies. I am looking for plants to attract/please them to do my part to restore habitat.

    1. I read on one of the sites when researching- that hummingbirds actually drink their nectar- so they must not be poisonous to all animals- but I don't know. I will keep an eye out and see if I see any birds coming around and enjoying them and let you know. :)

  3. I was looking at some foxgloves and delphiniums the other day but didn’t bring any home. Maybe when we finally have our next house! Yours are beautiful, Courtney!!! 🌸💞

  4. Thanks so much for the tips, Courteney! I grew them once at the lakehouse and I was so enchanted by the idea of fox wearing them as little slippers (as folklore would have it!). They didn't come up the next year and I, too, had heard they were fussy so I turned the soil over and planted something else. Ha!

    Thanks for the beautiful pictures!


    1. Haha!! So cute! I haven't heard that before! :) You may try again- as I mentioned- some of ours are blooming for another year- when they were apparently not supposed to. No matter what we do, where we plant them, etc- they do what they want to I suppose! :)

  5. Your garden is sooo beautiful! I love the look of the foxgloves! Unfortunately a friend lost her puppy after he ate some of her foxglove plant. I have dogs so I don't have them in my garden I just enjoy them for afar.

    1. Oh no- so sorry to hear that! :( Some dogs will eat absolutely everything- I would not want it in my garden if we had one that liked to do that as well.

  6. l love foxgloves too and thank you for all the beautiful pictures! I wonder if they are toxic to birds or seems that Mother Nature wouldn't allow that?

  7. I adore foxgloves and they are growing like crazy in my yard this year as well! Thanks for the tips on the poisonous thing...I had no idea!!

  8. I, too, love Foxgloves but they do require quite a bit of water. A very similar-looking plant is the Penstemon. It doesn't grow quite as tall but it does have spike of tubular flowers in colors from white to pink to lavender to deep purple. Penstemon are not poisonous AND do not require nearly as much water as do Foxgloves. Plants are available at many specialty nurseries. Seeds are readily available.

  9. I think birds or any creature that’s vascular system has a pumping heart would be susceptible. Insects, I don’t know. Also don’t know if the nectar contains the digitalis. All good google questions! They are beautiful! And I wouldn’t depend on Mother Nature to have all creatures best interest at heart-she made snakes!

  10. Foxgloves are one of my favorite flowers also. May I ask where your nursery is? I believe you live in SO CA. I am always looking for cottage flowers.

    Again, thank so much for this wonderful article.

    Enjoy your week.


    1. Hi Mary, I am in northern California but I have seen foxgloves at Home Depot and Lowe's this season- so you might check your local stores.

  11. Beautiful!! I wonder if they would be safe to have around chickens. We have free range chickens that love to roam our yard, gardens, etc. Some of the ones we have are rare breeds, so I’m a little protective. 😄

  12. Hi, Beautiful usual! The 'new' foxglove is a cross between either a penstemmon or a gloxinia (I cannot remember) and foxglove. They seem to take the heat a little better than the traditional. I think they are breeding them to be a perrenial...not sure, I bought 3 and killed all 3! They sure were pretty while they lasted :)

  13. Digoxin is a chemical found in the foxglove plant. It is a drug that increases the force of heart contraction, and also slows the conduction of electrical impulses through the heart. As such, digoxin is currently licensed to treat heart failure and certain heart rhythm problems

  14. We planted Foxgloves one year knowing that the deer would stay away from them. They did! Thanks for all of the great information. Your gardens are always so beautiful!

  15. Bonnie GutierrezJune 15, 2019 at 5:44 AM

    Thank you for reminding me of foxglove growing habits. I planted some a few years ago but did not have much luck. We'll be in our new (really old!) house soon so maybe I will give it another go. They are so striking and perfect for cutting.

  16. The foxglove that seem to be over achievers might be Digitalis mertonensis. They are a hybrid foxglove, also known as strawberry foxglove, that are a short lived (3 years) perennial. Not sure if their seed is viable, but the flowers are very pretty snd shorter. In the past few years we have been able to purchase a plant called Digiplexis 'Illumination flame' that is a cross between foxglove and the tropical Isoplexis canariensis. The foliage is long and smooth and blooms the entire season in a variety of conditions. It is an annual in our zone 5 garden, but is perennial in zones 8-10. The seeds are sterile, but it is a stunner! One of my favourite plants.

  17. I have just found this site and loved your photos. I live in N.S.W. Australia and grow some Foxgloves every year and enjoy their beauty so much.

  18. Hi, you foxgloves are beautiful! I'm a first time grower of these beauties in zone 5 (or 6*) Would you happen to know which variety the foxgloves under #5 are? They have a pink outline with a creamish-yellow interior.