Complete Guide to Columbine: How to Plant & Care for Columbine Flowers

Read our complete guide to Columbine Flowers for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting and caring for Columbine Flower

The Columbine flower is a species in the Ranunculaceae genus. This flower produces beautiful petals in a variety of hues, including red, orange, pink, purple, yellow, and white. This herbaceous perennial starts to bloom in the spring and continues through the summertime.

Columbine flowers grow best in USDA Zones 3 to 9. This hardiness makes them a popular choice for gardens in the Mideastern and northern states. However, these plants make excellent pot plants as well.

Also known by the monikers of the crowfoot or granny’s bonnet, the Columbine flower is native to both Canada and the United States. There are other species native to Europe, and many breeders lead programs producing an interesting variety of hybrids for use in home gardening.

The hybrid varieties add hardiness and longer flowering periods to the plants. Columbine flowers vary in height depending on the array. The smallest Columbines are only three inches in height, while the largest only reach around 3-feet tall.

Columbines often take a bi-color, two-tone appearance, with delicate stems that rise out of fern-like foliage. The plants are aromatic, and gardeners will find hummingbirds and bees interested in these plants during the summer months.

Colorado Columbine Wildflower Seeds From Amazon

Where Can I Grow Columbine Flowers?

If you’re growing Columbine flowers in cold regions of the US, then plant them in areas of the garden that get full sun throughout the day. However, if you live in a warm climate, plant your Columbines in a semi-shaded area that gives the plants sunlight during the morning or late afternoon.

Columbines are reasonably drought-resistant plants, but they require planting in soils that offer excellent drainage to prevent root rot in the plants.

How Do I Plant Columbine Flowers?

  • Start your Columbine seeds indoors during the late winter. If you want to sow directly into the garden, you’ll need to wait for the last frosts to fall first. Check your local listings for frost dates in your area.
  • Alternatively, you can plant your Columbines in the early fall after the heat of the summer starts to subside. This strategy allows the plants to develop a robust root system before the weather turns icy.
  • If you’re planting outdoors, work to soil down to a depth of around 6-inches. Mix in some amendments such as leaf mulch and sand to improve the nutrition value and drainage of the soil. Lightly moisten the soil before sowing your seeds.
  • Sow the seeds on the surface, and then press them into place with a gentle touch. Don’t cover the seeds, as they will suffocate. To protect the seeds from birds, place a trellis 12-inches above the ground.
  • When starting your seeds indoors, gardeners should wait until they see the cotyledons, or seed leaves, appear. After they begin to emerge, it’s safe to move the plant into direct sunlight.
  • Avoid leaving pots on windowsills. If the sun beats down on the glass during the peak hours of the day, it could heat the container, halting the germination process, and scorch new seedlings.


After the first leaves start to appear from the seedling, it’s time to acclimatize the plant for a move outdoors. Don’t place the plant outdoors immediately.

Break it into the new environmental conditions by taking it outside and leaving it in the shade during the day, then bring the pot inside at night.

After a week of this conditioning, you can transplant the seedlings into the flowerbed.


Columbines grow in a variety of soils. However, you need to ensure that the soil has adequate drainage for the roots to stay dry between watering.

Columbines don’t enjoy getting their “feet wet,” and overly moist soil conditions will lead to the development of root rot of fungal disease in the plant.

If you have concerns that your soil is not the right pH, or it doesn’t have enough nutrients, take a sample to the nursery for testing.

Beautiful blue columbine flower
Beautiful blue columbine flower


While the seedlings are developing a root system, lightly water the plants when the soil starts to get dry. It’s vital that you don’t overwater the seedlings, or they might drown.

After a few weeks, as the plants establish a root system, you can gradually increase the amount of water you give to the plants.

In most cases, Columbines will only require water in dry conditions. If it rains once a week, that should be sufficient to keep your Columbines in good shape.

The Columbines will go into a dormancy period during the winter. Don’t water your plants during the dormancy phase, as it may affect growth in the following season.

