A Shady Character – Monkshood (Aconitum)


With elegant spikes of hooded (or helmet-shaped) blue-violet flowers, monkshood is a wonderful accent in the fall garden.

The large flower head makes a great cut flower and the three-foot tall stems with attractive deep-green leaves do not require staking. An exceptional trait is that monkshood is distasteful to deer and rabbits.

Uses in the Garden
For a spectacular fall combination at the edge of the woodland garden, plant monkshood with late-blooming pale-pink perennial chrysanthemum ‘Ryan’s Pink’ and light-blue aromatic aster ‘October Skies’. Add contrast to the mix with the addition of river oat grass or a variegated liriope.

How to Grow
Common monkshood (Aconitum napellus) is heat-tolerant, but it must have partial shade here in the South. It prefers rich, moist soil that doesn’t dry out; though clay soil is fine. Propagate the plant by division of its thickened, tuberous roots in the fall. A word of caution, all parts of monkshood are poisonous. Be sure to wear gloves when handling the plant and keep the plant away from pets or children. Call your doctor if ingested.

Rita Mercer gardens under majestic oaks in Apex, NC. Contact her for shade-gardening advice or take a virtual tour of her garden at

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