Mainly from Europe, Mediterranean region. Erect plants 28 ft. high form low foliage clumps topped by spikes of tubular flowers shaped like fingertips of a glove; colors include purple, yellow, white, pastels. Blossoms attract hummingbirds. Leaves are typically gray-green and hairy. Common foxglove (D. purpurea) is widely grown for height and color display in shaded gardens, but other, less well-known species are deserving subjects for borders, woodland edges, and larger rock gardens. Most tend to be biennials, but some can be coaxed into a second year of bloom if spent flowers are removed before they set seed.
D. ferruginea. RUSTY FOXGLOVE. Biennial or short-lived perennial. To 4 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide, with stems densely clothed in deeply veined leaves. Long, dense spikes of - to 1-in.-long, yellowish flowers netted with rusty red. 'Yellow Herald' and 'Gelber Herold' are common selections similar to the species.
D. grandiflora. YELLOW FOXGLOVE. Biennial or short-lived perennial. To 3 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide. Toothed leaves wrap around stem. Flowers are 23 in. long, yellowish marked with brown. 'John Innes Tetra' is a choice selection to 20 in. tall, with pale yellow flowers richly netted with gold and brown. 'Carillon', to 1215 in. high, has light yellow flowers. Full sun or light shade.
D. laevigata. Perennial. To 3 ft. high, 1 ft. wide, with smooth, narrow, dark green leaves and inch-long, creamy yellow flowers speckled with purplish brown.
D. lanata. GRECIAN FOXGLOVE. Biennial or short-lived perennial. To 2 ft. high and 1 ft. wide, with 1-in.-long, cream-to-light tan flowers netted with brown.
D. x mertonensis. STRAWBERRY FOXGLOVE. Perennial. Spikes to 23 ft. high, bearing attractive coppery rose, 2-in.-long blooms above a foot-wide clump of furry leaves. Though a hybrid, it comes true from seed. 'Summer King' is compact, with reddish rose blooms.
D. obscura. NARROW-LEAF FOXGLOVE. Woody-based perennial. To 1 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide, with lance-shaped leaves and spikes of drooping brown-and-yellow bells about 1 in. long. Takes well-drained but not rich soil and occasional deep watering.
D. purpurea. COMMON FOXGLOVE. Biennial or short-lived perennial. Variable, appearing in many garden forms. Bold, erect growth to 4 ft. or taller, with stems rising from clumps of large, rough, woolly light green leaves. Short-stalked stem leaves become smaller toward top of plant; these are the source of digitalis, a much-valued but highly poisonous medicinal drug. Pendulous flowers are 23 in. long, purple with darker spots on lower, paler lip. Flowers are borne in one-sided, 1- to 2-ft.-long spikes.
Garden strains include Camelot, which reaches 3124 ft. tall in sun or shade and blooms consistently the first and second years in shades of rose, white, lavender, or cream with a speckled throat; 5-ft.-tall Excelsior, with fuller spikes than species and flowers held more horizontally to show off interior spotting; 3-ft. Foxy, which performs as an annual and blooms in 5 months from seed; 4-ft. Gloxiniiflora, bearing flowers that are larger and open wider than those of species; 3-ft.-high Peloric Mixed, with topmost flower of each spike open or bowl shaped and 3 in. wide; and Shirley, a tall (6-ft.), robust strain with a full range of colors.
D. thapsi. MULLEIN FOXGLOVE. Perennial. From Spain. To 1 ft. tall and wide, with furry foliage and short spires of drooping purplish pink, 2- to 3-in.-long flowers. Thrives under the same conditions as D. obscura. 'Spanish Peaks' is an outstanding selection with raspberry-rose flowers.
Foxgloves like moist, rich, well-drained soil. Protect the plants from snails and slugs. (Deer leave them alone.) After the first flush of flowers, cut off the main spike; side shoots will develop and bloom late in the season. In the Lower and Coastal South, treat as annuals; set out new transplants in summer and fall for bloom the next spring or summer. In the Upper and Middle South, set out plants or sow seed in spring for bloom the following year. Plants self-sow freely; blooms of volunteers are often white or light colored.