Aconitum hemsleyanum

Common Name: climbing monk's hood 
Type: Vine
Family: Ranunculaceae
Native Range: Central and western China
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: August to September
Bloom Description: Blue to violet
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Deer


Best grown in moist, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. The soil must not be allowed to dry out, but should provide sufficient drainage to prevent wet conditions from developing. This plant will appreciate some afternoon shade in the St. Louis area and like the related delphiniums, it may struggle in hot St. Louis summers.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Aconitum hemsleyanum is native to central and western China where it mostly grows in woodland margins. It is a climbing perennial with twining stems and deeply divided, glossy, dark green maple-like leaves. In late summer it bears clusters of up to 12 blue to dark violet flowers. The upper sepal of each flower develops into a large, helmet-like structure that somewhat resembles the hood worn by medieval monks, hence the common names of “monkshood” and “helmet flower.” It grows 6 to 10 ft. tall and 1 to 1 ½ ft. wide. All parts of the plant (especially the roots and seeds) are extremely poisonous.

Genus name is the Latin name from the Greek akoniton used for these poisonous herbs.

Specific epithet refers to William Hemsley (1843 –1924), an English botanist.


Crown rot, powdery mildew, verticillium wilt, and aphids are occasional problems. This vining plant will need support. WEAR GLOVES WHEN WORKING WITH THIS PLANT. Avoid skin or oral contact with plant juices, and be particularly careful to cover up any open cuts or skin abrasions prior to entering garden areas.


In the St. Louis area, this plant needs consistently moist soils and may be best grown in moist woodland areas where it can climb through a shrub or hedge. Because of the poisonous properties of the plant, it probably should not be grown in areas where small children might come in contact with it or in areas contiguous to vegetable gardens where tubers are growing.