Growing and Caring for Columbine the Plant: A Guide

Columbine the plant, European Columbine, Aquilegia Vulgaris
17 min reading time

If you’re looking for a charming and easy-to-grow plant for your garden, look no further than columbine the plant. With its delicate flowers and unique foliage, columbine adds a touch of whimsy to any landscape. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about growing and caring for columbine plants.

Key Takeaways:

  • Columbine is a beautiful and charming plant that can add a touch of whimsy to any garden.
  • With the right care and attention, columbine plants can thrive in a variety of conditions.
  • From selecting the right varieties to understanding how to propagate and care for your plants, this guide covers everything you need to know to grow and enjoy columbine.

Understanding Columbines: A Brief Overview

Columbine flowers are part of the Aquilegia genus, which consists of over 70 species. These plants are known for their unique, bell-shaped flowers that come in an array of colors, including red, pink, yellow, blue, and purple. Columbine flowers are also characterized by their distinctive spurs that protrude from the back of each petal.

Columbines are easy to grow and thrive in a variety of environments, making them a popular choice for gardeners. In addition to their beauty, columbines are also attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies, making them a great addition to any wildlife garden.

Columbine the Plants: Brief History

The name “columbine” is derived from the Latin word “columba” meaning “dove,” which describes the shape of the flower’s petals resembling a cluster of five doves nestled together. Columbine flowers have been cultivated for centuries, and their use dates back to the Middle Ages, when herbalists used them for medicinal purposes.

Columbines were also grown for their ornamental value, and they were a popular motif in Gothic architecture. The beautiful columbine flower has been the subject of many works of art, including paintings, poems, and songs.

Growing Conditions for Columbine Flowers

Columbine flowers are native to North America, Europe, and Asia and can be grown in a variety of conditions. Most species of columbine prefer partial shade and well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. They also prefer cooler temperatures and can tolerate some frost.

When planting columbine flowers, make sure to space them out adequately, as they tend to spread. Columbine flowers can be grown from seed or transplanted as mature plants. They are easy to care for and require minimal maintenance.

Choosing the Right Columbine Varieties for Your Garden

Columbine flowers come in a variety of colors and unique features, making them a great addition to any garden. Choosing the right types of columbine plants for your garden can be a daunting task, especially if you’re new to gardening. The good news is that there are many types of columbine plants to choose from, and we’re here to help you make an informed decision.

When selecting columbine varieties, one of the first things to consider is the color of the flower. Columbine blooms can range from deep shades of red and pink to light shades of blue and purple. Some varieties even feature white or yellow flowers.

Another factor to consider is the height of the plant. Some columbine varieties are shorter and more compact, while others can grow quite tall. The height of the plant will impact its placement in your garden and how it will interact with other plants.

In addition to color and height, consider the unique features of each columbine variety. Some plants have bi-colored flowers, while others have unique leaf shapes or foliage. It’s essential to choose a variety that will complement your existing garden design and add interest to your space.

Popular Columbine Varieties

Here are a few popular columbine varieties to consider when selecting plants for your garden:

Variety NameFlower ColorHeightUnique Features
Aquilegia vulgarisPurple, blue, pink, white2-3 feetLarge flowers with distinct spurs
Aquilegia canadensisRed and yellow1-2 feetUnique leaf shape and foliage
Aquilegia chrysanthaYellow2-3 feetBi-colored flowers with long spurs

Ultimately, choosing the right columbine variety for your garden depends on your personal preferences and the unique characteristics of your garden space. With so many varieties to choose from, there is a columbine plant that will suit every garden design.

Starting Columbines from Seeds

If you want to grow columbines from seeds, you can either collect them from your own plants in the fall or purchase them from a nursery. Keep in mind that columbine seeds may take up to six weeks to germinate, so patience is key.

