A beautiful plant with graceful flowers that are highly attractive to hummingbirds, Columbines are a great addition to any garden. Aquilegia have a lot to offer with being drought-tolerant once established, partially shade tolerant and adaptive to a variety of soil conditions.
Plant Highlight: Aquilegia (Columbine) Botanical Name: Aquilegia spp. Hardiness Zones: Aquilegia is hardy in zones 3-9 making it great for Northern and Southern gardens. Bloom Time & Color: Columbines will bloom in early to mid-spring each year with fabulous 5 spurred petals sitting above 5 petal-like sepals that combine to create beautiful color combinations. Blossom colors range from blue and white to yellow, red or pink. More colors are becoming available to home gardeners each year as new cultivars are released. Expect blooms the second year unless you purchase already established plants. Plant Category: The Aquilegia is a hardy, herbaceous evergreen perennial. Foliage: The foliage of the columbine provides year round interest even when the plant isn't in bloom. The foliage rosettes turn a maroon color in the fall and remain attractive throughout the formant season. Most varieties have deeply lobed leaves that are beautiful in any bed or border. Growth Habit: Most varieties of Aquilegia have upright and bushy growth habit. Some cultivars have blooms that face downwards with gently nodding flowers while others have more upright facing flowers. Dimensions: Most varieties grow approximately 1-3' tall and 1' wide. Preferred Conditions: Columbines thick tap-roots allow for medium to light watering once they are established. They also do well in poor to average, but well-drained soil. Partial shade is preferred, as you'd find in light woodland gardens, but full sun is tolerated with slightly more watering. Maintenance: Easy to maintain Aquilegia is a ready self-sower so be prepared to thin out some seedlings. Not all will be true to form. Prune foliage back in the early spring before new growth appears although some gardeners prefer to deadhead blossoms and prune foliage back in the fall to prevent self-seeding. Columbines can die off after a few years and aren't the longest lived of perennials so many gardeners allow self-seeding and keep any of the new plants whose flowers they enjoy. Pests or Diseases: Columbines are susceptible to leaf-miners, their most common pest. You'll notice marks in the leaves if your plant is affected. Remove and discard the affected foliage (not in the compost pile) to prevent spreading. Propagation Methods: Can be grown by seed although plants will take a couple years to bloom that way. For blooms the first year purchase already established plants. Cross-pollination will produce flowers untrue to the parents so if you want a certain cultivar you'll need to purchase already established plants. Companion Plants: Consider pairing Aquilegia with other light-shade loving plants such as ferns, woodland wildflowers, Jeepers Creepers Tiarella, Chocolate Chip Ajuga , or hostas. Plant with other cottage or prairie plants like False indigo, or 'Autumn Blush' Coreopsis, for an informal feel. Seasons of Interest: Spring is the time to enjoy the beautiful blooms of the Aquilegia, while summer and autumn brings the deep green, finely-lobed foliage to the eye. Late autumn and winter finds the foliage turning deep purple or maroon to keep interest through the winter as well. Uses in the Garden: The columbine has been a long-time favorite in cottage and heirloom gardens for generations. It is also used in cut flower borders because the highly attractive blooms are long-lasting in a vase of water. Consider adding Aquilegia to rock gardens, shady border or in masses along walks or drives as well. Other Uses: Columbine flowers make excellent cut flowers to add to indoor flower arrangements. Species & Varieties: Aquilegia caerulea: Also spelled coerulea, this Columbine is known as the Rocky Mountain Columbine and grows native in Colorado and the surrounding areas. It becomes the state flower of Colorado 1899 and became nearly extinct in the wild because of how often it was dug up for pioneer gardens, or pick for bouquets. Now with cultivated specimens available the blue-green foliage and long-spurred blossoms can be a part of any garden. Aquilegia hybrida 'Beidermeier': The mixed colors of this columbine are highly attractive to hummingbirds. A very compact columbine, this cultivar grows to 10" tall by 12" wide making it a great choice for the front of borders, or in container plantings. More upright carried blooms than some varieties of columbines.For more info on purchasing this item click here. Aquilegia hybrida 'Spring Magic': 14" x 14" this columbine has an extended bloom time and bright green foliage. Not known to bloom true from seed so your best option is to acquire live plants.For more info on purchasing this item click here. Aquilegia hybrida 'Songbird': This variety of columbine has large sepals and is very eye-catching. Blue-green foliage blends well in a mixed garden border. Blooms can be as tall as 30". For more info on purchasing this item click here. Aquilegia vulgaris: A native of Europe, this columbine is often known as Granny's Bonnet and the species has blue flowers with deeply divided leaves. Stunning cultivars are now available such as; 'Clementine Red': A fuchsia-red spurless flowering cultivar that mimics a double clematis flower, giving it the name Clementine. The bushy, mounded plants produce a large number of flowers per plant.For more info on purchasing this item click here. 'Clementine Rose': The same double-flowers in a cheerful pink hue that combines well in any garden. Clementine's grow 18" x 18" and are very versatile. For more info on purchasing this item click here. 'Clementine Dark Purple': A true purple that is unusual in the garden, but especially beautiful in this columbine. Beautiful foliage only accents the prolific blooms. For more info on purchasing this item click here. Aquilegia vulgaris plena 'Ruby Port': An heirloom variety that dates back to 1600 monasteries this granny's bonnet is a gorgeous deep wine red that grows 30-36" tall bringing the flowers to eye level. New spring foliage is also a maroon color. Blooms in late May with double, spurless flowers. For more info on purchasing this item click here. 'Black Barlow': This columbine is also sometimes called 'Black Beauty' and has the darkest purple-black blossom of any other columbine cultivar. The foliage makes a nice contrast as it is bright, grass-green. 36" tall and 16" wide this variety prefers sun more than most other columbines. For more info on purchasing this item click here. 'Nora Barlow': Another double-flowered spurless blossom these flowers have so many petals they almost resemble dahlias or mums. A beautiful red-pink with white accents make these columbines show-stoppers in any garden. For more info on purchasing this item click here. This 'Plant Highlight' was written exclusively for Sooner Plant Farm by Angela England .To read more from this talented writer about other highlighted plants and interesting gardening stories click here. All copyrights reserved by Sooner Plant Farm. No reproduction of this article in whole or in part is allowed without the permission of Sooner Plant Farm.