Monkshood Aconitum carmichaelii (Wilsonii Group) 'Kelmscott'

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Hard-care
monk's hood 'Kelmscott'


The Aconitum carmichaelii 'Kelmscott', commonly known as Monkshood, showcases a striking and bold appearance that makes it a standout plant in any garden setting. Its most noticeable feature is the hood-shaped flowers it bears, which come in a rich and deep blue to violet color. The name 'monk's hood' is derived from the resemblance of the flower spikes with a medieval monk’s habit. Each flower is intricately shaped with a prominent hood-like structure on top, and the blossoms are densely arranged on stout, upright spikes that emerge above the foliage. The leaves of Monkshood are deeply dissected, resembling the palm of a hand with lobed 'fingers'. These leaves are glossy and dark green, providing a lush backdrop that beautifully contrasts the vibrancy of the blooms. The whole plant projects an air of classic elegance and adds a vertical element of interest to borders and garden beds with its spiky floral displays. The blooms of Monkshood make it not only a favorite for visual appeal but also a magnet for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Despite its beauty, caution is advised since Monkshood is known for its toxic properties, and it should be handled with care.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Carmichael's Monkshood, Chinese Aconite, Azure Monkshood, Wilson's Monkshood

    • Common names

      Aconitum carmichaelii 'Kelmscott'.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Monkshood is highly toxic to humans if ingested, and its toxicity is because it contains several alkaloids, with aconitine being the primary toxic compound. Consumption of any part of the plant, including leaves, flowers, roots, or seeds, can lead to severe poisoning. Symptoms typically begin with a tingling or numbness at the site of ingestion, followed by gastrointestinal upset including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. More severe symptoms may progress to cardiac and respiratory issues such as heart palpitations, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and can lead to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory paralysis. Immediate medical attention is critical for anyone who has ingested Monkshood.

    • To pets

      Monkshood is also highly toxic to pets and contains the same harmful alkaloids as it does to humans, with aconitine being the most significant threat. Ingestion of any part of the plant can result in severe poisoning in pets. Symptoms of poisoning in pets can include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea, followed by severe manifestations like weakness, seizures, heart rhythm abnormalities, difficulty breathing, and potentially death. Pet owners should ensure that pets do not have access to this plant, and if ingestion is suspected, immediate veterinary care is necessary.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      3-4 feet (0.9-1.2 meters)

    • Spread

      1-2 feet (0.3-0.6 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Appeal: Aconitum 'Kelmscott' adds aesthetic value to gardens with its striking blue or violet flowers.
    • Attracts Pollinators: The vibrant flowers attract bees and butterflies, which are vital for pollination.
    • Seasonal Interest: It blooms in the late summer to early fall, providing color when many other plants have finished flowering.
    • Shade Tolerance: This plant can thrive in partially shaded areas, giving gardeners more options for planting in different light conditions.
    • Height Variation: Aconitum 'Kelmscott' can add height to garden borders or flower beds, creating dynamic visual landscapes.
    • Low Maintenance: Once established, it requires minimal care aside from regular watering and occasional fertilization.
    • Deer and Rabbit Resistant: Its toxicity makes it less palatable to deer and rabbits, reducing damage from grazing.
    • Hardy Perennial: It is a hardy plant that can survive cold winters, and come back year after year.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Cardiovascular effects: Aconitum species contain alkaloids such as aconitine, which are known to affect the cardiovascular system, though they are highly toxic and can be fatal.
    • Analgesic properties: Historically, the roots have been used in traditional medicine for their analgesic effects to relieve pain, but this application is not safe due to the high toxicity of the plant compounds.
    • Anti-inflammatory: There have been some indications that Aconitum species might have anti-inflammatory properties, however, due to the risks associated with its toxicity, it is not used in modern medicine for this purpose.
    • Neural effects: Aconitum plants have been used in the past for neuralgia and to reduce fever, but again, because of the associated risks, such uses are not recommended in any formal medical context.
    There are inherent dangers in using Aconitum carmichaelii for medicinal purposes due to the highly toxic nature of its components, and thus it is not recommended nor typically used in contemporary medicine.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Monkshood 'Kelmscott' can be used in dyeing fabric, giving it a blue or green hue depending on the mordant used.
    • The plant has a history in folklore being used in protective charm sachets to guard against negative influences or supernatural harm.
    • In some cultures, monks used to crush the plant to make inks for writing illuminated manuscripts due to its intense color.
    • Gardeners sometimes plant Monkshood 'Kelmscott' to deter herbivores such as deer and rabbits from their gardens due to its toxic properties.
    • The flowers can be used as a natural indicator of soil pH; they acquire a deeper hue in more acidic soils.
    • In the past, some fisherman have used sap as a fish poison to temporarily stun fish and facilitate easy capture.
    • Monkshood 'Kelmscott' is sometimes incorporated into ceremonial garlands for festivals in some cultures.
    • Used as a background plant, Monkshood 'Kelmscott' adds height and structure to themed garden displays, such as gothic or 'witch' gardens.
    • Some artists seek inspiration in the plant's dramatic blooms and include it in paintings, photography, and other visual arts.
    • This variety of Monkshood can be used as an educational tool in botany classes to discuss plant toxicity and safety in horticulture.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Monkshood is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Monkshood is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Caution: Aconitum, commonly known as Monkshood, often symbolizes caution due to its highly toxic nature. Every part of the plant is poisonous, reminding people to be careful and respect what might look beautiful but is dangerous.
    • Misfortune: Monkshood is sometimes associated with bad luck or misfortune, possibly stemming from its use in ancient times as a poison.
    • Protection: In some traditions, Monkshood was thought to protect against evil spirits or malevolent forces, probably due to its potency as a toxin that could repel or eliminate threats.
    • Chivalry: There are also interpretations of Monkshood symbolizing chivalry and knightliness, perhaps because the flower has an appearance reminiscent of a medieval hood worn by knights.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Late summer to early fall
As needed
  • water dropWater

