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.
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.