The flowers of columbine (Aquilegia spp.) are said to resemble fool’s caps, and their effectiveness in attracting hummingbirds is sure to put birdwatchers in a happy mood. This herbaceous perennial is an airy plant with attractive clover-like foliage. The flowers come in many colors, and most have stolons: long, narrow stripes that radiate horizontally from the back of each flower. This plant is generally planted in early spring. Established plants usually bloom for about four weeks from mid-spring.
Columbines are short-lived perennials, but if you let the flower heads seed rather than kill them, they will readily self-seed and may soon form a plant colony if growing conditions are optimal. They have a moderate growth rate and the seeds germinate in about 20 to 30 days. Columbine plants are poisonous to humans
care of the columbine
Columbines make great re-seedings. Many gardeners save money by growing the plants from seed rather than buying them in pots from the nursery (although you may have to wait a year for flowers). Not going dead leads to many self-seeded replacement plants.
These plants do not tolerate hot, full sun well; they go back in the summer. They prefer medium-moist, well-drained soil. Once established, however, columbines are drought-tolerant perennials. These plants are perfect for rock gardens and woodland gardens. Due to their attractive foliage, they are suitable as a border plant and are also often used in cottage gardens.
Partial shade is the standard recommendation for growing columbines, but this plant tolerates full sun in cooler climates and on cool spring days.
Grow columbine plants in well-drained, humus-rich soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH. Before planting, mix some compost into the soil to provide it with rich organic matter. They prefer sandy or loamy soil to clay because good drainage is key.
Columbine requires moderate soil moisture, so water when the top inch or two of soil dries up. As young plants establish, keep the soil evenly moist but never waterlogged. Established plants only need to be watered about once a week. Mulch the plants to conserve water in the summer.
temperature and humidity
Columbines are perennial in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8, but choose a cultivar that does well in your specific climate. Plants flower best in cooler temperatures. They do not tolerate excessive heat.
Use a liquid, water-soluble fertilizer once a month during the growing season (spring through fall) to promote healthy foliage and better flowering. This plant needs phosphorus for healthy root development. Fertilizers that are too high in nitrogen can affect flower production; try 5-10-5 NPK fertilizer, which is fortified with phosphorus.