Here are the steps you need to follow to start your own columbine plants:

  1. Fill a seed tray with a moistened potting mix and make shallow indentations in the soil with a pencil or your fingertip.
  2. Drop one or two seeds in each indentation and cover with a fine layer of soil.
  3. Place the tray in a warm location that receives indirect sunlight and keep the soil moist by misting it with water.
  4. Once the seeds germinate and the seedlings grow to about 2-3 inches tall, you can transplant them into individual pots or a larger container.
  5. Gradually acclimate the plants to outdoor conditions by placing them in a shaded location for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the amount of sunlight and duration of exposure.
  6. When the columbine plants are about 6 inches tall and have several sets of leaves, you can transplant them into their final location in your garden.

Starting columbines from seeds is an affordable and rewarding way to grow these beautiful plants. With a little patience and care, you can create a stunning columbine garden that will bloom for years to come.

Planting and Transplanting Columbine Plants

Columbine plants can be planted either in spring or fall, and transplanting them can be done in early spring. It’s best to transplant columbine plants when they are not in bloom.

When planting columbine plants in your garden, make sure to choose a location that provides partial shade or filtered sunlight. Columbine plants prefer a soil that is well-draining and slightly acidic with a pH range of 5.0 to 7.0.

Before planting, loosen the soil and mix in a generous amount of compost. Columbine plants have shallow roots, so make sure to plant them in a hole that is at least twice the size of the root ball.

When transplanting columbine plants, dig up the entire plant and its root ball, making sure to keep the plant intact. Choose a new location that meets the plant’s growing requirements and follow the same planting instructions as mentioned above.

Planting and Transplanting Columbine Plants: Tips and Tricks

  • When transplanting, keep the soil moist and in the shade until the plant is established.
  • Make sure to maintain proper spacing between your columbine plants, as they can become overcrowded and prone to disease.
  • Consider planting your columbine plants near other shade-loving plants such as hostas and bleeding hearts.
Columbine the plant - Aquilegia caerulea, the Colorado blue columbine

Essential Care Guidelines for Columbine Perennials

Once you have planted your columbine perennials, it is important to provide them with the necessary care to ensure healthy growth and longevity. Here are some essential guidelines to follow:


Columbines prefer consistently moist soil, but they do not like to be waterlogged. Be sure to water deeply once a week, providing enough water to saturate the root system. Be mindful of rainfall; if it has rained heavily, adjust your watering schedule accordingly.


Fertilize your columbine perennials with a slow-release fertilizer in the spring when new growth appears. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer label for application rates. Avoid fertilizing in the fall, as this can encourage new growth that is susceptible to winter damage.


Columbines do not require extensive pruning, but it is important to remove any damaged or diseased foliage as soon as possible to prevent the spread of disease. Deadhead spent blooms regularly to encourage prolonged blooming.


As columbine plants grow, their tall stems can become top-heavy and prone to tipping over. To prevent this, use stakes or other support structures to help keep them upright.

Winter Protection

In colder climates, it is important to protect your columbine perennials from harsh winter weather. Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to insulate the roots and protect them from freeze-thaw cycles. Cover the plant with burlap or another protective material to shield it from harsh winds and snow.

Companion Plants for Columbine

When planning your columbine garden, it’s important to choose the right companion plants to enhance the beauty and diversity of your garden. Some great options include:

  • Salvia: This plant pairs well with columbines, as it shares a similar height and is available in a range of colors.
  • Black-Eyed Susan: This hardy perennial is a great choice to add a pop of yellow to your garden and can thrive in similar conditions to columbines.
  • Hosta: The large leaves and contrasting colors of hostas make them a perfect complement to the delicate, airy blooms of columbines.
  • Larkspur: This plant is a member of the same family as columbines and shares a similar structure and color range. Plant them together for a striking display.

Keep in mind that when choosing companion plants, it’s important to consider factors such as sun exposure, soil type, and moisture needs to ensure that all plants in your garden thrive together. By selecting the right plants, you can create a harmonious and visually stunning columbine garden.

Dealing with Common Pests and Diseases of Columbine Plants

Columbine plants are generally resistant to pests and diseases, but they can still fall victim to a range of garden problems. Here is a list of the most common columbine plant pests and diseases and the best techniques for managing them.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny pests that can suck the life out of your columbine plants. Look for a fine webbing on the plant and a stippling effect on the leaves. To get rid of spider mites, spray the plant with a strong stream of water or a natural pesticide that’s safe for columbines.


