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How to Propagate Columbines

columbine image by Andrew Orlemann from

Columbines (genus Aquilegia) with over 60 species, are herbaceous perennials with distinctive, bell-shaped blooms on plants that can grow over two feet tall. Attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies, columbines offer blooms in a variety of colors including coral, yellow, purple, pink and dark red. Blooms begin as early as February in some locations and continue through July. Columbines, which are cold-, heat- and drought-tolerant, require little more than well-draining soil, partial to full shade and deadheading to encourage new growth.

Allow established columbines to bloom in the spring and early summer. Plants will set seed two weeks after flowers expire. Seed pods are five-pronged with five cylindrical capsules that hold the seeds.

Pinch off seed pods, at the base of the pod, from columbine plants and place them on a plate to dry for 1 to 3 days.

Place dried seed pods into a paper bag and shake around to dislodge seeds from the pods. Open pods by pulling down on each individual prong and gently prying open the cylinder with a fingernail to release any remaining seeds. You may want to perform this process over the bag or a bowl to catch the seeds, as they tend to scatter.

Plant harvested seeds in the fall, in order to give them at least six weeks of cold temperatures needed to begin the germination process.

Sow seeds by scattering lightly over the top of lightly moistened soil and tamp down lightly to set. Do not cover seeds, as they require light in order to germinate properly. Once plants begin to grow, thin out so that there is 6 to 18 inches between each plant.

Give columbines an inch of water per week, or less during rainy spells. Do not over-water, however, as this can cause the crowns to rot.

Allow excess seeds to dry thoroughly, then store them in a paper envelope or airtight plastic bag in a cool, dry location until planting. Columbine seeds are very tiny, just over 1/16 inch in length, so one bag will be sufficient to hold all seeds harvested during a season.


Columbines will bloom in the second year after planting. Columbine seeds can be cold stratified by placing seeds in an airtight plastic bag with 1 cup of slightly moistened soil and stored in the refrigerator for at least 3 weeks.


Propagation of columbines by division is not recommended because the root structure is delicate and difficult to divide without causing harm to the plant.

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