Columbine Plant: How To Identify, Grow and Care for Columbine Flowers (Pics)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | April 1, 2024

Person looking at pale and dark purple columbine plant flowers after learning how to recognize columbine flowers and types.

The Columbine plant grows well in woodland environments and there are 60 to 70 types spread throughout the United States and Canada.

It is a stunningly beautiful plant that grows delicate pink flowers, blue flowers, and purple flowers that have two-toned petals blooming from spring through to early summer.

The manner in which the petals hang down is probably where the plant got its nickname of “Granny’s bonnet”.

You may laugh at the nickname, but you’ll be fascinated by the extra information detailed in this article. Keep reading to learn just that little bit more about the Columbine plant, and its flower that always has two colors.

How To Identify Columbine Plant: What Is a Columbine and Are Columbines Perennials?

What is a Columbine? These stunning flowers have little, bell-shaped buttercup-like blossoms with five petals snuggled amid five long backward-extending spurs.

The petals are often bi-colored,8 making a bold statement either with a complementary shade of the same color or a completely contrasting hue that ranges from brilliant red to pink, purple, blue, yellow, white, or a mix of any two.

To determine how to identify Columbine Plant, observe its distinctive foliage as well as its flowers. On some of the species, the foliage is just as eye-catching as the flowers,1 remaining green long after the blooms have shriveled away, turning purple or a brooding scarlet in the fall before the plant goes into dormancy.

For a more vivid understanding, a Columbine picture can capture this plant’s striking beauty.

Columbine Plant


Columbine Plant on an oval frame in a green background.
  • Family: Ranunculaceae
  • Genus: Aquilegia
  • Leaf: Compound with deep lobes
  • Seed: Small and black with hundreds in each bloom
  • Blossoms: Spring and summer
  • Native Habitat: North America
  • Height: 1 to 3 feet
  • Canopy: 1 to 2 feet
  • Type: Perennial
  • Native Growing Zone: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9. Requires moist, well-draining soil and full to partial sun, and grows well in woodlands.

Image Credit: Janet Meyer (BldrJanet)18

As an excellent pollinator species, Butterflies, bees, moths, and hummingbirds are all drawn by the nectar hidden in the folds of the flowers, while gardeners are drawn to them because of the elegance they effortlessly embed into their surroundings.

It’s hard to say which ones are the most enchanting, and which style would compliment your garden better. But it will boil down to whether you want to base your choice on the duality of a specific colors like on the Aquilegia coerulea, and Aquilegia canadensis, or on the chaste appearance of the Aquilegia ‘Lime Sorbet’.

When the Columbine flower has completed the blooming cycle, the sepals, petals, and stamens fall off, leaving behind just the 5 pistils. They in turn gradually turn upright, and the ovaries at the base begin to expand, eventually opening out like 5-sectioned cups.

Each one is packed with dark-colored seeds that will bounce out when the dying flower has dried out or if you accidentally brush up against it.

Many people wonder, are Columbines perennials? Yes, they are.

As a perennial that can weather cold nights, these beauties are easy to care for and add an elegant flair even when surrounded by other plants that are almost as colorful, graceful, and dynamic as they are.

How Long It Takes To Grow Columbine Plant (Aquilegia canadensis)

Although they prefer to be sowed in acidic soils, Columbine Plants can thrive satisfactorily in almost any well-drained soil.

For best results, always sow the seeds or plant in a location that is partially or fully shaded to promote bigger and better blooms in the spring.

But don’t expect the seeds to bloom before your very eyes overnight. Patience is the key.

If you’re wondering how long it takes to grow a Columbine plant from seeds, you can expect a wait of about 2 years before you will be able to smell the aromas and enjoy the flowers of these low maintenance plants

Growing Columbines: Columbine Plant Growing Zone and When Do Columbines Bloom

For optimal growth, it’s important to consider the Columbine Plant growing zone. Columbines do not do well when subjected to too much direct sunlight and high temperatures.

