Know Before You Grow: Columbines

yellow and red columbine flowers
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Know Before You Grow: Columbines

Columbines Are Perennials That Have an Average Lifespan of 3-5 Years

Columbines are in the genus Aquilegia. There are 60-70 species of Aquilegia, many of them native to North America. Eastern North America has a single columbine, the red-and-yellow eastern red columbine, A. canadensis, but there are twenty species in western North America, in colors from white to yellow to blue and purple. Columbines readily hybridize in nature and the garden, producing additional colors and shapes, and breeders have produced many more varieties.

They flower in spring, after that provide short, attractive green leaves the rest of the year.

The flowers draw many hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

Planting Columbines 

Sow indoors two to three weeks before the last frost date, after chilling the seeds for eight weeks. Or, plant outdoors any time from early spring to two months before the first frost of fall

Columbine seeds need light to germinate; do not cover. Mist regularly and do not let the seed bed dry out. 

Tips on Growing Columbines

  • Seedlings of some varieties may not flower until the second season.
  • Columbines are perennials that only live for a few years. Plants are likely to self-seed.
  • Encourage seedlings that will replace the older plants. 
  • Columbines tolerate conditions from sun to medium shade. They grow well in rock gardens and on slopes. They are drought tolerant and require good drainage. 

Columbines are attractive as cut flowers. 

Return to the full Know Before You Grow list.

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