Perennials & Ornamental Grasses

Monkshood - Notes on planting, care and reproduction


The monkshood impresses with its unique look and with its flowers. There are a few things to consider when cultivating in your own garden.

© Irina /

The aconite (Aconitum) is an enrichment for every garden and offers an almost unique flower shape. The buttercup family is particularly common in farm gardens. The plant was once also referred to as wolfwort and used as a wolf poison. The following guide provides information about the attractive poisonous plant and provides information about planting, care and propagation.

Plant Description

Aconite (aconite)
Height:50-150 cm
Blossom:depending on the variety between June and October
Location:partial shade
To water:Always water sufficiently - the soil must not dry out
Fertilize:conventional liquid fertilizer for flowering plants
propagation:possible by division or sowing

The monkshood is a herbaceous, mostly perennial. Only a few species are annual. The plants form a taproot, which extends deep into the soil. The hermaphrodite inflorescences with their yellow, blue or white sepals appear on the upright stems. The plants grow straight up and can reach a height of 1.5 meters. The helmet-like flower shape is typical of all representatives of the genus.

Flower diversity

There are about 300 species of monkshood. This results in a varied variety of flowers. The flowering period also varies. The yellow monkshood or the blue mountain monkshood ring in the summer in the flower bed. The round of blossoms comes to an end in October with the autumn aconite.

Most representatives of the monkshood have blue flower panicles and individual flowers reminiscent of the armor of helmets. Some types of monkshood bloom white, yellowish, pink, or burgundy.

A brief introduction to some types of monkshood

varietyheightflower Colorheyday
Blue monkshood (Aconitum napellus)110 cmblue-violet flowerJuly to August
Buttercup (Aconitum lycoctonum subsp.neapolitanum)120 cmlight yellow flowersJune to July
Red-flowered monkshood (Aconitum hemsleyanum)200 cmburgundy flowersAugust to September
Chinese aconite (Aconitum carmichaelii)130 cmblue-violet flowersSeptember to October

Warning toxic!

Before planting in your home garden, you should keep in mind that the monkshood is not only one of the most beautiful flowering plants, but also one of the most poisonous representatives of the plant kingdom.

Attention: The monkshood is highly toxic in all parts of its plants.

The plant poison was once used for the preparation of arrowheads. Gloves and clothing that is as long as possible should always be worn during planting and care, because skin contact with the plant sap can suffice to suffer from symptoms of intoxication.

Attention: If children and pets have access to the garden, the Eisenhut should not be planted.

In 2005, the monkshood was voted poisonous plant of the year, not without reason, because it is one of the most poisonous plants in Europe. All parts of the plant contain lycoctonin, neopellin, aconitine and other toxic alkaloids.

As a contact poison, aconitine is absorbed through the skin when the plant is touched. Even small doses are sufficient to trigger cardiac arrhythmia and paralysis. It only takes a few grams to suffer heart failure and respiratory arrest. An antidote is not known.

In the wild, aconite must not be torn from the ground. The plant is under nature protection and adverse behavior can be fined.

Attention: Eisenhut can easily be confused with wormwood, mugwort or real sage.

Planting monkshood

Find the right location

The aconite feels most comfortable in mountainous areas - © mophoto /

The Eisenhut is native to our latitudes and feels most comfortable in mountainous areas. The plants like it to be damp and can therefore be found in the wild on wet meadows or on streams. A dry and warmer location is rather unsuitable for buttercups.

You should find a partially shaded location. The monkshood likes to be protected by trees and bushes. If only a sunny location can be found, care must always be taken to ensure that there is sufficient irrigation water. If the plant is too warm, it is more often affected by diseases.

Choose the ideal substrate

The substrate provides the basis for healthy iron hat growth. The different types of monkshood hardly differ in their soil requirements. A permeable soil that is rich in nutrients and slightly damp is preferred. The earth may be humus and contain clay or clay.

Planting monkshood - step by step

1. Select location
2. Prepare the soil
3. Water the plant
Dig out the planting hole 5. Enrich the substrate
6. Insert the plant
7. Fill in the substrate and press well
8. Water the plant

The best time to plant is spring. Then the aconite can form sufficient roots until winter and grow vigorously. The different types of aconite have roughly the same location requirements. How much planting distance is necessary should be taken from the information on the labels of the plants.

Before the planting hole is dug, the plant is allowed to absorb sufficient moisture in a water bucket. With a dose of compost or horn chips, the substrate can be made more nutritious.

If possible, a single position should be found for the monkshood. Most of the plants have blue flowers, which are a nice contrast to white or yellow flowering plants.

Tip: Since the lower leaves of the plant quickly wither and the appearance suffers, underplants are ideal.

The best planting tips at a glance

Find location
  • shady to semi-shady
  • airy
  • cool
Select substrate
  • nutritious
  • humos
  • wet
Make planting
  • Note planting distance
  • Dig out the planting hole to a sufficient size
  • Water the plant well

Grooming monkshood

Pour the aconite properly

Make sure that there is sufficient water for the Eisenhut. - © altana_studio /

The monkshood always needs enough water. The floor must not dry out and should therefore be checked more frequently. It is advisable to mulch the soil, this keeps the liquid in the soil longer.

Properly fertilize the aconite

The aconite needs an adequate supply of nutrients. Compost and horn shavings should be added to the substrate during planting. During the growth phase, watering can also be carried out with a conventional liquid fertilizer for flowering plants.

Does the aconite need to be cut?

Immediately after flowering, the seed heads of the plants are removed. When the leaves are completely withered, the stems can be cut back to the ground.

Propagation of the aconite

The monkshood can be propagated by division and by sowing.

Multiplication by division

1. Dig out the rhizome
2. Separate the countersink from the main root
3. Transplant roots again

Propagation by division is possible if you have a sufficiently developed plant. The aconite should only be divided after six to eight years of standing. Most species can be divided in spring or autumn. Only the autumn aconite is only grown in spring.

The rhizome must be dug out completely. To do this, the hobby gardener must carefully penetrate the soil and dig out the plant like a beet without damaging the root. The beet-like root pieces are separated from the main root and placed in the soil separately from the mother plant. The root sections should be covered with earth about two centimeters.

Tip: Gloves should be worn at work, as the rhizome is particularly toxic.

Propagation by sowing

1. Prepare the soil
2. Introduce seeds
3. Only lightly cover the seeds with soil
4. Water the seeds

The monkshood is a cold germ. It therefore needs low temperatures for germination to start. Therefore, sowing should be carried out in the winter months. The dark germs are easy to cover with soil. When sowing, care should be taken to ensure that there is sufficient clearance between the seeds. Otherwise, only weak seedlings will be able to develop.

Identify diseases and pests on the monkshood

Powdery mildew © majuroan /

The selection of the ideal location protects the plant from diseases and pests. A stand that is too warm and sunny leads to the appearance of the black bean louse, the cyclamen mite or the leaf fly.

If the location is too wet, sclerotium rot or verticillium wilt can occur. These diseases are usually no longer averted and it only helps to dig out and remove the root material.

Location errors can also lead to powdery mildew or various bacterial leaf spot diseases. If prolonged drought and waterlogging are avoided, the plants prove to be robust and are hardly affected by diseases or pests.

Hibernate the aconite properly

The monkshood is frost hardy and survives the winter without additional protection. However, the frost hardness of young plants is not fully developed in the first year of standing. The young plant therefore receives a layer of compost, brushwood or leaves. If the earth is covered with peat garbage or sawdust, the moisture is kept away and there can be no waterlogging.

Tip: Winter protection must be removed in spring, otherwise there is a risk of rotting.