How to Grow Aquilegia Vulgaris Plants in your Garden

Aquilegia vulgaris is known most commonly as Columbine, but it is also referred to as European Crowfoot, Granny's Nightcap and Granny's Bonnet.

It is an herbaceous, clump-forming perennial from the Ranunculaceae family (buttercups and Crowfoots), and it thrives in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 8 (hardy throughout most of Europe).

A showy, spring-bloomer, Aquilegia vulgaris is noted for its narrow, 18-inch to 3 feet (45 to 90 cm) long leafy stems, and its drooping, blue-violet, single or double blossoms.

Most varieties have spurs, which are long, thin strips that stream out from the rear of each blossom.

Common columbine
Ancolie commune (Aquilegia vulgaris) photograph by pascal.

Columbine plants have a delicate, fairy garden quality that make them a welcome addition to woodland gardens, rock and cottage gardens, as well as being ideal for borders.

They pair well with ?Shasta daisies and foxgloves {links--here}, and with peonies, irises, alliums and roses.

Aquilegia vulgaris also make nice cut flowers, and there are several attractive cultivars, including the deep purple Leprechaun Gold, the reddish-flowered Little Lanterns, and Nana Alba; the latter an all-white flower with light green tints.

Columbine also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies in the right areas.

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Common Columbine

Aquilegia vulgaris prefers full sun to partial shade and rich, moist, but well-drained soils.

Propagation is easily accomplished by scattering seeds directly into the garden in the spring, when danger of frost has passed.

Plants tend to die off after two to three years. However, as they are prolific self-seeders, given time, they will naturalize in the garden.

There are several varieties of columbine, and if planted near one another, it is not uncommon for cross-pollination to occur.

Cutting back stems will encourage new growth but should not be done until spent flowers have formed and released seed capsules to start new seedlings (unless you are limiting their spread, in which case deadhead before seed set).

Aquilegia vulgaris Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Aquilegia vulgaris
  • Common Name: Common columbine
  • Growing Zone: USA: 3 to 9; UK Hardiness Zone H7 (considered hardy to temperatures lower than -20°C / -4°F).
  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Herbaceous, Perennial

Plant Details

  • Plant Height (Inches): 24 to 30
  • Plant Spread (Inches): 1 to 12
  • Time of Bloom: Late spring
  • Flower Details: Blue, Pink, Purple, Red, White
  • Leaf Foliage: Green
  • Fruit:
  • Growth Form: Upright / erect

Ideal Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Partially shady to full sunlight
  • Rate of Growth: Average pace
  • Suitable Soil Types: Alkaline, Loamy, Sandy, Well drained
  • Soil Moisture: Moist

Caring Conditions

  • Care:
  • Level of Maintenance: Medium
  • Propagation: Seeds sown in spring, late summer or early autumn
  • How to Prune: Cut back after flowering
  • Pests: May be attacked byaphids
  • Diseases: Susceptible to powdery mildews and aquilegia downy mildew

Further Information

  • Can Attract:
  • Tolerant of: Rabbit, Deer
  • Best Garden Use: Border, Rock garden, Woodland garden
  • Family: Ranunculaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Aconitum, Adonis, Clematis, Consolida, Eranthis, Helleborus, Nigella, Ranunculus, and Trollius.

  • Miscellaneous: Entices birdlife to the garden, Non-native to North America, Naturalizing, Some parts are poisonous, Suitable for cut flowers
  • Genus Detail: Aquilegia
  • Further Reading and References: Here and Here

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