Growing Columbines


When my daughter was born I started to see flowers as being more than “just plants” but important features of her imaginary world and the fairy gardens she would create. Foxgloves were little houses where the bees would live, and columbines (or Aquilegia) were pretty dresses for the fairies to wear to their fancy parties. Columbines are native to North America, Asia, and Europe and are super easy to grow, just don’t expect them to “stay put” as once established they will reseed and grow in the oddest of places. Aquilegia comes from the word Aquila which means “eagle” in Latin, and Columbine is from “Columba” (the dove) and a symbol for Aphrodite. I’m guessing the names stemmed from the wing-like shapes of the many petals. Anyways, in medieval days, dried, crushed columbine flowers were an all-purpose medicine and I read the Native Americans would use the seeds for headaches or even love charms. But please don’t try these remedies at home! (It’s my understanding that columbines can be toxic if ingested.)

I love how columbines don’t require much but well drained soil, and sun to a part shade location. Growing to about 18″ – 3′ tall (depending on the variety) they will reseed if you let them and pop up all over your garden which is nice if you like that cottage-garden look! If not, you can trim the flower stalks after flowering in the late spring and you might even get another flush of bloom. Columbines are a short-lived perennial, so my daughter and I like to take the pods and scatter the glossy black seeds to encourage volunteers. You can do the same from seeds you either purchase or are gifted from another gardener. They need a covering of about 1/8″ of soil (hardly any at all) and won’t bloom until their second year. Conversely, you can divide established plants in the early spring. Columbines will also hybridize like crazy. If you have others already growing in your neighborhood, don’t be surprised if you start getting some wonderful new colors popping up in yours, too.

Columbines are resistant to pests and diseases and the hummingbirds and butterflies enjoy their nectar. They make great companion plants to bleeding heart, iris, viola, and peonies as they have similar bloom times and soil requirements. Looking for seeds? I found some HERE.

These “double” columbines were recently purchased at a local nursery. The owner told me that she grew them from seed herself and they have since also hybridized with other columbines in her garden producing some lovely colors (a pale pink one in particular caught my eye).

4 thoughts on “Growing Columbines

  1. Thank you. Maybe in the future, but for now I’ll pass. I just don’t want to have my husband chop anything else down with his weed eater like he has so brutally done in the past. He’s a man, what can I say? I had purple coneflower, white coneflower, black-eyed susans, sedum, hollyhocks and daylillies planted along our fence. He KNEW they were there, but chopped them down anyway. And this year, he took out one of my hydrangeas, mowed it down with the lawnmower all the way to the ground. Duh!!! Like it’s RIGHT THERE DUDE!! A few years ago he also took out ALL the hostas I planted in one fail swoop, about 10 of them. Like he doesn’t KNOW I planted these things and where I planted them, that I busted my butt to dig in the dirt and find a good place out there to plant them. (this is in the back yard, not even associated with the paved over garden) If it’s not a boxwood or other ugly shrub, it’s going to get chopped down. And he purposefully took out one of our hollies because he thought it was too close to the house. I gave up. If I do anymore gardening in the future at this house, it will have to be in a container. But even then, we get fire ants in the containers. It’s really sad where we live right now. I want to move back to the mountains so bad. Or at least move to a different house/neighborhood. The stories I could tell you about my neighborhood. It didn’t used to be this way. It went downhill in 2000 and has been going downhill ever since…. Someday I’ll take those seeds. 🙂

    1. Doesn’t he know those actions are grounds for divorce?! 😉

      I’m hearing more and more about these fire ants and that they are now spreading (because of the mild winters) further up north. My husband and I talk about someday moving as far north as we can and some days I think we really might. I’m thinking Maine…want to join us? 🙂

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