How Do I Maintain Columbine Flowers?

During the growing season, you Columbines won’t require much in the way of maintenance. However, after they finish flowering, you can fit in another round of blooms if you deadhead the plants.

Deadheading requires the removal of the old blooms after they start to die off. By deadheading, you spur new growth in the plants, allowing for another set of flowers to bloom before the end of the growing season.

The plants are relatively short-lived. However, they do self-sow during the growing season. Gardeners need to prepare themselves for differentiation in the color of the new seedlings. Most hybrid varieties produce seedlings in a variety of different colors.

Make sure you weed your garden once or twice a week while the seedlings are young. Weeds compete for growing space and water in flowerbeds, stunting the growth of the Columbine flowers. Weeding regularly also prevents the onset of disease and pest infestations in your plants.

A graceful and ornamental wildflower
A graceful and ornamental wildflower

How Do I Propagate Columbine Flowers?

As mentioned, most gardeners won’t have any issue with growing Columbine flowers from seed. However, if you have plenty of mature plants in your garden, you can propagate new Columbines from existing plants.

This short-lived perennial species only lasts for a few years, so digging up and dividing the plants might be a futile undertaking for the gardener. It’s better to leave the plants to their growing cycle, and then plant new seeds when the old plants start to die off in the garden.

Planting different varieties of Columbine next to each other will cross-pollinate the plants, providing the gardener with a colorful display of hybrid varieties.

What Are the Varieties of Columbine Flowers?

There are dozens of varieties of Columbine available from online retailers and nurseries. Choose cultivars designed for the American garden.

Look for features like unusual colors, pest resistance, and double petals in your selection. Columbines have a short root system, making them a great choice as border flowers for your garden.

Here are a few of the more popular varieties of Columbine for growing in American gardens.

Aquilegia Alpina

This variety is a popular choice for cottage-style gardens. It’s a great complement to other tall and short plants in the flowerbed, with sparse foliage that doesn’t get in the way of other plants.

This variety prefers growing in semi-shade conditions, or a pot on a shaded balcony. Planting this variety in your garden attracts pollinators like bees and hummingbirds.

Aquilegia caerulea – “The Blue Star.”

This variety of Columbine features an upward-facing flower consisting of shades of blue, with star-shaped petals. The flowers have a contrasting white center and slender spurs. The blue star is an excellent choice for gardeners that want to create a focal point in their flowerbeds.

This variety reaches heights of up to 30-inches, making them a good choice as a border for pathways around the garden. The blue star grows naturally around the cool woodland regions of the USD, making them a preferred choice for USDA zone 3 to 9.

Aquilegia Canadensis – The “Wild Red Columbine”

Hikers will often see this flower lining trails in wooded areas. They display blossoms of prink or red with a yellow center.

European Aquilegia

There are also dozens of varieties of European Aquilegia. The plant originates from Europe and naturalized in the United States. Therefore, there are plenty of pretty European types to choose that suit growing in the colder regions of the US. A popular choice is Aquilegia vulgaris.

What are Good Companion Plants for Columbine Flowers?

If you want to plant dome other flowers and shrubs around your Columbines, make sure you choose plants that’s don’t compete for growing space. Good companion plant choices include foxglove, daylily, allium, and poppies.

What are the Pests and Diseases Affecting Columbine Flowers?

Growing Columbines in flowerbeds attracts little black flies known as leaf-miners. These pests lay eggs on the underside of the foliage, leaving yellow spots on the surface of the leaves as they draw moisture and nutrition from the surface.

If you’re dealing with any sort of pest problem in your flowerbeds, try using an organic pesticide to resolve the issue. Neem oil is a fantastic choice. Bugs can’t stand the taste and smell of neem, and they’ll stay far away from your garden.

If conditions stay overcast and damp in your garden for prolonged periods, the conditions might cause the development of diseases like white powdery mildew. Dusting your plants with diatomaceous earth should stop the outbreak.

Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at or follow on twitter

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