Plant of the Month for April, 2016

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Aconitum alboviolaceum

 (a-kon-EYE-tum  al-boh-vy-oh-LAH-see-um)

General Information:

Blue fall monkshood is fairly common in gardens, but very few people have ever seen a climbing monkshood. Aconitum alboviolaceum is such a plant – and a stunning plant at that. This is a rare species that I obtained from Botanically Inclinded and planted last year, as a good sized plant. Normally in this column, I only write about plants that I have grown for a couple of years so that I know they are perfectly hardy in zone 5, but I am making an exception for this very special plant which has grown in Waterloo, Ontario for a couple of years.

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Aconitum alboviolaceum; photo by Robert Pavlis

I placed the plant at the foot of a small 4 foot redbud growing in part shade. A. alboviolaceum is a climber, and I hoped it would like climbing up this tree, and it did. The plant grows quite quickly and is reported to reach 300cm (9 ft). When it got to the upper branches of the tree it just kept growing up and did not seem to need extra support. The center stem in the picture is the Aconitum without support.

The flowers are not big, maybe 2 cm in height, with a pale, violet-white coloration. A very subtle surprise when you first see them poking out from the tree.

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Aconitum alboviolaceum; photo by Robert Pavlis

You won’t find Aconitum alboviolaceum in nurseries unless they specialize in unusual plants, but you can grow it from seed. Seed germination in the genus Aconitum is not well understood. Kristl Walek from Gardens North reported that A. alboviolaceum needs to be moist packed because they are short lived, and then they need a cold stratification to germinate. More recently for another source of seed she reported that they germinated easily from moist packed seed without cold stratification. Gabriela Costea from Botanically Inclined suggests moist storage and cold stratification.

Life Cycle: perennial vine

Height: 250cm (7.5ft), reported to grow to 300 cm

Bloom Time: late summer - fall

Natural Range: China Korea, East Russia

Habitat: forests, scrubs, mountains 300-1400 m

Synonyms:  Aconitum weileri, Aconitum multifidum, Lycoctonum albo-violaceum


Light: part shade

Soil: well drained

Water: regular moisture

USDA Hardiness Zone: (2?)4– 8

Propagation: seed, division

Seedex availability (ORG&HPS annual Seed Exchange): rarely


Sow immediately. The viability of these seeds is short or the species propagates best with fresh seed. Stored seed might be coaxed into germination with temperature cycling and patience.
Sow @ 4°C for 3 months, then place @ 20°C for 3 months.
seed is short lived if not moisture packed
Robert Pavlis