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columbine weed seed head

Columbine requires a moderate amount of soil moisture, so apply water when the top inch or two of soil dries out. As young plants are becoming established, make sure to keep the soil evenly moist but never soggy.

There are plenty of exceptions, but partial shade is the standard recommendation for growing Columbine. They can tolerate more sun in cooler climates and in the relative coolness of spring.

Columbine (Aquilegia) blooms are said to resemble jester’s caps, and their effectiveness at attracting hummingbirds will certainly put bird watchers in a merry mood. This herbaceous perennial is an airy plant with attractive clover-like foliage. The blooms come in many colors, and most have spurs: long, narrow strips streaming horizontally from the back of each bloom. They typically bloom for about four weeks, starting in mid-spring.


While Aquilegia vulgaris and other species of Columbine can be eaten if properly prepared, and some have a history of medicinal uses, Columbine is a toxic plant and should not be ingested. It is classified as having minor toxicity and is typically associated with gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.   However, horses consuming columbine can experience respiratory distress, behavioral changes, coma, and death.

Once established, columbine plants are drought-tolerant perennials. This makes them perfect for rock gardens and woodland gardens. Their attractive foliage makes them suitable as edging plants, and they are also frequently used in cottage gardens.

If you purchase Columbine plants in pots, plant them at the same depth in the ground as they are planted in their pots. Planting them any deeper could result in crown rot. Space plants one to two feet apart. Mulch the plants to conserve water in the summer.

Columbines are perennial in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8, but choose a variety that’s well-suited for your specific climate. They don’t tolerate excessive heat and flower best in cooler temperatures.

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.

Can I grow columbine in a container? Yes, smaller varieties are ideal for containers.

Seed Quick Start Gardening Guide

Columbine Sawfly: Green caterpillars can defoliate plants. Feeding begins on the leaf edges and progresses inward and the caterpillars often hide under the leaves if they know someone is approaching. Burpee Recommends: Handpick and remove, or use an insecticidal soap.

What are those squiggly lines on my columbine leaves? Columbine is extremely susceptible to leaf miner, which is the insect that is causing the lines. Remove affected leaves when you see the damage. It will only disfigure the plant, not kill it.

Thrips: Thrips are tiny needle-thin insects that are black or straw colored. They suck the juices of plants and attack flower petals, leaves and stems. The plant will have a stippling, discolored flecking or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips can spread many diseases from plant to plant. Burpee Recommends: Many thrips may be repelled by sheets of aluminum foil spread between rows of plants. Remove weeds from the bed and remove debris from the bed after frost. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls.