How to Grow: Monkshood

Learn about monkshood flowers, including how to plant and grow them.

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Monkshood, Blue, Dark Purple, Purple, Aconitum NapellusWhen I first saw monkshood, it was in September in coastal Maine and the garden was ablaze in purple color. This, I said to myself, is a plant I need for my fall garden.

Monkshood gets its common name from the flower shape; it resembles a helmet or a hooded cloak of a monk. It’s a wild flower, but there’s some interesting varies available too, such as the purple colored bressingham spire and arendsii. Stainless steel has steel blue colored flowers while ivorine has ivory colored blooms. Monkshood grows well in full to part sun. It’s a good woodlands edge plant and a nice addition to a perennial flower border. It’s not invasive and deer and other animals seem to leave it alone. It grows two to four feet tall so it may need staking especially if grown in a part shade location where the stems might reach for the light.

It grows best in moist, well-drained soil and once established doesn’t like to be moved. We grow ours against our yellow clapboard house behind the balloon flowers, cat mint and other early bloomers. The dark green foliage is an attractive back drop and then by late summer the flower burst onto the scene. Of course the one drawback to this sturdy perennial is that all parts of the plant are poisonous. In fact, in medieval times, it was often used to poison enemies or unfaithful spouses. So be careful with animals and young children around and wear gloves when cutting it to keep the sap off any wounds and cuts.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.

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