Aquilegia, also known as columbine, is an old-fashion favorite that looks great in the garden and makes decorative cut flowers. These hardy, herbaceous evergreen perennials are found in the wild throughout North America, Siberia and other northern temperate regions.
The columbine is known for its beautiful, distinctively spurred flowers that are produced in the summer months. Numerous cultivars and hybrids are available in a multitude of colors and styles. Most columbines grow to a height of 15 to 20 inches and are a favorite of hummingbirds. This article will discuss how to grow columbines for your garden.
The columbine can survive in a range of locations. USDA hardiness ranges from Zone 3 to 9. In colder areas, zones 3-5, it is advisable to provide a good layer of mulch to protect the columbine from the freeze thaw cycle.
The columbine is an easy plant to grow in your garden because it readily adapts to a wide variety of conditions. For the best results, use an area that has a moist, rich, well-drained soil with partial shade. The especially like the light shade of large deciduous trees. It will grow in full sun and is able to tolerate average soils and dry soil conditions.
Seeds of the columbine can be directly sown into the soil or started indoors. To start indoors the seeds will need to be cold stratified for the best germination. Place the seeds in seed trays or pots with ¼ inches of fine soil and refrigerate at 40 degree Fahrenheit for 3 to 4 weeks. Move the trays or pots to a 70 degree location where they will sprout. Sow columbine outdoors in spring to early summer in the north and fall in the south. Cover with a thin layer of soil and separated by 1 to 2 feet.
The thick tap roots of the columbine allow for medium to light watering once the plant is established. Fertilize the columbine monthly with a soluble all-purpose fertilizer. The columbine is a self-sower so if you do not deadhead the blossoms and prune the foliage in the fall be prepared to thin out the seedlings as they arise.
The plants tend to die off after 3 or 4 years so some gardeners allow the plant to self-seed and keep the plants whose flower they like as cross-pollination will produce different flowers from the parents. Leaf miners and aphids are the main problems for this plant. Most insect problems can be effectively treated with insecticidal dust or spray. If you notice winding white trails in the leaves dispose of this foliage.
The flowering season for columbine lasts from mid-May through the end of June. Remove flower heads or deadhead when flowers are spent to ensure continued bloom. The blooms have five spurred petals sitting above five petal-like sepals that combine to create beautiful color combinations. The plant continues to provide interest as its foliage turns a maroon color in the fall.
It is quite easy to grow columbine in your garden. With the proper location, soil and light, water and fertilizer, as well as, watching out for the insects you will grow the most beautiful columbine plants.