Growing Columbine prefer sun exposure during the early part of the day and then allowed to cool down under partial shading from the afternoon onward.

Graphic of Columbine plant growth rate showing its height progression from a few inches at one month old to two to three feet in height at two years and beyond.

Rock gardens or forest gardens, are environments where these plants will do extremely well as long as the ground they are root in has a medium moisture level and good drainage.

So, when do Columbines bloom? They tend to bloom in early spring and once they become established, are able to survive extended periods of dryness without any harmful side effects.

For this reason, and the sun requirements for these plants,2 they are often used in cottage gardens and as border plants.

Columbine Pictures of Growing a Columbine Plant From a Seed

Many gardening enthusiasts opt for growing a Columbine Plant from a seed directly in outdoor soil, as it’s considered one of the simpler plants to cultivate in this manner, rather than starting them in indoor pots.

Before racing outside, though, all gung ho and ready to go, pick a place at the back of your refrigerator where your seeds can undergo the cold stratification process undisturbed for 4 to 6 weeks. This technique speeds up germination and prepares your seeds to be sowed once the ground has thawed properly outside.

Under natural circumstances outside, Columbine seed stratification occurs as the scattered seeds are treated by the cold winter temperatures as they lay just under the surface of the ground, and then emerge in the spring ready to grow after breaking dormancy.

With these super tiny seeds, digging holes and burying them deep is not necessary. All you need to do is scatter them on the surface and cover them with a thin layer of soil.

After that, just add water.

Top Ten Planting Tips for Columbine Plants (Columbine Plant Care)

The delicate multi-colored flowers of the Columbine Plant are mesmerizing for humans and irresistible to the birds and the bees. Their lifespan is a short 4 weeks once they have blossomed, but the blue-green foliage remains attractive even after the flowers have faded, eventually becoming a vibrant shade of purple or crimson in the autumn.

Hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and moths all find the blossoms enticing, and this sturdy plant can withstand dry conditions with ease and doesn’t require all hands on deck to maintain its health.

For the best outcome in your garden, it’s important to know the essentials of Columbine plant care. Columbine is a perennial that spreads easily by self-seeding after it has been established, and yet there are still a few top tips that can elicit even more enjoyment from these plants as long as you have the know-how.

Below are the top ten planting tips for Columbine Plants:

  1. If planting in pots indoors, place only 2 to 3 seeds per container. As they grow your new indoor plants should be watered as and when needed,3 not on any specific regimented schedule.
  2. When planting in your garden, try for a spot where the mornings will have rays of sunshine that are not too strong, and where the the plants will be cast in the afternoon shade.
  3. If you haven’t allowed any space between the seeds when spreading them out, be prepared to thin the plants out as the leaves grow so there is a 1 to 2-foot gap between them.
  4. Irrigation should never be from a powerful hose as you run the risk of forcing the seeds underground. So either, reduce the force from the hose or use a spray bottle.
  5. Every month, apply a fertilizer that is water soluble.
  6. As soon as the blooms emerge, prune them back to the base of the leaves. This will promote a second bloom towards the end of the season so you can enjoy the flowers for longer.
  7. At the end of the season, prune the foliage completely to ensure your Columbine Plant will survive the winter.
  8. To increase the health and vitality of the plant, perform deadheading regularly. The benefit of this is that new blooms will continue to grow throughout the season.
  9. After waiting nearly a year hoping to see your first bloom even though it was unlikely to occur as the plant is focused on developing a solid root foundation. To ensure its winter survival, surround it with a layer of mulch just like you would spread mulch around trees.
  10. Fully scrape away and remove all the mulch early at the start of the next season to prevent the plant from being smothered.

37 Types of Columbine (Columbine Varieties)

There is a section of homeowners who adore columbines simply because they are plants that attract hummingbirds.

