Aquilegia

Though there are many columbines available to the northwest gardener, the NW natives are among the most beautiful.

aquilegia formosa
Aquilegia formosa

Somewhat short-lived but actively self-seeding perennials, these graceful, nodding flowers rise high above clumps of delicately lobed leaves and are a beacon of attraction to hummingbirds, with a long bloom-time from late spring through summer.

They grow to a somehow-surprising height of up to three feet; upright spurs above, and petticoats of stamens and styles beneath dance in the breezes of the garden. They are sometimes prey to aphids, and especially leaf miners that make fairly unattractive roadmap-looking lines in the leaves; cutting the plants to the ground after bloom removes the host for these pests, and the second flush of growth is usually pest-free.

Aquilegia are extremely adaptable; their native conditions range are from sun to shade, rocky to woodland, moist to dry, low to high elevation. More sun than not, regular water and rich, well-drained soil probably suits them best, but they’re not picky. If you have other Columbine in your garden, the native varieties are as promiscuous as their brethren and if left to their own devices will happily cross-pollinate and provide new variety and color to your garden.

aquilegia formosa

Aquilegia formosa: Western Columbine

This is by far the most common and widespread native columbine. An electric mix of bright red-orange and yellow, they will attract hummingbirds from far and wide. Not a good candidate for the pastel garden, they are bright without being garish; intensely cheerful, they are a wonderful addition to the garden.

aquilegia flavescens

Aquilegia flavescens

Yes, you thought there was only one native Columbine; understandable, since the availability of A. formosa by far dominates the market, and it is the Columbine of the Willamette Valley and lower elevations.

Aquilegia flavescens, however is also a native; it makes its home in the higher altitude regions of Oregon, high in the eastern slope of the Cascades as well as the upper reaches of the northeastern Wallow Mountains. The flowers have the same immediately recognizable Columbine shape and design, but this one is made up of shades of yellow to white in a softer, more subtle display than its other native relative.

Being at home in colder climes, this Aquilegia might be less than happy with the wet winters in the valley; you might consider a container for it, or at least be sure it has excellent drainage.

Find Natives for your garden

We offer a great selection of Northwest Natives from spring through fall. The plants featured are highlighted favorites, but they do not represent ALL of the plants we carry. For a more complete list, see our Northwest Native Plant List.

Natives

Abies: Native Fir

Natives

Acer Circinatum: Vine Maple

Natives

Actaea: Bugbane

Natives

Aquilegia: Columbine

Natives

Arbutus: Pacific Madrone

Natives

Asarum: Wild Ginger

Natives

Asclepias: Milkweed

Natives

Attracting Butterflies

Natives

Camassia: Camas

Natives

Ceanothus: Wild Lilac

Natives

Cornus sericea

Red Twig Dogwood
Natives

Corylus cornuta

Beaked Hazelnut
Natives

Dodecatheon: Shooting Star

Natives

Edible Fruits

Natives

Erigeron: Fleabane

Natives

Eriophyllum: Oregon Sunshine

Natives

Native Ferns

Natives

Fragaria: Wild Strawberry

Natives

Gaultheria shallon: Salal

Natives

Holodiscus: Oceanspray

Natives

Attracting Hummingbirds

Natives

Native Iris

Natives

Lewisia: Bitterroot

Natives

Mahonia: Oregon Grape

Natives

Malus fusca

Western Crabapple
Natives

Osmaronia: Indian Plum

Natives

Penstemon: Beard Tongue

Natives

Philadelphus: Mock Orange

Natives

Physocarpus

Western Ninebark
Natives

Pinus: Native Pine

Natives

Quercus: Garry Oak

Natives

Rhamnus: Cascara

Natives

Ribes: Wild Currant

Natives

Rosa: Wild Rose

Natives

Rubus: Salmonberry

Natives

Sambucus: Elderberry

Natives

Sedum: Stonecrop

Natives

Sidalcea: Checker Mallow

Natives

Sisyrinchium

Blue-eyed Grass
Natives

Solidago: Goldenrod

Natives

Symphoricarpos: Snowberry

Natives

Synthyris: Native Figwort

Natives

Trillium: Wake Robin

Natives

Vaccinium: Huckleberry

Natives

Vancouveria: Inside-out Flower

Natives

Viburnum trilobum

Cranberrybush
Natives

Viola: Violet

Natives

Winter Interest