Monkshood Plants: This herbaceous perennial flower fills lots of garden requirements, and it is one of the few nearly true blue flowers. Though it’s native to mountainous regions, it’s fairly heat-tolerant. Monkshood is a tall plant that flowers late in the summer and handles partial shade very well. It gets its common name of monkshood from its similarity to the cowl on monk’s habits. There are about 250 species of aconite, but Aconitum napellus is the most commonly grown ornamental selection.
Monkshood continues to be safely cultivated in gardens for centuries. It’s a lovely flower, just use caution when handling it.
All pieces of Aconitum are poisonous if ingested or if the sap comes into contact with any mucous membrane. Outcomes range from skin irritation to cardiac and respiratory failure. Always wash your hands after handling monkshood. You’ll find lots of references in literature to monkshood used to kill enemies. Another common name for monkshood, wolf’s bane, describes its use for eliminating wolves. Don’t grow this plant around young children or curious pets.
Leaves: Smooth palmate leaves with deep lobes.
Flowers: Racemes of white or blue flowers are borne on sturdy, unbranched stems. There are five sepals and the top sepal curves down, giving the flower its hood-like look. The real petals are hidden within the hood.
Botanical Name Common Names
Wolfsbane, Wolf’s Bane, Helmet Flower
Monkshood is perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 8. In ideal conditions, it’s been proven to survive down to Zone 2.
The plants can handle both full sun and partial shade, but they prefer somewhat moist soil. If you’re growing them in a hot, dry place, certainly give them a place with some colour, especially in the afternoon. When grown in color, you will most likely have to stake the plants.
Monkshood fills out to a wonderful size plant, reaching a height of 3 to 5 ft. and dispersing to 1 1/2 ft. But it does take a few years to become established. Once established, the plants are extremely long-lived.
Flowering begins in mid- to late summer and will continue in the fall.
Soil: Monkshood plants prefer a soil pH that is neutral to slightly acidic, but will tolerate different soils so long as they’re rich, moist, and well-draining.
Starting from seed: You can begin monkshood from seed, but it may be finicky about germination and might take a year or longer to sprout. Start extra seeds and do not expect them to germinate. Sow the seed from fall to early spring. They will need to experience a frightening period, to break dormancy.
The plants do not really like to be transplanted, so direct sow when possible. They are sometimes passing their first year, so don’t fear if they vanish.
Planting: Monkshood enjoys fairly rich soil. Add loads of organic matter before planting to include nutrients and to help keep the soil moist, but draining well. You may plant or split monkshood in either spring or fall, but avoid doing it in the heat of the summer. Monkshood never”needs” dividing, but you can split it if you want more plants. The roots have a tendency to break easily, so handle with care. They are easier to split if you water them beforehand so the soil adheres to the roots.
Water: Once recognized, monkshood can withstand short periods of drought, but for strong crops, provide a moist soil or water frequently.
Fertilizer: Feeding always depends upon the level of your soil. Definitely start with rich soil, high in organic matter. Side dress with compost and some organic fertilizer each spring.
Care: Monkshood is quite a very low maintenance plant. Since these are late-season bloomers and they don’t repeat bloom, you won’t really need to deadhead. The plants will die back to the ground .
Design tips: Pair monkshood with other moist, color lovers like astilbe, hosta, heuchera, and hellebores. As they’re tall crops, they are typically relegated to the back of the border.
Pests and Problems
Problems with monkshood are rare, especially if they have good growing conditions. They’re deer resistant. In actuality, due to its poisonous qualities, most animals avoid the plant.
Insects: Four-lined plant bug and leafminers can mare the leaves. Mites can also stress the plants.
Diseases: Susceptible to bacterial leaf spot, rust, and verticillium wilt.
Some people are really partial to the common unnamed monkshood due to its intense, rich colour and simple growing habit. But, there are a handful of worthy cultivars and species, even if you can find them:
Aconitum septentrionale “ivorine”: Very early blooming with elongated, white blossoms.
“Albus”: The recognizable monkshood with, as its name suggests, white flowers.
“Blue sceptre”: If you can not decide on white or blue, this assortment has bicolor blossoms.
Aconitum hendyi”spark’s variety”: This one has branched flower stalks, giving it a fuller look.