Foxglove flowers have both positive and negative symbolic meanings. They are said to sometimes hurt and sometimes heal. In the language of flowers, foxglove flowers are associated with insincerity. On the positive side, the common name is said to come from "folk's gloves," with "folk" referring to helpful fairy folk. In medieval gardens dedicated to Mother Mary, foxglove was called "Our Lady's Gloves" or "Gloves of the Virgin."
The scientific name is digitalis, a reference to the presence of powerful chemicals that can heal heart conditions if taken correctly but can kill if taken in large amounts. Foxglove contains cardiac glycosides and was first used to treat heart ailments in 1785. Digitalis helps to regulate pulse rate.
An overdose of digitalis can cause anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and jaundiced vision or a halo effect. Digitalis has sometimes been abused as a weight loss aid due to the gastronomic side effects and resulting reduction of appetite. Digitalis was previously also used as a treatment for epilepsy and seizure disorders, but this is now considered inappropriate.
Foxglove thrives in soils that are rich in iron and coal. New coalfields can sometimes be located by finding masses of foxgloves growing together. Foxgloves are perennials that thrive in temperate zones and like shade, part shade and sun.
Foxgloves come in white, yellow, pink, rose, red, lavender and purple. Foxglove can be grown either through seeds or divisions of plant clumps. The plants range from 2-6' high depending on the variety.
Foxglove flowers look best in the back of a garden and bloom in a pyramid shape with the lowest blossoms opening first and the buds remaining closed at the top. Add some foxgloves to your garden this year to invite the fairy folk to take up residence in your yard!