The presence of these little birds and the numerous types of butterflies easily enhances the Columbine experience when you’re kicking back on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

These amazing creatures may not be concerned about whether there are pink flowers or blue flowers that are almost purple concealing the nectar within,4 but when planning your landscape the aesthetics and the color profiles will definitely matter to you.

So let’s see what types of Columbine (Columbine Varieties) with many colors has to offer.

Purple Columbine Flowers

Below are some of most popular purple Columbine Flowers:

1. Dragonfly Mix

2. Danish Dwarf Purple

3. Earlybird Purple and White

4. Oriental

5. Swan ‘Burgundy and White

6. European Crowfoot

7. Bulgarian Columbine

Close up of a Columbine plant, featuring its purple blooms, green stems, and foliage.

(Image: Hans9)

Close up of a Colorado Columbine plant, featuring its yellow stamen and varying shades of blue petals.

(Image: f_mad10)

Blue Columbine Flowers

Below are some of the most popular blue Columbine Flowers:

8. Blue Star

9. Blue Dream

10. Blue Barlow

11. Clementine Blue

12. Colorado Blue Columbine

13. Rocky Mountain Blue

14. Pyrenees Columbine

Red Columbine Flowers

Below are some of the most popular red Columbine Flowers:

15. Clementine Red

16. Crimson Star

17. Easter Red

18. Little Lanterns

19. Red Hobbit

20. Winky ‘Double Red and White

Close up of an Eastern Red Columbine plant, surrounded by a variety of vibrant flowers.

(Image: JJefferyDev11)

Detailed view of a Wild Golden Columbine plant, showcasing its yellow blooms.

(Image: Etienne-F5912)

Wild Columbine Flowers

Below are some of most popular wild Columbine Flowers:

21. Golden

22. William Guinness

23. McKana Giant Mix

24. Origami Red and White

25. Sierra

Pink Columbine Flowers

Below are some of the most popular pink Columbine Flowers:

26. Cameo Mix

27. Nora Barlow

28. Clementine Pink

29. Pink Petticoat

30. Swan ‘Pink and Yellow

31. Pagoda Pink and White Columbine

Close up view of a Cameo Mix Columbine plant, featuring pink blossoms alongside a red bud that has yet to bloom.

(Image: Gab-Rysia13)

Close up of a Crystal Star Columbine plant, highlighting its white blooms, green foliage, and dark green stems.

(Image: Inthepicture14)

White Columbine Flowers

Below are some of the most popular white Columbine Flowers:

32. Crystal Star

33. Fragrant

34. Green Apples

35. Winky Double Rose White

36. Snow Queen

37. Kristall Columbine

The nature of the Columbine flower to display at least two colors is one of its most impressive features, yet there are types of white flowers that are just as showy as the deepest of purple flowers in its range.

Amazingly, there are even more cultivars of all colors, shapes, and aromas to choose from apart from the dizzying list above that will be suitable for your backyard irrespective of where you live in the USDA Hardiness planting zones.

Common Pests of the Columbine Plant

Although their lifespan is quite brief, Columbines need very little care to keep them healthy, and seldom cause any issues in gardens as long as they get a few hours of sun and a few hours of shade. And water, of course.

Close up of a green sawfly perched on a green leaf.

(Image: Erik_Karits15)

While some hybrid varieties are vulnerable, the common pests of the Columbine Plant are usually limited to two specific insects that cause visible damage. Thankfully, these pests don’t typically pose a lethal threat to the plants.

1. Columbine Leafminers

They are endemic to North America but seldom seen by gardeners because of their tiny size and dark coloration, appearing more as specks of dust rather than invasive pests.

Phytomyza aquilegivora is the most common, the female fly depositing her eggs singly on the leaves in the spring, just around the time the plants begin to bloom.

The maggot-like larvae then bore into the leaf and eat the tissue that lies between the top and lower leaf surfaces.

After finishing its development as a larva, the insect emerges from the leaf by tunneling out of it and cutting a crescent-shaped hole in the leaf. Tell-tale signs are the disturbing serpentine tracks snaking all over the leaves.

