How to Grow Arnica montana Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Mountain arnica / Wolf's bane

Arnica montana is a perennial herb that is native to the mountainous pastures and woodlands of continental Europe.

It is known by many common names including Leopard's bane, Mountain tobacco, Wolfbane, and Wolf's Bane (See also Aconitum napellus), and Mountain arnica.

Arnica montana
Arnica montana photograph by Peter Stevens

There are approximately thirty members of the Arnica genus, and it is a member of Asteraceae (Compositae) (Sunflower family). Therefore, It is closely related to species such as the Aster and Daisy.

Arnica is herbaceous and often grown for medicinal purposes where its roots and flowers are used to make a tincture or gel that is applied exogenously in the treatments of wounds, sprains, hair-growth, and chilblains.

It is noteworthy that the plant contains many toxins, such as helenalin, and should therefore not be taken internally, or applied to broken skin, as it may lead to internal bleeding if ingested.

Mountain arnica flower
Mountain arnica flower photograph by A3X; CC.

Active ingredients in the plant include thymol, which is found in the roots and has fungicidal properties, and the above-mentioned helenalin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Scientific tests have shown that a 50% solution of Arnica gel applied topically has a similar effect to a 5% ibuprofen gel when used for the treatment of osteoarthritis in the hands. However, repeated use of Arnica montana can lead to skin irritation.

Arnica montana Description Arnica montana Description

Arnica montana are perennials that reach heights of 30 to 60 cm (12–24 inches) and has a spread of about 20 cm (8 inches).

They have a rosette of ovoid green basal leaves, and tall stems that have a few opposite bright green downy leaves that are toothed and aromatic.

The stems carry a single yellow/orange flower from mid-spring to the end of summer.

The flowers are about 5 to 6 cm (2 inches) in diameter and have 10–15 ray florets, and a multitude of disc florets.

Arnica Montana botanical diagram
Arnica Montana botanical diagram, image sourced by Biodiversity Heritage Library ; CC.

Growing Arnica montana

Arnica montana Growing Guide

  • Mountain arnica is hardy and can be grown successfully in zones 4–9.
  • It has a preference for sunny areas but should grow fine in partially shaded areas.
  • Grows best in sandy loams but will perform well in most soils as long as it is well drained.

  • Space plants about 30 cm (12 inches) apart.
  • Seeds are usually take about a month to germinate, but can take as long as two years. Lightly cover the seeds and sow in the late summer. If starting plants indoors, sow in pots and germinate at a temperature of ~ 55°F (13°C). Grow for one year before transplanting outdoors following the last frost.
  • It is fairly easy to look after these plants as they are drought tolerant, but supply a stake in windy areas. Also cut back before flowering to keep stems short, and after flowering to produce a secondary bloom. Divide, in the spring or autumn, every three years to maintain vigour.

  • Plants can be propagated by division or from cuttings in the spring. Take shoot cuttings when they are about 10 cm (4 inches) high.
  • Arnica Spp. Can spread via their roots so may require close control to stop them taking over the garden.
  • In addition to its medicinal uses Arnica montana are very attractive to bees and other insects, making them an ideal plant for people wishing to attract wildlife to their garden.

Mountain arnica
Mountain arnica plant picture by Frank Vassen

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Mountain Arnica. You may also enjoy the following growing guides: How to grow Rosa multiflora and Sweet chamomile plants.