How to Grow Aconitum Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Wolfsbane and Aconite

The common names for the Hardy perennial Aconitum include Aconite, Monk's head and Wolfsbane.

They typically flowers from late summer to early autumn.

Aconitum napellus
Aconitum napellus photograph by alexlomas.

Latin names of Aconitum varieties include Aconitum carmichaelii, Aconitum lycoctonum, Aconitum vulparia, Aconitum hemsleyanum and Aconitum carmichaeli arendsii.

Photographs of Aconitum carmichaelii arendsii, A. napellus, A. vulparia, and A. lycoctonum

Aconitum lycoctonum
Aconitum lycoctonum picture by Nuuu..ul.

aconitum carmichaelii arendsii
Aconitum carmichaelii arendsii photograph by Clivid

Aconitum vulparia
Aconitum vulparia by Col and Tasha.

Visit this page for specific information on how to grow Aconitum napellus in your garden.

Description of Wolfsbane and Aconite Plants

Aconitum are large plants that can grow stems up to 250 cm (8 feet) in height. Wolfsbane species plants typically have hooded white or purple flowers.

G.A. Cooper @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

As a consequence of the plant's great height, it has restrictive use in the garden, typically being grown at the back of borders.

Commonly Grown Aconitum Species

Aconitum napellus

Aconitum napellus
Aconitum napellus (Monk's-hood / Aconite), photograph by xulescu_g; CC.

Aconitum vulparia

Aconitum vulparia
Aconitum vulparia (Wolfsbane), picture by Vasile Cotovanu; CC.

Aconitum Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Aconite, Monkshood, Wolf’s bane, Blue rocket.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
  • Height: up to 100 inches (250 cm).
  • Native: Northern hemisphere. Mountainous regions.

  • Growing Region: Zones 3 to 8.
  • Flowers: Late summer and early autumn.
  • Flower Details: Purple, blue, yellow, white, pink. Hooded. Racemes. Two to ten petals. Tall stem.
  • Foliage: Herbaceous. Dark green. Palmate. Segments are three-lobed with sharp teeth.

  • Sow Outside: Seeds: Surface. Germination time: one week to nine months. Seeds should first be sown into flats in the autumn. Sink the flat into the ground in an area that offers shade, preferably close to a wall that faces north. Provide a glass/plastic covering. Keep an eye on the flats to ensure that the soil remains moist. Bring the flats indoor at the beginning of spring and keep at 60°F (16°C).
    Transplant seedlings into pots about two months after they emerge, and transplant to their final location, prepared with rotten manure, in the autumn. Space 8 to 36 inches (20—90 cm) depending upon species and cultivar.
  • Sow Inside: No.

  • Requirements and care: Partial shade. Acidic soil pH 5—6. Humus rich, moist, and cool soil. Provide mulch. Regular watering during dry periods.
    Provide support. Cut back to the ground in autumn. Should be divided every four years or so to maintain vigor.
    Propagate: by dividing in the spring in cooler areas or the autumn in warmer areas.
    • Family: Lamiaceae
    • Closely related plants: Mints, Sage, Thyme.
    • Miscellaneous: Named from the Greek word ‘ἀκόνιτον’, which means ‘without struggle’. One of the common names, Wolf’s bane, comes about because toxins found in the plant were used to kill wolves.
      Other poisons derived from this plant have historically been used to make poison arrows for use in hunting bears and whales.

    How to grow Wolfsbane, Aconite and other Aconitum

    It is best to sow Aconitum on the soil surface, with a spacing of 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 inches) for smaller species and up to 100 cm (3.5 feet) apart for larger species in the autumn.

    Wolfsbane prefers partly shady conditions, but can be grown in full sunlight so long as it is kept moist.

    The soil should be cool and moist with a pH of 5 to 6. Aconitum plants require between 5 days and 250 days to germinate.

    It is best to start seeds off in a flat against a north facing wall before transplanting.

    Caring for Aconitum Plants

    Aconitum arendsii and related species require regular watering in the summer.

    It is also important to stake the plant, as it may suffer from the effects of adverse weather.

    The plants should be cut back each autumn and split every four years to maintain healthy growth.

    I hope that you enjoyed this guide on Aconitum plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Yucca gloriosa, Bellis, and Celmisia plants.