Aconitum napellus, also known as monkshood or aconite, is a perennial that produces tall blue flower spikes. It has a rather bad reputation, as it is very poisonous. However, this post will not focus on the aconite toxicity, but whether it is worth growing monkshood to decorate your garden.
We grow one monkshood variety in our garden. All the facts reported below come from our personal experience with this aconite variety.
Aconitum napellus is a perennial producing tall, blue flower spikes.This plant didn’t really impress me and this is why we have only one monkshood variety in our garden (something very unusual for our family).
Aconite just doesn’t produce enough flowers to earn its keep. Each summer, it shoots out long flower spikes. We become excited thinking that soon the flowers will open… but… we almost miss the flowering of aconitum, as the flowers are not bright and quite scattered.
Look at the picture below. It was taken several years ago at the time of flowering of aconitum. Can you see it? It is there, in the centre of the flowerbed, in front of the shrubs. If I have to explain you where the plant is, it means aconitum does not contribute to the look of the flowerbed. The blue spikes on the right side are delphiniums, by the way. But more about them later.
Let’s get this topic out of the way. Yes, aconite is poisonous. You should not eat any part of the plant. It is also strongly advised to use gloves when touching this perennial. If you need more details on the toxicity of aconitum, you can read this article.
I would like to point out that many plants we grow are poisonous. Delphiniums, foxgloves and hellebores are all ranked as toxic, but we still love them. To have a garden with no poisonous plants is very difficult. You will end up with a vegetable patch instead of a garden!
The bottom line is that I do not believe that excluding aconitum from your garden because of its toxicity is a good strategy!
Monkshood plant care
Aconitum does not perform in our garden. Why?
Can the climate be too cold for it? Maybe.
Does it need more care? Certainly.
We have planted our aconitum in sandy soil in a sunny spot and it does not get regularly fertilised. I understand that these conditions are not ideal, but our delphiniums thrive and flourish in exactly the same settings!
Now, after I have told you how to be bad at growing monkshood, let me summarise how you should be growing it for better results.
Monkshoods are hardy plants and overwinter well. Plant them in rich soil, and frequently fertilise them.Then, they will flower better than they do in our garden.
But, there is an easier solution…
Alternatives to monkshood
Plant delphiniums and lupines instead of aconites. They will grow in all possible conditions, even if you do not care for them. And they give tons of flowers and colour. Look at the pictures below. You don’t have to search for the delphiniums. You simply notice them immediately. The poor aconites cannot compete with such display!
Design with monkshood
Aconites can be combined with the same plants as delphiniums. Roses, dianthuses, large daisies, etc.
I have tried searching for designs and flowerbeds where aconites really shine. I checked many pictures of monkshood on the internet, but to no avail. Most of the photos of aconite are closeups of its flowers, which do not help us understand how the perennial will look in the flowered.
If you grow aconites that perform well and create an attractive flowerbed, please let me know! I would love to see pictures of your monkshood and get convinced that it is a great plant, that I have simply misjudged.
I cannot recommend growing monkshood to the beginner gardener as the plant needs special conditions to produce enough flowers to be visible. For more experienced gardeners, I would still recommend planting alternatives to aconitum.
Flowering time: July
Flower yield: Low
Sun exposure in the garden: 3/4 day
Pollinator attraction: Moderate
Lowest temperature survived: -20°C