Chinese aconite – planting, care and tips

Flower of Chinese aconite
Flower of Chinese aconite (Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’)

The Chinese aconite is one of the most popular monkshood and it is hard to imagine the autumn bed without it. This is how to properly plant and care for the poisonous beauty.

Profile of Chinese aconite:

Scientific name: Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’

Plant family: buttercup family (Ranunculaceae)

Other names: Carmichael’s monkshood, Chinese wolfsbane

Sowing time: autumn

Planting time: April to May

Flowering period: September to October

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flowerbeds, bouquets, stand-alone, group planting, planters, underplanting, borders, flower garden, natural garden, potted garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)

Toxicity: toxic

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Chinese aconite

Plant characteristics and classification of Chinese aconite

Plant order, origin and occurrence of Chinese aconite

The Chinese aconite (Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’) comes from China selected in 1945 by the well-known German perennial grower Georg Arends. Like the other monkshoods, ‘Arendsii’ also belongs to the large buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and is probably the best-known representative of its genus. Like all types of monkshood, Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’ is very poisonous in all parts of the plant.

Characteristics of Chinese aconite

Plant

The Chinese wolfsbane is a clumpy and upright growing perennial. It becomes up to 120 centimeters (48 in) high and 40 to 50 centimeters (16 to 20 in) wide.

Leaves

The hand-shaped leaves of the ‘Arendsii’ variety are dark green, slightly leathery and the upper surface of the leaves is shiny. The individual leaves are three to five-edged.

Blossoms

The Chinese aconite inspires in September and October with its striking purple-blue racemes, which consist of many small, helmet-shaped individual flowers. The flowers are popular with bees. They not only cut a fine figure in the bed, but also look good as cut flowers in bouquets.

Fruit

After flowering, Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’ forms inconspicuous follicles.

Chinese aconite – cultivation and care

Location

A sunny to partially shaded location is ideal.

Soil

The Chinese aconite thrives in any normal garden soil, it prefers humus and nutrient-rich soils that are permeable and fresh. The more shady the location the drier the soil can be, but it should never dry out.

Chinese aconite (Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’)
Chinese aconite (Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’)

Planting

If you want to plant a Chinese aconite in your garden, you should do so as early as spring (April to May). You can not only enjoy the flowers in autumn, the perennial will also have grown well by the first winter. In principle, Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’ can also be planted in summer and autumn. Chinese wolfsbane is best used alone or in small groups of a maximum of three plants. To plant an area, the gardener places six to eight specimens per square meter (10 sq ft.). A planting distance of 40 centimeters (16 in) gives each perennial sufficient space.

Care

Chinese aconite turns out to be robust and uncomplicated.

Watering

Chinese wolfsbane does not tolerate permanent waterlogging, but it still needs consistent soil moisture. Therefore, it should be watered extensively at least every few days, especially in the summer months. To prevent acute soil dryness, you can cover the soil with a layer of mulch at the location of the plant.

Fertilization

The nutrient-hungry Chinese aconite is happy about regular fertilization with compost and horn shavings.

Pruning

When the perennial leaves are completely withered, it’s time to prune them back.

Division

The Chinese aconite can be divided in spring or autumn. It is essential to wear gloves so that you do not come into contact with the skin-irritating plant juices. As a rule, Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’ has to be rejuvenated by division every six to ten years.

Propagation

In spring or autumn you can propagate Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’ by dividing. You can also try sowing the seeds in autumn, as they need cold to germ.

Diseases and pests

The Chinese aconite is not very susceptible to diseases and pests.

Wintering

A special winter protection is not necessary for the perennial, as it is hardy down to -20 °C / -5 °F. One can put some compost or leaves for winter protection on it, this then serves as a fertilizer.

Use in the garden

If you are looking for a splash of color for the late summer or autumn perennial bed, you will find it difficult to get past the Chinese aconite. Hardly any other perennial provides such pretty blue-purple splashes of color at this time of year. Popular plant partners are other late-blooming perennials such as Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis) or mountain fleece (Persicaria amplexicaulis). Ornamental grasses such as switchgrass, with their delicate panicles of flowers, also form a pretty contrast to the upright Chinese wolfsbane.

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