A new crop of adults will appear in a few weeks and there may be up to three generations a year, with the third and final generation of leafminers falling to the ground where they will burrow into the ground and overwinter,5 ready to start anew next season.

2. Columbine Sawfly

The mature sawfly looks roughly the same size as a wasp but has no waist.

Its body is predominantly black, whereas its head and legs are marked with white and orange respectively.

In late spring, the females deposit eggs on the leaves, and by early summer, the green larvae with dark heads are munching away on the leaf margins. When they reach approximately half an inch in length, they begin eating them from the inside out, stopping only at the midvein.

When the larvae are ready to pupate, they descend off the leaves and spin brown, rectangular cocoons in the midst of the leaf litter, where they spend the next several weeks. In the upper Midwest, one generation occurs annually.

The larvae remain dormant until late spring, between the months of April and June, and when they emerge, they have the ability and the appetite to strip a Columbine Plant of its leaves, stalks, and all of its flower parts.

This level of defoliation may not be seen since these sawflies are minuscule, the same color as the leaves, and because they feed on the underside of the leaves throughout the day which makes them even harder to spot.

Columbines that have been entirely defoliated by their non-stop eating will still recover within a few weeks and, barring any further stresses will put forth a new flush of leaves fairly quickly.

Natural Pest Control for Columbine Plant

Vigilance is crucial in combating either leafminers or sawflies as treatment is not as effective if they have already burrowed themselves deep into the leaves or flowers.

To this end, and to avoid any severe damage to your plant, keep a close eye on them throughout the spring so you can identify any signs of infestation sooner rather than later.

For natural pest control for Columbine Plants, pay attention to black specks on the leaves that may appear to be dust but could be larvae.

If it’s not possible to physically remove the larvae with a quick shake, you may kill them with generous sprayings of insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Either will get the job done without any harmful effects to the plant, other beneficial insects,6 or the surrounding ecosystem.

How To Stop Columbine Plant Disease and Care for Columbine Flowers

To understand how to stop Columbine Plant disease, keep an eye out for signs of powdery mildew, gray mold, and wilt. The damage they cause is generally cosmetic but can stress the plant to a point that can affect its health.

The use of proper sanitation is the key to making sure the infections do not take a firm hold in the first place. This involves the avoidance of overhead watering where the leaves and flowers get soaked and can encourage the build-up of mold.

Focused shot of brown and withered Columbine plants, set against the background of large-petaled yellow flowers.

(Image: EME16)

To bring the situation under control, it is advisable to take out the dead flowers before the mold gets too bad and apply fungicides as soon as any symptoms appear.

Potassium bicarbonate, ultrafine oil, sulfur, triadimefon, and thiophanate-methyl fungicides are all substances approved for usage in many states.

Spacing is another tactic to use when initially planting to allow for enough air circulation between the plants as they grow to dry out any excess moisture and inhibit these types of infections.

Employing just these two simple procedures will help to avoid these two problems that, at their worst, may force you to completely uproot your plant. Which, for sure, is something you want to avoid like a nasty fungal infection.

Companion Plants for Growing Columbine Plants

Another method of keeping invasive pests and infectious diseases at bay is by adding companion plants for growing Columbine Plants that thrive in similar conditions.

Some of them will have natural defenses against the pests that love to eat the leaves of the Columbine Plant, some will attract certain types of bees and other pollinators, while others will just look good.

Remember that Columbines like the shade so choose the best flowers for shady areas.

Any one of the following will help to keep your garden pest-free, disease-free, and ugly-free:

  • Ferns
  • Phlox
  • Daylilies
  • Alliums Flower
  • Coral Bells Plant
  • Hostas Plant
  • Lungwort
  • Iris
  • Bluebells
  • Poppies
  • Salvias
  • Rhubarbs
  • Foxglove Plant

Put them in the ground near your Columbine Plant, and you will be amazed at the difference, the health of your plant, and the reduced amount of time you need to spend on it to maintain its good looks.

