How to Grow Columbine Flowers

Find out how to grow columbine, an easy-care perennial to feature in your garden.

March 17, 2020
Columbine

Columbine

Photo by: Shutterstock/Randy Moore

Shutterstock/Randy Moore

Columbine, in the genus Aquilegia and the Ranunculaceae family is a species of 60 to 70 varieties of herbacious perennial plants that come in a variety of flower colors including red, orange, yellow, purple, white and bi-color. Known for its pretty spurred petals, columbine is also sometimes known as granny's bonnet or crowfoot.

Columbine's genus, Aquilegia derives from the Latin word for "eagle" and refers to the resemblance of the spurs beyond the central flower petals to an eagle's claw.

Why You Might Want to Try Columbine

One reason to grow columbine is its resilience and resistance to a number of garden pests in its preferred USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9.

These pretty flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees, and the plant is deer resistant and drought tolerant.

With its clumping habit and variety of colors, columbine works beautifully in beds and borders in the garden. Because it blooms in mid-spring, columbine makes a great filler plant between the early-spring flower bonanza and the main garden season.

Columbine's delicate blossoms are lovely in bouquets of cut flowers.

Growing Tips

Soil

Columbine prefers well-drained, not-too-dry soil to thrive.

Light

Columbine prefers full sun but in the South, intense sun can hurt the flowers, so partial shade is recommended.

Winter Care

Cut back foliage to the ground in fall. Mulch columbine plants in the winter to protect them from the elements.

Watering

Do not overwater columbine.

Starting From Seed

Columbine grows well from seed when sowed directly into the garden soil. Press the seed firmly into the soil and do not cover with soil. Sow seeds in early spring or midsummer. If grown from seed, plants will not flower until the second year.

If growing columbine from seeds indoors, sow seeds 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost. Set your seeds in a cool place until the seed leaves appear. Once leaves appear, place the seedlings in indirect sunlight and keep the plants moist but not drenched.

Gradually acclimate your seedlings to the garden by setting them outside for increasing amounts of time each day beginning with one hour and then increasing an hour each day for four days.

Growing From Plants

Plant columbine in early spring or midsummer. Plant with the plant's crown at soil level and dig a hole roughly double the diameter of the container. Water plants thoroughly until they are well established. Columbine will also create additional volunteer plants if allowed to self-seed.

Spacing

Space plants or seeds at a 1' to 2' distance.

Fertilizing

A water-soluble fertilizer applied monthly is appropriate to keep flowers bright and foliage sturdy.

Pests

Leaf miners are an occasional problem for columbine but can usually be eradicated by treating plants with neem oil.

Disease

Columbine can be affected by powdery mildew. If powdery mildew is found, remove all diseased plants and do not compost. Treat remaining plants with a fungicide.

Deadheading

Extend bloom life by deadheading faded blooms.

Additional Columbine Facts

  • Native Americans used the crushed roots and seeds of the columbine plant in a variety of medicines.
  • Columbine is native to the northeastern United States and Canada.

Varieties to Try

'Eastern' or 'wild red': This native, woodland plant has unique elongated tubes inside the flowers.

'Rocky Mountain' or 'Colorado blue': The large flowers of this multi-color columbine feature white petals and violet-blue sepals and yellow stamens.

'Swan' series: These bi-color varieties bring color variation to the garden and are excellent for cutting.

Next Up

Anise Sage

Deep blue flowers distinguish this hummingbird favorite.

Delphinium: Our Favorite Flowers

In this HGTV Gardens Flower of the Day feature, learn where delphinium grows best and why you might want to add it to your garden.

How to Make Hummingbird Nectar

This easy and inexpensive hummingbird nectar recipe will have these beloved pollinators making return visits to your garden.

How to Grow Stargazer Lilies

The easy-to-grow Stargazer lily has fragrant, bold blooms and is undoubtedly the most popular lily to grow.

How to Plant, Grow and Care for Delphinium

This sun-loving perennial will thrive with the right care. Get HGTV garden experts' delphinium growing tips.

Learn How to Plant and Grow Spider Lily

These old-fashioned favorites bring gorgeous blooms when other flowers have faded, popping up like magic in late summer.

How to Grow Bleeding Heart

Find out how to grow bleeding heart, a low-maintenance perennial for shade, and how to care for it in your garden.

How to Turn a Liquor Bottle Into a Hummingbird Feeder

Learn the secret for drilling holes in heavy-bottom bottles so you can upcycle them into unique hummingbird feeders.

How to Grow Daylilies

With some advance planning, you can have glorious daylilies for spring by planting in the fall with this advice from HGTV gardening experts.

How to Plant, Grow and Care for Asiatic Lilies

Available in many sizes and colors, these low-maintenance perennials are an easy way to add texture and bold hues to your garden.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

What's New in Outdoors

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.