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Portland Nursery

AQUILEGIA: Columbine

A genus of some 70 species from a wide range of habitats, ranging from shady woodlands to sun baked alpine meadows. The native habitat of columbines is remarkably diverse. Short-lived hybrid columbines require full sun or very light shade to provide stimulating flower displays.

Species columbines do best in a light, moist, but well-drained woodland soil, rich in organic matter. Their flowering season forms a useful gap between the spring and summer flowering genera. A wide range of colors is available. From whites, blues, reds, yellows to almost black.

Columbines have been popular for many years. The foliage is attractive and long lasting. The colorful flowers attract hummingbirds, which are simply mesmerizing in the garden. The flowers are distinctive, often bicolored, with hooked spurs, and are carried either singly or in panicles above the blue-green bottom leaves.

Photos credits below belong to our supplier Blooming Advantage Nursery. Click photos to enlarge

Aquilegia formosaAquilegia formosa (western columbine) - from western USA, this species has a graceful open habit with many small, orange-red, short-spurred flowers on each of its stems. This genus is widely hybridized and many cultivars are available, including dwarf varieties. Height 20-36 inches, spread 12–20 inches.

Aquilegia canadensis (Canada columbine) – found over much of Eastern North America. Soft yellow, red spurred flowers on many branched, wiry stems. Prefers rocky of woodland conditions. Height 12-20 inches, spread 12-20 inches.

AQUILEGIA-canadensis-'Little-Lanterns'150Aquilegia canadensis “Little Lanterns” (dwarf wild columbine) Terrific new compact form. Brick-red flowers with yellow center. 

Aquilegia chrysantha 'Yellow Queen'Aquilegia chrysantha (golden columbine) – found in Southern USA. Vigorous tall stems and large bright yellow flowers with long curved spurs, slightly paler yellow in color. Several cultivars are available, including double flowered, white, and very tall. Height 32-36 inches, spread 12-32 inches. 

Aquilegia flabellata – native to Japan. Two-tone flowers of lilac blue and creamy white. Hooked spurs to 1 inch long. Differs from most other columbines in having thicker, darker leaves with often overlapping segments. Great for rock gardens. Stocky plant 8 inches to 1.5 feet tall, and 1 foot wide.

Aquilegia flabellata 'Blue Angel'Aquilegia flabellata “Blue Angel” Bright violet – blue with gleaming white center. Compact habit finishes nicely in a pot, makes a great rock garden accent. 

Aquilegia vulgaris – This highly cultivated species is found over most of Europe. It has ferny foliage and flowers with hooked spurs in white with shades of blue, mauve, and red, including double flowered forms. The wild species is seldom seen in gardens but there are many cultivars. Height 12-36 inches, spread 8-18 inches.

Aquilegia vulgaris 'Black Barlow'Aquilegia vulgaris “Black Barlow”(black columbine) 

Aquilegia vulgaris “Nora Barlow” (granny’s bonnet columbine) Maroon- black double Granny’s Bonnet flowers, unique!

Aquilegia vulgaris 'Woodside Gold'Aquilegia vulgaris “Woodside Gold” Strong golden yellow spring foliage ages to light yellow. Great contrast to the blue and rose-colored flowers. 

Aquilegia 'Origami Rose and White'

Columbine - Aquilegia 'Origami Rose and White'


Family: Ranunculaceae

Genus: Aquilegia The genus name derives from the Latin aquila (eagle) and lego (together), suggesting that the curved nectaries or spurs resemble the closing talons of an eagle.

Common Name: Columbine

Origin: Widely distributed across the northern hemisphere.

Common Name: Columbine
The common name appears to be rooted in the Latin columbinus (like a dove).

Culture: An adaptable genus, with species suitable for woodlands, rockeries, and perennial borders. The general preference is for a cool-winter climate and a place in half sun with cool, moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil.

Maintenance: As flowers fade, deadhead to lateral flower buds. Then cut old flowering stems to the ground when all flowering is finished. This prevents seeding which often results in undesirable strains.

Deadheading can prolong bloom, particularly on young plants. Dead leafing keeps plants in good condition, but if severely affected by leaf miners or other pests, plants can be cut to the ground.

A fresh mound of foliage will develop from the pruning. The clean fresh mound of foliage can remain for the winter. If plants have leaf miner or other pests in the autumn, they should be cut down for the winter.

Clean up all debris from around the plant and destroy any or all pest-infested leaves.

Pest: aphids, leaf miner, slugs.

Disease: rust, powdery mildew, fungal leaf spots.

Propagation: propagate by dividing the dormant rhizome. Seed germinates easily, and in most cases new plants flower within two seasons.