Columbine Flower: Planting & Care

By Beth Krietsch

The columbine flower is a stunning perennial that matures quickly, is easy to grow, and brings a delightful burst of color to any setting. It has dark blue–green foliage that turns maroon in the fall and unique, bell-shaped blossoms that appear in red, yellow, white, blue, pink, and purple varieties in the spring.

Columbine grows in plant hardiness zones 3–9 and blooms sometime between late spring and early summer, though exact blooming time will vary depending on the region and columbine variety. Columbine height will depend based on growing conditions and specific type, but most will grow to about two feet tall.

Many recommend planting these flowers alongside bleeding hearts, eastern purple coneflowers, and foxglove.

Common varieties of columbine flower

Scientifically known as Aquilegia canadensis, columbine grows in more than 60 varieties and is native to the woods of eastern North America. However, there are also types native to the Western United States, Europe, and Asia. Here are some popular types of columbine flower plants.

Bluebird columbine (Aquilegia alpina)

Bluebird columbine has large, white and pale-blue flowers that are upward facing and grow to be about three inches in diameter. This columbine plant has a delicate, eye-catching look that’s a great addition to most gardens.

Dwarf fan-leaf columbine (Aquilegia flabellata ‘Nana’)

Growing between six and nine inches tall, this type of columbine flower has lush, bluish-green leaves and tiny, sky-blue and white centers. These are great for flower boxes and cottage gardens.

Cameo Blue and White columbine (Aquilegia flabellata)

These delicate blue and white columbines are filled with nectar and are loved by hummingbirds and butterflies. They stand upright on clumps of gray–green foliage and grow to be about 18 inches tall.

Rocky Mountain columbine (Aquilegia coerulea)

Native to the Rocky Mountains, this variety grows in shades of pink, yellow, blue, and white. It’s nearly extinct in the wild as a result of overpicking.

Clementine Salmon Rose columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris)

This is a unique salmon and rose-colored variety that develops lavender tones as the plant matures. Aside from color, this variety is known for its double-flowered, upward-facing blooms. Most have a long blooming period of four to six weeks and won’t grow taller than 18 inches.

Black Barlow columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata)

Bred for cut-flower production, this columbine flower is particularly beautiful with its fully double, upward-facing, dark plum and purple blooms. Each plant produces three to five stems in its first year and five to 10 in the next. Like other columbine species, this plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies and performs best in partial shade.

How to grow columbine flower

Columbines grow easily from seed and can be planted in the fall or sometime between the start of spring and mid-summer. You can also plant pre-grown plants if you prefer that to seeds. With either option, you’ll want to leave about one to two feet of space between each, as columbine flowers are known to spread. If you start from seed, you can usually expect to see some seedlings sprout within 30 days of planting.

Plant your columbine in an area with partial shade and slightly damp, well-draining soil. For even better growing results, add in a bit of compost to the soil. You can also use mulch to insulate and protect these plants during winter. While columbine flower plants enjoy full sun in most areas, they don’t do well in extreme heat.

Though columbine is a perennial, it’s a short-lived plant, so you’ll want to add new plants every few years to keep them growing strong in your gardens, planters, and rock gardens. Most produce healthy blooms for somewhere around three to five years.

How to care for columbine flower

If you don’t see a bloom during the first season, don’t worry. Most columbine blooms won’t appear on seed-grown plants until their second year. Here are a few other tips to keep in mind when caring for columbine.

  • Upon planting, aim to keep the soil moist. Once the columbine are established, you can taper off to a weekly watering schedule.
  • For brighter and more vibrant flowers, apply fertilizer monthly or add compost to your soil.
  • Get rid of dead seed heads to keep the plants healthy and promote further blooming.
  • If your plants are expanding too rapidly through self-seeding and you want to limit the amount of flowers, cut back the seed heads each fall after the growing season.
  • If pests, such as leaf miners, become a problem, apply neem oil or prune the plants back to the low part of the stem. Some people will use their fingers to crush the larvae of leaf miners, while others will leave them be, as they’re not all that harmful.
  • If your columbine plants are growing too quickly and expanding beyond the area you set aside, don’t be afraid to prune them back.

By continuing to browse or by clicking “OK” you agree to the storing of first- and third-party cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. Privacy Policy.

OK