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Common Foxglove (Digitalis Purpurea (Excelsior Group) - hometuary.com
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Common Foxglove (Digitalis Purpurea (Excelsior Group)

Plant: Table of Contents

All About the Common Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea (Excelsior Group))

In the world of flowers, the common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea (Excelsior Group)) stands out for its striking appearance and rich history. With its tall spires of bell-shaped flowers and imposing presence, the common foxglove has captivated gardeners and plant enthusiasts for centuries. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the characteristics, cultivation, uses, and maintenance of the common foxglove.

Introduction to Digitalis purpurea (Excelsior Group)

The common foxglove, scientifically known as Digitalis purpurea, belongs to the plant family Plantaginaceae. Native to western and southwestern Europe, this biennial or short-lived perennial plant has naturalized in many other regions around the world. Its distinctive spikes of tubular flowers make it a favored ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes. The Excelsior Group specifically refers to a cultivated variety of Digitalis purpurea that boasts a wide range of flower colors, offering an additional appeal to gardeners.

Digitalis purpurea Characteristics

Before delving into the details of growing and caring for the common foxglove, let’s first understand its key characteristics:

  • Height: Common foxglove plants can reach heights of 3 to 5 feet, creating a dramatic vertical element in garden landscapes.
  • Flowers: The tubular flowers of the Digitalis purpurea are arranged in a dense, cylindrical spike, with individual flowers displaying vibrant hues such as pink, purple, white, and yellow within the Excelsior Group variety.
  • Foliage: The leaves are large, soft, and lance-shaped, forming a basal rosette in the plant’s first year.

With a basic understanding of the common foxglove’s features, let’s move on to explore the nuances of growing and caring for this captivating plant.

Cultivation of Common Foxglove


Common foxgloves thrive in partially shaded areas, making them an excellent choice for understory planting or dappled shade conditions. While they can tolerate full sun in cooler climates, they prefer protection from intense afternoon sun in hotter regions.


Proper watering is essential for the healthy growth of common foxgloves. Although they prefer evenly moist soil, they do not thrive in waterlogged conditions. Ensure moderate watering, especially during dry periods, but avoid overwatering as it can lead to root rot.


The common foxglove prefers rich, well-draining soil. Amending the soil with organic matter such as compost can improve its texture and fertility, creating an ideal growing environment for the plants.


A balanced, all-purpose fertilizer applied in early spring can provide the necessary nutrients for robust growth and prolific flowering. Slow-release fertilizers are particularly beneficial as they provide a steady supply of nutrients over an extended period.


Pruning spent flower spikes can encourage the common foxglove to produce secondary blooms, prolonging the flowering period. Additionally, removing any damaged or diseased foliage promotes overall plant health.


Common foxgloves can be propagated from seeds or by division. Sowing seeds in a well-prepared seedbed in late spring can yield young plants for the following year. Alternatively, dividing established clumps in early spring or fall can rejuvenate the plants and create new specimens.

Container Cultivation

Due to their impressive height and striking flowers, common foxgloves are well-suited for container cultivation. Selecting large, sturdy containers with adequate drainage and using a premium-quality potting mix can provide an ideal growing environment for these plants.

Uses of Digitalis purpurea

Garden Design

In garden landscapes, common foxgloves are valued for their vertical accent and ability to add height to borders and woodland gardens. Their stately presence and vibrant flowers make them a striking focal point in mixed perennial beds.

Floral Design

The tall flower spikes of common foxgloves make them exceptional candidates for floral arrangements. Their long-lasting blooms and varying colors enable them to add a vertical dimension to cut flower displays, bringing a touch of elegance to indoor settings.

Medicinal Properties

While common foxgloves are cherished for their ornamental value, they also hold medicinal significance. Compounds extracted from Digitalis purpurea have been used to produce digitalis, a medication used to treat heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.

Folklore and Natural Remedies

Throughout history, common foxgloves have been intertwined with various folk beliefs and natural remedies. Their association with fairies and folklore has contributed to their mystique, while herbalists have explored their potential for addressing certain health concerns.

Common Diseases and Pests

Disease Diagnosis

Common foxgloves are susceptible to fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and leaf spot. Timely diagnosis and intervention, including the removal of infected plant parts and the application of appropriate fungicides, can help manage these conditions.

Common Pests

Pests such as aphids and spider mites can occasionally affect common foxgloves. Regular monitoring and the use of horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps can help prevent pest infestations and maintain plant health.

Foxglove Planting Tips

Sun Requirements

For optimal growth and flowering, common foxgloves should be planted in areas with partial shade and protection from intense afternoon sun.

Soil Requirements

A well-draining, fertile soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH is ideal for common foxgloves. Amending the soil with organic matter can further enhance its texture and nutrient content.

Flower Colors

The Excelsior Group variety of common foxglove offers an array of flower colors, including pink, purple, white, and yellow, allowing gardeners to create vibrant and diverse plantings.

Flowering Season

The flowering season of common foxgloves typically occurs in late spring to early summer, producing spectacular floral displays that enliven garden landscapes.


Regular deadheading of spent blooms, removal of diseased foliage, and adequate watering and fertilization are essential maintenance practices for promoting the health and longevity of common foxgloves.

Botanist’s Tips for Growing Digitalis purpurea

  • Support Structures: Given their tall stature, providing support structures such as stakes or cages can prevent the bending or toppling of common foxgloves during strong winds or heavy rains.
  • Companion Planting: Pairing common foxgloves with low-growing companions can create visually appealing combinations and maximize the use of space in garden beds or containers.
  • Overwintering: In regions with harsh winters, applying a layer of mulch around the base of common foxgloves can provide insulation and protect the plants from extreme cold.

Fun Facts about the Common Foxglove

  • The genus name Digitalis is derived from the Latin word for “finger,” alluding to the use of the plant’s flowers as a glove for fairies’ fingers in folklore.
  • Certain species of bees, particularly bumblebees, are known to exhibit a preference for the nectar-rich flowers of common foxgloves, aiding in pollination and the perpetuation of the species.

Links to External Resources

To further explore the enchanting world of common foxgloves and deepen your knowledge of their cultivation and uses, consider referring to the following resources:

  1. Royal Horticultural Society – Digitalis purpurea
  2. University of Florida IFAS Extension – Growing Foxgloves
  3. Oregon State University Extension Service – Digitalis purpurea

With this comprehensive guide, you now have a deeper understanding of the common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea (Excelsior Group)) and its myriad attributes. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a novice plant enthusiast, incorporating these magnificent plants into your outdoor spaces can elevate the visual appeal and infuse your surroundings with natural beauty and elegance. Happy gardening!

Picture of Peter Taylors

Peter Taylors

Expert botanist who loves plants. His expertise spans taxonomy, plant ecology, and ethnobotany. An advocate for plant conservation, he mentors and educates future botanists, leaving a lasting impact on the field.