Another very popular garden plant, foxgloves are commonly used at the back of herbaceous border gardens due to the height of the flower stems, which can often exceed 2 metres. Flowers are not produced until the second year after planting and are tubular with a pointed lip at the bottom and borne on a long spike in great numbers. They are deep purple-pink in colour and clearly spotted inside. Flowers open from the bottom up. The bottom-most flowers are commonly dead while the middle and top flowers are opening, due to the size of the spike.
Foxgloves are extremely toxic, so wear gloves when handling. Compounds called cardiac glycosides (or digitalis) are extracted from the leaves and used to make drugs that help regulate heart rate.
Foxgloves are harvested from plantations. Most are grown in Victoria, NSW and QLD.
What to look for
- Buy when the lower 1/3 of the flowers on a spike are open, or just starting to open;
- Avoid stems where all the flowers are open.
- Wear gloves when handling.
- Keep cool at all times.
- Strip leaves from the bottom half of each stem and wash thoroughly.
- Recut at least 2 cm off each stem and place in water immediately.
- Do not bash or split stem ends.
- Always use a preservative as this will help buds to open.
- Replace vase water with fresh preservative every 1 to 2 days.
- Very sensitive to ethylene. Keep them away from fruit, car exhausts and cigarette smoke.
- Remove wilted flowers as they are a source of ethylene.
Interesting Facts about this Flower
Long used in folk medicine, foxgloves have some unusual names: Witches’ Gloves, Dead Men’s Bells, Fairy’s Glove, Gloves of Our Lady, Bloody Fingers, Virgin’s Glove, Fairy Caps, Folk’s Glove, Fairy Thimbles.
Digitalis means “finger”, and refers to the way the tube-shaped flowers can be fitted over a human fingertip. “Foxglove” has a similar origin, as the flower was thought to be a suitable glove for a fox paw.
Botanical Name: Digitalis purpurea
Common Names: Foxglove
Stem Length: 30 to 80 cm
Country of Origin: Europe
Available Colours: Pink, Purple