How to Grow Columbines: The Complete Columbine Flower Guide

Photo Credit
Valentin Agapov/Shutterstock
Botanical Name
Aquilegia spp.
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Soil pH
Bloom Time
Flower Color
Hardiness Zone

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Planting, Growing, and Caring for Columbines

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Have you seen this enchanting wildflower? Columbine (Aquilegia), with its multi-colored petals, blooms from spring through early summer. Though this native perennial appears delicate, it’s among the hardiest of native plants and is deer-resistant and pollinator-friendly. Learn all about growing columbine.

What is a Columbine Flower?

Columbine (Aquilegia), aka granny’s bonnet, is a perennial flower that blooms in the spring. There are more than 70 species of columbines, including native columbines that grow wild in mountain areas, along stream beds, and in temperate woodlands. The deep-blue columbines that grow as wildflowers in the Colorado mountains are direct descendants of the earliest columbines.

Blue Columbine wildflower growing on Aspen, Colorado, forest floor. Credit: Teri Virbickis/Shutterstock

What Does a Columbine Flower Look Like?

This unusual and breathtakingly beautiful flower displays a small bell-shaped buttercup-like flower with five petals nestled within five long backward-extending spurs. The petals are often bi-colored and may be bright red with pink, lavender, blue, yellow, white, or a combination of these colors! Columbines cross-pollinate easily, so new species form frequently. Their pretty blue-green, lacy foliage stays green long after the blossoms disappear, turning purple or red in the fall.

The flowers attract butterflies, bees, moths, and hummingbirds—but thankfully, not deer! This hardy plant is also quite resilient and drought-tolerant. Once started, columbine propagates for years and, although perennial, increases most rapidly by self-seeding. 

See the video below to view this flower in many shades:


Columbines grow well in the sun or light shade. Although these plants aren’t picky about soil conditions, they do prefer well-draining soil of average fertility.

When to Plant Columbine

  • Direct-sow in the ground in the fall or after last spring’s frost.
  • Alternatively, sow seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost

How to Plant Columbine

  • Press the seed into the soil, but do not cover it. 
  • Thin to the strongest plants.
  • If setting a mature plant into a container, create a hole twice the diameter of the “old” pot. Set the top of the root ball level with the soil surface. Fill in with soil, then tamp gently and water.
  • Outdoors, space mature plants 1 to 2 feet apart, depending on the mature size of the variety. Water thoroughly.



  • Avoid overwatering.
  • Deadhead faded flowers. New buds will develop along the stems. The bloom season can thus be extended by as long as 6 weeks into midsummer.
  • Allow the plant to self-seed after it blooms, and it will produce many volunteer seedlings in the following year.
  • Columbine dies back all the way to the ground at dormancy. Plants can be cut back hard in the fall to clean up the foliage.
  • Before the ground freezes, mulch to protect the roots.


Cut flowers for indoor arrangements when they are half open. Vase life is 5 to 7 days.

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Wit and Wisdom

  • Columbine’s Latin name, Aquilegia, is derived from the Latin word for eagle, aquila. The long spurs that extend behind the flower petals resemble the claws of an eagle. 
  • Native Americans traditionally used the crushed seeds as a love charm and for medicinal purposes.
  • Columbine was named for the Latin word columba, which means dove.


Columbine Pests and Diseases
Leaf minersInsectMeandering blisters in leaves caused by tunneling larvaeRemove infested leaves; weed around plants; use row covers; till soil early in season; rotate plantings
Leaf spot (fungal)FungusLeaf spots on lower leaves enlarge and turn brown/black; fuzzy growth or pustules in lesions; disease progresses upward; leaves dieDestroy infected leaves/severely infected plants (do not compost); remove plant debris regularly; disinfect garden tools; choose resistant varieties; good air circulation; avoid overhead watering
Powdery mildewFungusWhite spots or flourlike coating on upper leaf surfaces; leaves drop; distortion/stuntingDestroy infected parts (do not compost); remove plant debris regularly; resistant varieties; good air circulation/sunlight; spray plants with solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda/1 qt water; prevent plant stress; avoid overhead watering
Root-knot nematodesNematodeRoots “knotty” or galled; plants stunted/yellow/wilted/weakened; leaves and other parts may distort or die; poor floweringDestroy infested plant debris after flowering season, including roots (do not compost); disinfect garden tools; choose resistant varieties; solarize soil; plant French marigolds (Tagetes patula) as a trap crop; rotate plantings
RustFungusOrange pustules on underside of lower leaves/stems; spots on upper leaf surfaces; foliage distorts/dies/drops; stunting; poor flowering; plants weakenedDestroy infected parts/severely diseased plants; remove plant debris regularly; disinfect tools; resistant varieties; good air circulation; avoid overhead watering; weed diligently
Southern blight (white mold)FungusLeaves/stems/entire plants wilt, brown or blacken, and may die; water-soaked lesions on lower stems; crown/bulb/rhizome rot; fluffy, white fungal mats with mustard-seed–like balls on stems’ bases/nearby soilDestroy infected parts/plants, white fungal mats, and surrounding soil to at least 6 inches beyond plant and 8 inches deep; remove plant debris regularly; disinfect garden tools; solarize soil; resistant varieties; provide good drainage
About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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