Foxgloves (digitalis) are one of our most popular spring wildflowers. They’re nectar-rich and great for bees, and although they don’t often survive after they’ve flowered – as they’re usually biennials – they will self-seed around the garden so you’ll get new plants springing up each year. To get specific colours or varieties you’ll need to buy seeds, but they’re inexpensive and easy to grow. Breeding over the years has given us varieties with larger flowers carried all around the stems rather than just on one side, plus a great range of colours and flower shapes.
Which? Gardening magazine trialled 20 foxglove varieties to find the best ones. To discover our Best Buy varieties, subscribe to Which? Gardening magazine online or by calling 029 2267 0000.
Caption: Foxgloves look beautiful and help wildlife
Sow the tiny foxglove seeds by scattering them thinly over the surface of pre-watered Best Buy compost in a pot or half tray.
Cover very lightly with compost or vermiculite. Keep them in a well-lit position at about 15-20°C.
Compost should be kept moist. Place the seed tray in water rather than watering from above, which risks disturbing the seed.
Germination can be erratic so prick seedlings out into modules or small pots when they are large enough to handle.
Caption: Prick out seedlings one per module or small pot
Plant outdoors once the roots have filled the pot or module. Plant into moist but well-drained soil in part-shade or in sun.
Water in well and during dry spells until established.
Caption: Plant foxgloves in partial shade or full sun
Caring for plants
Unless you’re growing a sterile variety, deadhead your plants after flowering to prevent too many seedlings appearing.
Water during very dry spells of weather to prevent the roots from drying out.
Slugs and snails eat new foxglove growth in spring. Protect with organic slug pellets containing ferric phosphate. Alternatively, you can apply a biological control such as Nemaslug.
Squash or remove aphids as soon as you see them to prevent colonies building up.
Leaves can be affected by fungal leaf spots, which appear as brown patches, or powdery mildew, which appears as a white coating on the surface of the leaf. Pick off diseased leaves or spray with a suitable fungicide.