These tiny, pear-shaped insects feed on the sap of columbine plants. Look for a sticky residue on the plant or distorted leaves. To control aphids, spray the plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that can affect the leaves and flowers of columbine plants. It looks like a white powdery coating on the leaves and can cause them to curl and die. To prevent powdery mildew, make sure the plant is well-ventilated and not overcrowded, and avoid overhead watering. To treat powdery mildew, spray the plant with a fungicide that is safe for columbines.

Leaf Miners

Leaf miners are the larvae of small flies that burrow tunnels in the leaves of columbine plants. Look for winding lines or discolored patches on the leaves. To control leaf miners, remove and destroy affected leaves, and spray the plant with a natural pest repellent.

Crown Rot

Crown rot is a fungal disease that attacks the base of the plant and can cause it to wilt and die. To prevent crown rot, make sure the plant is not sitting in water, and avoid over-watering. If you suspect your plant has crown rot, remove it immediately and dispose of it to prevent spreading the disease.

By keeping a careful eye on your columbine plants and taking prompt action when pests and diseases appear, you can help ensure their continued health and beauty.

Propagating Columbines: Dividing and Transplanting

Propagating columbines is fairly easy and reliable. This is usually done in early spring or late fall, when the plant is not in active bloom.

Note: Plan to divide columbine plants every three to four years to keep them healthy and vigorous.

Step-by-Step Guide to Dividing Columbine Plants

Follow these steps to divide your columbine plants:

Tools and Materials Needed:
Garden spade
Gardening gloves
Pruning shears or garden scissors
Bucket or container for holding the divided plants
Watering can or hose
  1. Choose a healthy and mature columbine plant to divide. Look for plants that are not too crowded, have plenty of blooms, and have not been divided recently.
  2. Dig around the plant, using the garden spade. Loosen the soil and gently lift the plant out of the ground.
  3. Using your hands or a sharp tool, separate the plant into smaller sections. Each section should have at least three to four healthy stems and a good root system.
  4. Trim away any dead or damaged roots with pruning shears or garden scissors.
  5. Plant each section in a new location, following the guidelines for planting and transplanting columbine plants.
  6. Water the newly transplanted plants thoroughly and add fertilizer to promote growth and health.

Note: Division may be difficult if your columbine plant has a deep taproot. It’s best to avoid dividing these plants and propagate them instead by planting seeds.

Transplanting Columbine Plants

If you want to move your columbine plants to a new location without dividing them, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a new planting location with well-draining soil, partial shade, and protection from strong winds.
  2. Dig a hole that is twice as wide and deep as the plant’s root system.
  3. Carefully remove the plant from the ground and transfer it to the new location.
  4. Fill the hole with soil, making sure the plant is at the same depth as it was in its previous location. Tamp the soil down gently around the plant.
  5. Water the plant thoroughly and add fertilizer to help it adjust to its new location.

Note: Transplanting columbine plants can be stressful to them, so make sure to provide adequate water and care during the first few weeks after transplanting.

Extending the Blooming Season of the Columbine Plants: Deadheading and Pruning Tips

Columbine plants are known for their beautiful and unique flowers that bloom in a variety of colors. To enjoy their blooms for as long as possible, it’s important to deadhead and prune your columbine plants regularly.

Deadheading is the process of removing spent flowers from the plant. This not only improves the plant’s appearance but also helps to encourage prolonged blooming. When you deadhead a columbine plant, you are redirecting its energy away from seed production and towards producing more flowers.

To deadhead a columbine plant, locate the spent flower and trace the stem back to where it meets another stem or a set of leaves. Using clean and sharp pruning shears or scissors, snip off the stem just above the leaves or stem intersection. Be careful not to cut off any healthy leaves or new buds.

Pruning is another essential care task for columbine plants. It helps to keep the plant healthy and encourage bushier growth. For columbines, pruning involves cutting back some of the stems and foliage to control the plant’s size and shape.