    Monkshood requires consistent moisture and should be watered deeply about once a week, providing about an inch of water which equates to roughly 0.6 gallons per square yard of soil. During hot, dry spells, the frequency may need to increase to twice a week. Soil should remain moist, but not waterlogged, to encourage healthy growth and prevent root rot. It's best to water the plant at the base, avoiding wetting the foliage which can lead to fungal diseases. In the fall, as the plant prepares for dormancy, you can reduce watering.

  • sunLight

    Monkshood thrives in partial shade, especially in areas with afternoon shade to protect it from the intense heat of the day. The best spot for this plant would be in a garden that receives filtered sunlight or a few hours of direct morning sun followed by dappled light or shade. Avoid placing monkshood in full sun, as this can lead to stress and potential scorching of the leaves.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Monkshood is hardy in a range of temperatures and can withstand cold down to about -20°F, making it suitable for gardens in USDA Zones 3 through 7. The ideal growing temperature for Monkshood is between 50°F and 65°F. It can tolerate summer temperatures up to the 80s°F, but it is crucial to provide adequate moisture and shade to prevent stress during hotter periods.

  • scissorsPruning

    Prune Monkshood in the late fall or early spring to remove any dead or damaged foliage and to maintain a tidy appearance. Deadheading spent flowers can promote a second flush of blooms. Cut back the entire plant after the first hard frost to prepare it for winter. Pruning is not typically needed throughout the growing season unless shaping of the plant is desired.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Monkshood prefers moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter with a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.0. A good mix would be loamy garden soil, compost, and a bit of perlite or sand for improved drainage.

  • plantRepotting

    Monkshood does not need frequent repotting; once established, it can thrive for several years without being disturbed. Repotting is typically necessary only when it outgrows its current space or every 2-4 years.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Monkshood tolerates average garden humidity levels well and does not have specific requirements; it thrives in outdoor ambient humidity.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Ensure bright light, cool temps, and good air circulation.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in partial shade, shelter from strong winds, keep soil moist.

    • Hardiness zone

      3-7 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    The Monkshood 'Kelmscott' starts its life cycle as a seed, germinating in moist, well-drained soil in spring. Sprouting seedlings grow into young plants with lobed leaves, and as temperatures increase, they develop a strong, leafy stem. During summer, the plant reaches maturity and produces its characteristic hooded flowers which are usually deep blue or purple. These flowers are pollinated by bees and other insects, leading to the formation of follicles containing seeds. As autumn approaches, the plant starts to die back, with the above-ground parts withering, while the roots remain dormant through the winter. In the following spring, the perennial rootstock regenerates new growth, completing the cycle.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Late summer to early fall

    • The Monkshood 'Kelmscott', also known as Aconitum carmichaelii (Wilsonii Group) 'Kelmscott', is commonly propagated by division. The ideal time for this method is early spring or fall after the flowering period when the plant is dormant. To propagate by division, carefully dig up the plant and gently separate the root clumps into smaller sections, ensuring each has a portion of the root system intact. These divisions can then be immediately replanted into prepared soil, spaced about 12 to 24 inches apart (30 to 60 cm), and at the same soil level they were originally growing. It's crucial to handle Monkshood with care since all parts of the plant are highly toxic.