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Columbine in the garden: tips on how to grow and care for one of the most beautiful flowers in the spring.

Columbines in the garden are one of the most beautiful flowers in spring. Columbine plants (Aquilegia spp.) have an airy appearance, with small, rounded leaves and tall flower stems. The columbine blooming season is mid-spring. Aquilegia’s bell-shaped flowers are popular with bees and gardeners.

Several native species are grown as garden plants, but this plant has been cultivated for many years. This has resulted in dozens of popular hybrids and cultivars, with more being developed each year. The plant is easily hybridized, and gardeners who plant two different columbine varieties sometimes get a completely new look by self-seeding

Note: Columbine plants are poisonous to humans and pets.

Aquilegias in the garden – How to care for them

Columbines in the garden - how to care for them

You can grow aquilegia from seed or nursery plants. They thrive in almost any well-drained soil, but prefer slightly acidic soils. You plant columbines with the crown at ground level. Seeds can be sown directly in the spring. Seeds need light to germinate. So just press them on the soil surface and cover them little. If Aquilegia is sown from seed, it may take two years to flower.

Most aquilegias in the garden bloom for at least four weeks and are hardier than they look. They are usually short-lived perennials, but spread by self-seeding and will stay in your garden for years. Cut them back to the ground after flowering and let surrounding plants fill the space. Columbines will reliably return the following year or be replaced by self-seeding.

Most aquilegias in the garden bloom for at least four weeks

Light: For the best blooms and healthiest plants, a spot in partial shade is ideal. Columbine plants can tolerate full sun in the spring, but after they have flowered and replenished their energy stores, they appreciate some shade in the heat of summer.
Soil: Columbine plants can be planted in all soils, but they do better in sandier, loamier soils and not quite as well in heavy clay soils.
Water: New plants need to be kept moist until they are established. This is when they show a lot of new growth. Even then, keep your columbine well watered during dry periods.
Temperature and humidity: Columbines are sensitive to high temperatures, and more flowers form in cooler weather.
Fertilizer: Fertilize the plant monthly with a water-soluble product. This promotes dense foliage and bright flowers.

What are the varieties of Aquilegia

Aquilegia caerulea

Columbine varieties include both dwarf varieties, which are only 15 cm high, and large varieties such as McKana’s Giants, which are more than 90 cm high and have large flowers. Keep in mind that columbine varieties cross-pollinate easily. If you plant more than one variety, be prepared for new colors and combinations. A small portion of columbine species:

  • Aquilegia ‘Crimson Star’ has long-spurred, crimson flowers and blooms for four to six weeks in late spring to early summer.
  • Aquilegia ‘McKana Hybrid’ has long-spurred, bicolored flowers that can be blue and white, red and yellow, or other color combinations. It blooms in late spring to early summer.
  • Aquilegia caerulea ‘Rocky Mountain’ has fern-like, gray-green foliage and blooms for four to six weeks in late spring and early summer. The flowers have violet-blue sepals, white petals and yellow stamens.
  • Aquilegia ‘BlueBird’ blooms with long-spurred blue and white flowers up to 8 inches long. It belongs to the Songbird series of columbines, which also includes ‘Cardinal’ and ‘Dove’.


Columbine plants should be cut back to the healthy basal leaves shortly after flowering. This can encourage the growth of a second shoot within a few weeks, so you can enjoy another flush of blooms later in the season. Columbines in the garden can be cut back to about half their height after flowering to keep the plant attractive and green for the rest of the summer.

How to propagate columbine in the garden

Columbines in the garden are one of the most beautiful flowers in spring

Columbines in the garden are not easy to divide because they have deep roots. If you must divide the plant, dig it as deep as you can in a circle around the roots, pull it up without tearing the soil ball, and divide it quickly with a sharp instrument. Keep as much soil around the roots as possible and replant them quickly.

Propagation from collected seeds is easier. After the petals dry up, harvest the mature seed pods that are inside and break them open to collect the shiny black seeds. Store them in the refrigerator over the winter and plant them in the garden next spring.

How to grow Aquilegia from seed.

How to grow aquilegia from seed

It’s not difficult to grow aquilegia flowers from seed, but keep in mind that they usually don’t bloom until the second year. Also, the seeds need a three- to four-week cold period before they germinate. You can ensure this by storing the seed packets in the refrigerator before sowing.


You should plant seeds of columbine in a sunny location indoors. It takes about 30 days for the seeds to germinate . Once the seedlings have developed a few true leaves and reached a height of 8 to 10 inches, plant them outdoors.

Are columbines hardy in the garden

Are columbines hardy in the garden

In terms of frost resistance, there are differences between species of Aquilegia. Nevertheless, all columbines in the garden survive the winter without the need to take special precautions. Only in the year of planting it is advisable to use a light winter protection in the form of leaves, straw or conifer branches. Remove wilted foliage and cut the plant back to ground level.

How to get the aquilegia to bloom.


Keep in mind that many aquilegia varieties don’t bloom until their second season. They need the first season to develop a healthy root system and have no energy left for the beautiful flowers. If columbines are planted too deep in the garden, they will not bloom, as they require shallow planting. Be sure to remove the mulch used for overwintering early in the season, as this can also inhibit flowering. Finally, keep in mind that while a nitrogen-rich soil will produce beautiful green foliage, it will inhibit flower growth.