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Columbine: How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Columbine Flowers | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Columbine

Botanical Name
Aquilegia spp.
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Soil pH
Bloom Time
Flower Color
Hardiness Zone
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How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Columbine Flowers

The Editors
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The perennial columbine (Aquilegia), aka granny’s bonnet, displays bell-shaped, spurred flowers ranging in color from light pastels to bright reds, yellows, oranges, purples, and bicolors from midspring to early summer. Here’s how to plant and grow columbine flowers in your garden!

About Columbine

Once started, columbine propagates for years, and although they are perennials, they also multiply rapidly by self-seeding. There are more than 70 species, including several native North American varieties. Most columbines bloom from mid-spring to early summer.

Columbine flowers attract butterflies, bees, moths, and hummingbirds. The leaves have a lacy appearance, and although they look delicate, columbine is hardy and resilient. Columbine is deer-resistant and drought tolerant, too.

See the Delicate Beauty of Columbine

Planting

Columbines grow well in sun or light shade. Prepare the bed with well-draining soil of average fertility.

When to Plant Columbine

  • Sow columbine seeds directly into the ground in the spring. Allow the plant to self-seed after it blooms and it will produce many volunteer seedlings in the following year.
  • Alternatively, sow seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost

How to Plant Columbine

  • Press the seed into the soil, but do not cover it. 
  • Thin to the strongest plants.
  • If setting a mature plant into a container, create a hole twice the diameter of the “old” pot. Set the top of the root ball level with the soil surface. Fill in with soil, then tamp gently, and water.
  • Outdoors, space mature plants 1 to 2 feet apart, depending on mature size of the variety. Water thoroughly.

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Growing
  • Avoid overwatering.
  • Deadhead faded flowers. New buds will develop along the stems. The bloom season can thus be extended by as long as 6 weeks into midsummer.
  • Cut foliage to the ground in the fall.
  • Before the ground freezes, mulch to protect plants. 
Harvesting

Cut flowers for indoor arrangements when they are half open. Vase life is 5 to 7 days.

Wit and Wisdom
  • Columbine’s Latin name, Aquilegia, is derived from the Latin word for eagle, aquila. The long spurs that extend behind the flower petals resemble the claws of an eagle.
  • Native Americans traditionally used the crushed seeds as a love charm and for medicinal purposes.
  • The crushed roots and seeds were once used to treat headaches, heart problems, and sore throats.
Pests/Diseases

Columbine Pests and Diseases

Pest/Disease Type Symptoms Control/Prevention
Leaf miners Insect Meandering blisters in leaves caused by tunneling larvae Remove infested leaves; weed around plants; use row covers; till soil early in season; rotate plantings
Leaf spot (fungal) Fungus Leaf spots on lower leaves enlarge and turn brown/black; fuzzy growth or pustules in lesions; disease progresses upward; leaves die Destroy infected leaves/severely infected plants (do not compost); remove plant debris regularly; disinfect garden tools; choose resistant varieties; good air circulation; avoid overhead watering
Powdery mildew Fungus White spots or flourlike coating on upper leaf surfaces; leaves drop; distortion/stunting Destroy infected parts (do not compost); remove plant debris regularly; resistant varieties; good air circulation/sunlight; spray plants with solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda/1 qt water; prevent plant stress; avoid overhead watering
Root-knot nematodes Nematode Roots “knotty” or galled; plants stunted/yellow/wilted/weakened; leaves and other parts may distort or die; poor flowering Destroy infested plant debris after flowering season, including roots (do not compost); disinfect garden tools; choose resistant varieties; solarize soil; plant French marigolds (Tagetes patula) as a trap crop; rotate plantings
Rust Fungus Orange pustules on underside of lower leaves/stems; spots on upper leaf surfaces; foliage distorts/dies/drops; stunting; poor flowering; plants weakened Destroy infected parts/severely diseased plants; remove plant debris regularly; disinfect tools; resistant varieties; good air circulation; avoid overhead watering; weed diligently
Southern blight (white mold) Fungus Leaves/stems/entire plants wilt, brown or blacken, and may die; water-soaked lesions on lower stems; crown/bulb/rhizome rot; fluffy, white fungal mats with mustard-seed–like balls on stems’ bases/nearby soil Destroy infected parts/plants, white fungal mats, and surrounding soil to at least 6 inches beyond plant and 8 inches deep; remove plant debris regularly; disinfect garden tools; solarize soil; resistant varieties; provide good drainage

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