Columbine Plant Care


There are many types of columbine (Aquilegia), from the simple red-and-yellow lanterns of the wild columbine to the colorful large-petaled hybrids to the double forms. Some of this diversity is due to human intervention and some is nature's work. In a 2002 article for Britain's "Daily Telegraph" Carol Klein writes that columbines have a "reputation for promiscuity" resulting in seed that produces plants that, although beautiful, aren't like their parents. Whatever their origin, columbines are easy to grow, though short-lived.


Columbines are spring-blooming perennials and are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9. In addition to the columbine's beautiful flowers, the foliage is a nice garden touch when the plant isn't in flower, according to Angela England, writing for the Sooner Plant Farm website. The spurs of the columbine are a unique feature, forming modified petals in tandem with the blades (the front part of the flower).

Plant Care

Columbines aren't hard to care for, according to England. They prefer well-drained soil in a shady spot, but will tolerate full sun if they get enough water. Columbines have a taproot that allows for some moisture flexibility for established plants. Klein recommends using compost as media for planting as well as mulch. If you don't want seeding, deadhead your plants in the fall. Fertilize in spring.

Propagation and Division

Propagation comes easy to columbines. If you want to harness all that procreative energy, plant the same variety together to keep the seed true, according to Klein. If you like to be surprised, plant different varieties. Division can be done but may not be the most efficient and successful way to have more plants, due to the taproot and short-lived nature of the plant.

Diseases and Problems

Leaf-miners often attack columbines. Although rarely seen, the insects tunnel between the layers of a leaf, creating whitish trails. As unsightly as this mottling looks, the insects don't kill the plant. Cut off the mottled leaves, England advises, and throw them in the trash, avoiding the compost pile. Columbines may get powdery mildew and aphids, but this is not common if air circulation is good.

Blue Columbines

The blue varieties are what the U.S. Forest Service calls "children of the first columbine." The DNA of certain blue varieties in North America, Europe and Asia are so similar that the first columbines in North America must have spread across the Bering land bridge from Asia during the glacial period. The Colorado blue columbine (Aquilegia coerulea) is a descendant, as are other blue-and-white varieties, which may make you view the blue-and-white columbine in your garden in a different light.

Keywords: columbine care, aquilegia, Rocky Mountain columbine