Aquilegia Plant Growing & Care Guide for Gardeners

In this Gardener's HQ guide, we'll explore cultivating Aquilegia plants in your garden, indoor spaces, and other settings.

Columbine: Cultivation & Garden Use

The hardy perennial Aquilegia typically flowers from mid spring until early summer.

Common names include Columbine and Granny's Bonnet.

Gary A. Monroe @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Description of Aquilegia

Aquilegia is a native plant of Europe

They vary in size, smaller types are as little as four inches (10 cm) in height, whilst larger varieties can grow to as high as three feet (90 cm).

They often have multicolored intricate flowers that sit on top of a thin stalks, which themselves carry toothed leaves. Columbine make an ideal plant for a woodland simulation.

Aquilegia - Columbine by Photogirl7.1.

Aquilegia Plant Species

Aquilegia vulgaris (European Columbine)

Aquilegia vulgaris is a perennial that grows to about 2 feet (60 cm) tall. European Columbine features lobed leaves and bell-shaped flowers in various shades.

This plant thrives in full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. It's ideal for mixed borders, cottage gardens, or woodland settings.

Aquilegia caerulea (Rocky Mountain Columbine)

Aquilegia caerulea is a perennial. Rocky Mountain Columbine reaches a height of 1 to 2 feet (30-60 cm). It has lobed leaves and large, upward-facing, bi-colored flowers.

It prefers full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. It is perfect for mixed borders, woodland gardens, or as a cut flower.

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern Red Columbine)

Aquilegia canadensis grows to 1 to 2 feet (30-60 cm) tall. It bears lobed leaves and drooping, red and yellow flowers.

Eastern Red Columbine thrives in part shade to full sun and well-drained soil.

Aquilegia chrysantha (Golden Columbine)

Aquilegia chrysantha reaches about 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm) in height. Golden Columbine has lobed leaves, and drooping yellow flowers.

Grow in full sun to part shade, in an area with good drainage.Use for mixed borders, woodland gardens, or make cut flower from it.

Aquilegia formosa (Western Columbine)

Aquilegia formosa reaches a height of 1 to 3 feet (30-90 cm). It has lobed leaves and bell-shaped, red and yellow flowers.

Western Columbine prefers a location with full sun to part shade and well-drained soil.

How to grow Columbine

It is best to start Aquilega off indoors. Seeds should first be imbibed for three weeks. This can be achieved by sowing the seeds in moist soil in flats, and then placing in the fridge.

Following germination, the flat should be sunk into the ground in a shady location in spring.

Once seedlings begin to appear, they should be transplanted. If growing to the seedling stage indoors, then they should be sown out with a spacing of six to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) for smaller varieties. For larger varieties, space Aquilegia plants at approximately 16 to 24 inches (40 to 60 cm).

Aquilega should be put out after the last frost of spring. Aquilega has a preference for shady conditions, but is able to survive in full sunlight in mild areas.

The ideal soil type should be humus rich, well drained, and with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0.

Columbine flower by *Micky.

Caring for Columbine

The seedlings of the Columbine plant are very delicate, it is therefore very important to treat them gently when transplanting; they should be kept moist and out of full sunlight.

Aquilega should be deadheaded to enable continue blooming throughout its flowering season (see above). Taller varieties should be staked, and short lived varieties should be replanted every three or four years.

Quick Aquilega Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Columbine
Family: Ranunculaceae, the buttercup and crowfoot.
Life Cycle: Hardy Perennial (Short lived, replace after 3 years)
Height: 4 to 36 inches (10 to 91 cm)
Native: Northern Hemisphere
Growing Region: Zones 3 to 9
Flowers: Middle of Spring through to the start of Summer
Flower Details: Multiple colors; Purples, Pinks, Reds and Yellows are common.
Foliage: Toothed leaves
Sow: Sow in the spring or Summer. If sowing in the spring refrigeration is required, if sowing in the Summer skip the refrigeration step and keep outdoors over winter.
Use flats containing moist soil, wrap in plastic, refrigerate for 18 to 20 days. Remove plastic, sink flat in shady location, Cover flat with glass. Transplant seedlings to final location as they appear.
Germination time 1 to 3 months. Transplant to final location following the last frost. Space small species 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) apart; Large species should be spaced at 16 to 20 inches (40 to 50 cm).
Requires: Best results in partly shaded conditions. Can be grown in full Sunlight in cooler areas. Provide with a winter mulch. Soil pH 5.5 to 7, Good drainage, Moist, Humus rich soils, Regular watering, Deadhead, Stake tall varieties. Susceptible to leaf miner, remove infected leaves.

Common Questions

How many members does the Aquilegia genus have?

The Aquilegia genus, commonly known as Columbine, consists of about 60 to 70 species of perennial plants.

Do members of Aquilegia make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Aquilegia species are popular in gardens for their uniquely shaped, colourful flowers and their hardiness in different climates.

Which Aquilegia species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

The most commonly grown species include Aquilegia vulgaris and Aquilegia canadensis, both prized for their elegant, spurred flowers.

Are members of the Aquilegia fragrant?

While some people find Aquilegia to have a light, sweet scent, they are generally not grown for their fragrance.

What is the perfect location to grow Aquilegia?

Aquilegia prefers partially shaded locations and well-drained, moist soil. It's tolerant of a variety of soil types.

Is Aquilegia invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Aquilegia species are not typically considered invasive in the USA, although they can self-seed under the right conditions.

How do I remove Aquilegia from my garden?

To remove Aquilegia, dig up the plants, ensuring to remove the entire root system to prevent regrowth.


The Aquilegia genus, known commonly as columbines, is part of the Ranunculaceae family. With about 60-70 species, columbines are cherished for their distinctive, spurred flowers and attractive foliage. They are native to meadows and woodlands of the Northern Hemisphere and offer a wide range of colors, attracting gardeners and hummingbirds alike.

Columbines thrive in locations with partial shade to full sun and prefer moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Although they are relatively low maintenance, they are short-lived perennials and often live only 2-3 years. However, they are prolific self-seeders and can repopulate the garden with new plants each year if seedlings are allowed to grow.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on Aquilegia. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Helleborus and Ranunculus plants.