How to Grow:
Aquilegia, a native plant of Europe, blooms from late spring to early summer with elegant single or double flowers in solid colours or combinations of white, purple, yellow, orange, red and blue. They have multi-coloured, intricate flowers that sit on top of a thin stem with toothed leaves. Some varieties are as small as 10 cm (4 inches) in height while larger varieties can grow to as high as 90 cm (36 inches). Aquilegia are an excellent addition to the rock garden or woodland planting. Hummingbirds love the showy blooms that are loaded with nectar. Aquilegia are also at home in a casual cottage garden setting.
Columbine prefer partial shade and don’t like too much sun.
Depending on the variety, aquilegia grow in zones 3 to 9. In colder regions it is a good idea to provide a good mulch in late fall to protect the plants from the alternating freezing and thawing temperatures during the winter months.
Once established, feed monthly with a soluble all-purpose fertilizer.
Water regularly during periods of drought.
Aquilegia will do well in average soils and they tolerate dry soil conditions, but the soil must be well drained.
Propagating aquilegia from seed is easy. In fact, it is one of the most promiscuous of plants in the garden producing large numbers of seed. Simply dig up seedlings in the spring and move them where you want them to grow. To avoid dozens of unwanted plants, remove the flowers once they start fading so they don’t produce seed
When to Grow
Plants can be set out in the garden in spring or late summer. Plant them about 40 cm (16 inches) apart with the crown (where the roots and tops meet) at soil level. Seed can be sown directly in the garden in early spring or up until mid summer. The seeds should be left uncovered because they germinate faster in light. These seeds will produce flowering size plants the following spring. If you have established plants, Columbine can also be separated by division in the spring.
The major insect problem with aquilegia is the leaf miner. You’ll recognize it by the whitish tracks or lines on the infected leaf. It is difficult to reach the insect with sprays, so the easiest thing to do is squeeze the ends of the tunnels to kill the small worm.
- Aquilegia Canadensis: 45 cm (18 inches) tall with red and yellow flowers, easy to naturalize and grow and one of the better species for shadier spots as well as damp garden areas.
- Aquilegia alpine: deep sky-blue flowers on 30 cm (12 inch) plants. A good choice for the front of the border or rock garden.
For brighter coloured columbines try these hybrids:
- Crimson Star: a large flowered bi-colour, in red and white, with attractive spurs. It can be grown from seed.
- McKana: an old-fashioned variety but still very popular, with beautiful spurred varieties in a range of bi-colours including blue and yellow, salmon and white, and pink and lemon.