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Zone
Zones A1-A3, 1-9, 14-21, 34-41, 43-45
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate
Toxicity
All parts are poisonous if ingested.

Aconitum

Aconite, Monkshood
Ranunculaceae
Perennials, Flowers

Most members of this genus grow in mountain meadows, where they receive regular moisture and winter chill. They don’t thrive in warm, dry climates, but their distinctive, richly hued flowers make them worth trying. Grow them under trees, at the back of flower beds, or at the edge of a shaded bog garden. Attractive substitutes for delphinium in lightly shaded spots, they combine well with hosta, ferns, meadow rue (Thalictrum), and astilbe. Rich green leaves, usually lobed, emerge in clusters at the plant’s base. Stunning flowers, shaped like hoods or helmets, are held on tall spikes above the leaves. The flowers are good for cutting, but gloves are recommended when handling, as foliage may irritate skin.

Sow seeds in spring, or in late summer or early fall for bloom the next year. Plant in moist, rich soil for best growth and bloom. Divide in early spring or late autumn, or leave undivided for years. Aconites die back completely in winter, so mark the site. 

Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Aconitum carmichaelii

Native to eastern Asia. This densely foliaged plant grows to 2–4 ft. tall and nearly as wide. Leathery, dark green leaves are lobed and coarsely toothed. Deep purple-blue flowers in dense, branching clusters bloom from late summer into fall. Plants in the Arendsii group have particularly strong stems; those in the Wilsonii group grow to 6–8 ft. tall and 1–2 ft. wide, with more open flower clusters.

Aconitum napellus
Aconitum napellus

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Aconitum napellus

Native to Europe. Upright leafy plants 2–5 ft. high and about 1 ft. wide. Leaves 2–5 in. wide, divided into narrow lobes. Late summer flowers usually blue or violet, in spikelike clusters.

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