Purple Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea Flowers


What is Digitalis?

Formerly in the Scrophulariaceae family, Digitalis is a plant genus comprising of shrubs, herbaceous perennials and biennials. They belong to the Plantaginaceae family. It's known scientifically as Digitalis purpurea, meaning finger-like. The genus is also commonly known as foxglove.

Digitalis is native to southwestern and western Europe, northwestern Africa, and central and western Asia. Digitalis purpurea flowers can easily fit a fingertip, hence its name. The tubular flowers in varied colors bloom on tall spikes. Flowers can be white, pink, yellow or purple depending on the specific variety in question.

The various plant species under the genus have showy flowers, hence their use as ornamental plants. Spottings and marks are often present on various flowers with variations in difference species.

Digitalis stem and basal leaves grow mainly during the first year after transplanting. Longer, leafy stems up to 2.6 meters grow within the second year on healthy plants. Certain medications processed from certain plant species under the genus also use the term digitalis.

Digitalis Etymology

Just like Fuchsia, the word 'foxglove' was named after Leonhard Fuchs in 1542. Fuchs is a German word meaning 'fox'. The term digitalis is a Latin word for finger. It was obtained from the Latin word 'digitus'. The shape of flowers inspired the name. When fully developed, the flowers can fit a finger.

According to an ancient myth, foxes used the flowers as paw gloves to quietly hunt their prey. The flowers are believed to have covered their woody dens on hillsides. The plant is also known as a witch's glove because it's toxic. Historically, the plant genus was known as foxes glofa/glofe.

The name 'foxes glew' and 'folks' glove' were proposed in 1863 and 1847, respectively. The former means 'fairy music' and the latter 'fairy'.

Digitalis Habitat - Where does Digitalis Grow?

Digitalis plant species grow in acidic soils. With habitats ranging from open woods, sea-cliffs and woodland clearings to rocky mountain slopes, heath and moorland margins and hedge banks. The plants thrive on disturbed grounds such as burnt vegetation or cleared woodland.

Purple Foxglove Flowers


Digitalis Uses

Digitalis uses are mainly medicinal. Dried leaves are used to strengthen heart contractions in flutter or atrial fibrillation patients and make medication. Cardiac glycosides is made from digitalis and used for blood circulation restoration in congestive heart failure patients, especially those resulting from hypertension or atherosclerosis.

Digitalis purpurea leaves and flowers contain a steroid known as Digoxigenin (DID). Digitalis lanata also contains the steroid. It's used in DNA/RNA detection as a molecular probe.

Digitalis Species

Popular Digitalis species include:

  • Digitalis purpurea
  • Digitalis grandiflora
  • Digitalis ferruginea
  • Digitalis parviflora
  • Digitalis lutea

Grow Digitalis in Pots at Home

Digitalis plant varieties have beautiful, showy flowers in various colors ranging from white to purple to pink. Therefore, you can grow them at home as ornamental plants.

Looking to grow Digitalis in pots? Check out our large, deep and durable grow bags in a pack of 5 to get you started.