The best time to prune columbine plants is in early spring, just as new growth begins to emerge. Use clean and sharp pruning shears to cut back any dead, damaged, or diseased stems. Also, trim back any overcrowding or crossing stems to improve air circulation and light penetration.

When pruning columbine plants, avoid cutting back more than one-third of the plant’s overall growth. This can shock the plant and reduce its blooming potential. Always make clean cuts just above a set of leaves or a healthy bud.

Overwintering Columbine Plants

Columbine plants are beloved by gardeners for their delicate beauty and ability to attract pollinators. However, these hardy perennials require special care during the winter months to ensure their survival and healthy return in the spring. Here are some guidelines for overwintering your columbine plants:

Trimming Back for Winter

In the fall, when temperatures start to drop, it’s time to prepare your columbine plants for winter. Begin by trimming back any dead or damaged foliage to prevent the spread of disease and improve overall plant health. Be sure to also remove any spent blooms and seeds to prevent self-seeding, which can lead to overcrowding in the garden.

Mulching for Protection

Once your columbine plants have been trimmed back, it’s time to apply a layer of mulch to protect them from extreme cold and frost heave. By covering the soil around your plants with a thick layer of organic matter, such as straw or wood chips, you can insulate their root systems and provide a steady supply of nutrients and moisture throughout the winter.

Watering and Monitoring

While columbine plants require less water during the winter months, it’s important to make sure they don’t completely dry out. Check the soil regularly and water as needed to keep it moist, but not waterlogged, to prevent root rot. Also, be sure to monitor your plants for any signs of pest or disease activity and treat as necessary to prevent damage.

By following these simple guidelines for overwintering your columbine plants, you can protect their health and ensure their return year after year. With a little care and attention, your garden can continue to bloom with the beauty of columbine plants for seasons to come.


In conclusion, growing and caring for columbine plants is a rewarding experience that adds beauty and charm to any garden. Throughout this guide, we have covered everything you need to know about these delicate and stunning perennials, including how to choose the right varieties, start them from seeds, plant and transplant them, and more. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, columbine plants are a fantastic addition to any garden, providing dainty blooms and unique foliage that create a serene and tranquil atmosphere. By following our essential care guidelines and adopting the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, you can enjoy flourishing columbine plants year after year. Happy gardening!


Can columbine plants tolerate full sun?

Columbine plants prefer partial shade but can tolerate full sun in cooler climates.

How often should I water columbine plants?

Columbine plants prefer moist but well-draining soil. Water regularly, keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged.

Do columbine plants attract pollinators?

Yes, columbine plants are known to attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.

When is the best time to fertilize columbine plants?

Fertilize columbine plants in early spring with a balanced slow-release fertilizer.

How do I prevent powdery mildew on my columbine plants?

To prevent powdery mildew, provide good air circulation, avoid overhead watering, and remove infected foliage.

Can I grow columbine plants in containers?

Yes, columbine plants can be grown in containers as long as they have enough space for their roots to spread.

How tall do columbine plants grow?

Columbine plants usually grow to be around 1 to 3 feet tall, depending on the variety.

Can I collect columbine seeds for future planting?

Yes, you can collect columbine seeds once the seed pods turn brown and dry. Store them in a cool, dry place for future planting.

Do columbine plants require pruning?

Columbine plants generally do not require regular pruning. However, you can remove faded blooms and dead foliage to maintain their appearance.

How long do columbine plants bloom?

Columbine plants typically bloom for several weeks in late spring to early summer.

Are columbine plants deer-resistant?

While some people report that deer avoid columbine plants, it is not a guarantee. In areas with heavy deer populations, additional protection may be needed.

Can I divide columbine plants?

Yes, columbine plants can be divided in early spring or fall to create new plants.

Are columbine plants toxic to pets?

Columbine plants contain toxins that can be harmful if ingested by pets. Keep them out of reach or consider planting them in areas that pets cannot access.

How do I overwinter columbine plants in cold climates?

In cold climates, mulch around the base of the plants with a layer of straw or leaves to protect them from freezing temperatures.

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