Aconitum bulbuliferum 'Monk Gone Wild'

Common Name: monkshood 
Type: Vine
Family: Ranunculaceae
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 7.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: August to September
Bloom Description: Purple
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Rabbit, 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. It may be propagated through aerial stem bulbils that form in the leaf axils.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Aconitum bulbilferum, commonly called monkshood, is native to mountainous areas of China and Nepal. It is a climbing, tuberous-rooted perennial with twining stems, small, deeply divided leaves on dark petioles, and dark purple bulbils that form in the leaf axils. In late summer it bears blue 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 name of “monkshood” and “helmet flower.” It grows 5 to 8 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 the bulbils that this plant produces.

'Monk Gone Wild' was discovered in 2012 on the wooded slopes of a mountain in Sichuan, China. The cultivar name refers to the common name of monkshood and the unusual color of the flowers. Like the species, it is a tuberous-rooted perennial with slender twining stems and deeply divided leaves. It may be propagated by planting the aerial stem bulbils. Blooming in late summer, the purple to reddish purple flowers have the typical monkshood structure. It grows 7 to 10 ft. tall and 1 to 1.5 ft. wide.


No serious insect or disease problems. Crown rot, powdery mildew and verticillium wilt 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, along streams or ponds, or on the periphery of bog or water gardens. Will grow in borders as long as the soil moisture requirements can be met. 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.