Digitalis purpurea | ‘Common Foxglove’, ‘Foxglove’, ‘Lady’s Glove’, ‘Purple Foxglove’ | ~ 1,000 seeds
The (highly toxic) species that’s the original source for the heart medicine digitalis, the entrancing Digitalis purpurea is a flowering herbaceous perennial native to much of the European continent. The flowers, leaves and seeds of this species are all potentially fatal to humans (and some animals) if ingested, so please don’t grow it anywhere accessible to children or pets!
Known variously as the ‘Common Foxglove’, ‘Foxglove’, ‘Lady’s Glove’ or ‘Purple Foxglove’, Digitalis purpurea occurs in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9, where it reaches approximately one to two metres in height. Capable of growing in anything from mildly alkaline to mildly acidic habitats, the plant’s first year sees its foliage forming a tight rosette at ground level, before the much taller flowering stem develops in the second. Purpurea bears simple leaves, ten to thirty-five centimetres long by five to twelve centimetres across, which are covered in white-grey hairs (and start off comprising the initial rosette-shaped growth).
Tubular flowers, strikingly arranged in an elongated cluster, appear from the stem between late spring and early summer. Typically purple in colour (yet also often pink, rose, yellow or white), Foxglove’s blooms always prove highly attractive to bees, birds and butterflies. Seed pods follow the flowers, each containing many tiny seeds. Although we’re not sure exactly which one we’re offering here (as we’ve not yet grown this batch out ourselves), there are currently three recognised subspecies of Digitalis purpurea; var. heywoodii, var. mariana and var. purpurea. The first two occur exclusively in Iberia, while Digitalis purpurea var. purpurea is widespread throughout Europe.
An easy and popular species to cultivate from seed, purpurea does well in full sun to partial shade, provided it’s supplied with an average and adequate supply of water. Sow indoors or in a greenhouse in containers, else outside in the ground. Space young plants roughly fifty centimetres apart to allow enough room for mature growth.
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced in 2018