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How to Grow Aquilegia common name Columbine

How to Grow Aquilegia common name Columbine

Aquilegia is an easy to grow spring flowering perennial whose common name is columbine. Aquilegia has delicate nodding flowers which can be single as shown far left A. vulgaris, double illustrated center A. ‘Nora Barlow’ and multicolored illustrated right with Aquilegia ‘Swan Lavender’ a real favourite.

Aquilegia requires very little attention and is not fussy about its growing conditions, making it a green wheelbarrow plant that shows it is easy to grow. Columbine has attractive leaves at the base of the plant, with a long stalk supporting delicate flowers as shown in the pictures. The leftmost image shows Aquilegia ‘Swan lavender’ with variegated euonymus and a deciduous yellow rhododendron, R luteum (which is one of the few fragrant rhododendrons) which makes a beautiful bright yellow spring combination.

Aquilegia tend to self-seed and if you don’t want them popping up where you don’t want them, it’s best to remove the seed heads. As with some Hellebores, the flower heads droop, which can make it difficult to discern the delicate beauty of the flowers. Although Aquilegia’s foliage fades and dies back, they are not herbaceous perennials as they do not fully die back to bare soil in winter.

After flowering the foliage will fade and is best clipped and the plant will produce fresh foliage in late summer/fall. One benefit of growing columbines is that they flower reliably year after year. Columbine varies in size. On average they grow to around 60-70 cm, suggesting that columbines are best placed in the middle of the border in terms of height.

Aquilegia’s foliage is attractive, with delicate leaves pictured below right.

There is a fragrant variety called Aquilegia ‘fragrans’ with white/cream colored flowers. There are many varieties to choose from and all columbines flower from April to June depending on the variety.

If Aquilegia isn’t the plant for you, check out summer bloomers, spring bloomers, scented plants and climbers for more ideas.

How and where to plant columbines
Aquilegia is a versatile plant that grows in sun or partial shade. It grows best in light soil, but this is not essential. There is little notable about her growing conditions as Aquilegia is a no frills plant. The less there is to say about a plant, the easier the plant is to grow; which, from this brief description, means that Aquilegia is easy to grow and is a reliable garden plant that will flower year after year. All varieties are fully hardy between H5 and H7 which is hardy to around -15 which covers most of the UK.

Columbines can be planted any time during the growing season from late February to November and they will become established. Columbines are hardy plants that require little attention. They don’t need pruning, although the foliage can start to look messy from June. Pruning back will tidy up the plant and the plant will soon be producing new foliage.

Columbine is pretty and the various images on this page are just a few of the many types and colors.

Aquilegia vulgaris is the wild species, which is usually blue, pictured above right.

Above in the middle image is one of the double flower varieties, this is A. ‘Nora Barlow’, also known as ‘Granny’s Bonnet’ and one of the more short lived varieties, although their preponderance of self-seeding means this isn’t too much of an issue.