Canary Island Foxglove

Dregea sinensis.
Dregea sinensis. / Flickr
  • Isoplexis or Digitalis canariensis is a relative of the foxglove and native to the Canary Islands and Madeira

The Canary Island foxglove, botanical name Isoplexis or Digitalis canariensis, is a perennial, woody shrub up to 1.5 metres tall with glossy green, serrated leaves and spikes of apricot or orange flowers with reddish anthers.

Common names include Tenerife shrub foxglove, Bellbird plant, Canary Island foxglove and in Spanish, Cresta de Gallo Canaria.

The lance shaped leaves are leathery and evergreen and form around the stems, which are a reddish-brown colour when young. The spikes of flowers appear from spring through to the end of the summer and even into the autumn when the weather is mild. The bright tubular flowers make a striking contrast against the dark leaves and attract bees and butterflies.

In its native habitat it grows in humid, wooded areas and the Canary Island foxglove will not withstand being in direct sun, especially during the summer, so choose a spot where it will get some dappled shade.

The soil needs to be moist but well drained; it is not drought tolerant and the root ball should never be allowed to dry out completely. It will grow well in a large planter but is comparatively short lived, losing its vigour and flowering less after three to five years.

Propagation can be carried out by sowing the seed or by taking cuttings. The seed needs light to germinate so should be sprinkled on top of the soil and left uncovered.

The seed company Thompson and Morgan have introduced a new variety previously thought impossible, a lilac or pink coloured hybrid of Digitalis purpurea and Isoplexis canariensis called 'Illumination pink'.

Like all the foxglove family, all parts of the plant are poisonous.