While I will tell you how I grow foxgloves (and get them to re-seed themselves), the truth is, this is an excuse to indulge in my love for these beautiful flowers.
They’re romantic, enchanting, and kind of quirky. In other words: perfection! With a few exceptions…
There are approximately 20 species. This information is specific to biennial (not perennial) foxgloves.
- Garden zones 4-9
- Biennial (two-year cycle)
- Fertile, well-drained soil
- Partial shade
- Let the flowers go to seed for self-seeded new plants next year
- Cut back after flowering for a second batch of blooms
What Are Biennials?
The best definition of a biennial I’ve heard is to call it a glorified annual.
Annuals complete their growth cycle in a single growing season. Biennials take two seasons.
In the first year, biennials produce foliage. The next year they produce blooms. In my experience, after that, foxgloves tend to remain bloom-less or die off. But I still can’t resist them and always have several in my garden.
I know prolific gardeners like the late Tasha Tudor use fertilizers to boost foxgloves. (You can see a wonderful short video of her garden here.) If you’ve ever seen her garden you know—her foxgloves were massive, gorgeous creatures with their own zip codes.
Here, the only fertilizer or enricher I use is via the addition of organic compost whenever I have it available but Tasha’s success does make me want to try harder.
Despite the fact that foxgloves are not perennial, all hope is not lost. Here’s what I’ve found. If I plant a foxglove in a protected location, surrounded by other plants, and the roots are sheltered from the sun (so they never dry out), they seem to re-seed themselves very nicely.
This requires leaving the blooms alone, letting them go to seed, and not disturbing the soil at all. No weeding, walking, or any other movement allowed! Let nature do it’s thing.
The next year, new plants will form, first growing foliage, and eventually producing blooms (probably the year after that).
And on and on they go. The old plants will fade away but new ones will keep appearing as well.
A Potent Plant
As a kid I collected any storybooks I could find that showed foxgloves in gardens. I thought they were mythological like unicorns! Sorry if that sentence about unicorns was a spoiler for you.
It wasn’t until I was working in a hospital emergency department in my teenage years that I learned they were indeed real and (some species are) the source for the cardiac medication digoxin.
It should also be noted that foxgloves are highly toxic and should never be planted where there is any risk of a person or animal trying to consume them.
As for the beauty and charm, I’m partial to any foxgloves that have speckles, freckles, or polka-dots on the flowers. Plus, the name ‘foxgloves’ itself seems quite perfect.
And that wraps up my foxglove love.