Columbine Plant Facts

Columbine Plant facts reveal that the Rocky Mountains and other areas in the United States are home to many types of Columbines that can grow wild along stream beds and in woodlands.

Close up of a Common Columbine plant, featuring its drooping purple blooms.

(Image: Hans17)

The soil may often have a high level of acidity containing few nutrients and little more than crushed granite,7 yet these delicate flowers are actually among the hardiest of native plants.

But did you know…

First and Best Growing Conditions for Columbine Plants

The first Columbines traveled from Asia to land in North America possibly as far back as 40,000 years ago and comfortably settled into their new home.

This historical context can offer insights into the best growing conditions for Columbine Plants.

Columbine Seeds

The Columbine seeds were traditionally utilized by Native Americans who seeped them in water to prepare drinks to relieve headaches.

But they can be toxic if too many are eaten.

Colorado Columbine

The Colorado Columbine is the state flower of Colorado.

It is actually illegal to pick one of these flowers in wild, natural spaces and the offender can face fines of $5 to $50.

Columbine Leaves

The Columbine leaves are poisonous and should never be consumed raw, but they can be boiled which eliminates the harmful substance to make it safe to drink.

Facts About the Columbine Plant

The flowers of this plant are nothing short of spectacular no matter where they are discovered, in the wild, or in the home.

Their beauty stems from the bi-color nature of most of the species, although some cultivars just have one single color. Even so, they are no less stunning as they sway on 2-foot stems surrounded by blue/green foliage in your garden on a sun-kissed day in the summer months.

Savvy gardeners have become wise to the short lifespan of the Columbine and use heated greenhouses or conservatories to bring them into bloom much sooner than in the great outdoors.

Nurseries are also prone to planting seeds in June or July and nurturing them through the winter in separate pots for extended displays and for use as temporary decorations.

Understand the options you have when choosing Columbine plant varieties, then pick the flowers that will look best for your location.

Frequently Asked Questions About Columbine Plant

Is Growing a Columbine Plant From a Cutting Easy?

Growing a Columbine Plant from a cutting involves more of a process than growing from seeds so is not the method of choice for most gardeners.

Where Can I Learn When To Plant Columbine Seeds?

When to plant Columbine seeds is best determined by aiming for early spring, which is the ideal time to begin sowing.

How Much Sunlight Does Columbine Plant Need Each Day?

A Columbine Plant requires about 3 to 6 hours a day ideally in the morning when the sun is not at its hottest. This answers the question “how much sunlight does Columbine Plant need each day?”

How Far Apart Do I Need To Plant Columbine Plant?

A distance of 1 to 2 feet is a sufficient distance to plant Columbines.

What Are the Watering Needs for Columbine Plants?

For optimal watering needs for Columbine Plants, aim to keep the soil consistently moist, watering when the topsoil is dry to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Apart from this minimal amount of care, Columbines are very low-maintenance plants.

Are Columbines Deer Resistant Shade Plants?

Columbines are considered deer resistant plants, and both deer and rabbits typically avoid them.

With a Flower Diagram, What Are the Four Main Parts of a Flower?

The four main parts of a flower are the petals, stamens, sepals, and carpels.

Can Columbines Be Grown Indoors or Kept Indoors?

When grown indoors there is a high chance that they will not bloom successfully. Caring for them in an indoor setting requires regular applications of diluted liquid nutritional solutions.


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10Photo by f_mad. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

11Photo by JJefferyDev. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

12Photo by Etienne-F59. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

13Photo by Gab-Rysia. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

14Photo by Inthepicture. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

15Photo by Erik_Karits. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

16Photo by EME. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

17Photo by Hans. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

18Wildflower Purple Columbine Bloom Photo by Janet Meyer (BldrJanet). (2017, August 4) / Pixabay Content License. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Pixabay. Retrieved February 23, 2024, from <>