Growing Columbines

The perennial columbine (Aquilegia) blooms from mid-spring to early summer.

Columbines, also known as Granny’s Bonnet, are known for their bell-shaped, spurred flowers, which range in color from light pastels to bright reds, yellows, oranges, purples, and bi-colors. There are over 70 species!

The leaves have a lacy appearance. While they look delicate, columbine are very hardy and resilient—being deer-resistant and drought-tolerant.

The flowers are very attractive to butterflies, bees, moths, and hummingbirds!

Sow columbine seeds directly into the ground in the spring. Allow the plant to self-seed and it will produce many volunteer seedlings!


  • Columbines grow in sun or light shade.
  • Sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost or direct sow into prepared beds with rich, well-drained soil after the last spring frost.
  • Press the flower seed into the soil, but do not cover with soil.
  • Thin to the strongest plants.
  • If planting a container plant, dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in.
  • Place the plant in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.
  • Fill in around the plant and firm the soil gently.
  • Space mature plants 1 to 2 feet apart, depending on the variety.
  • Water thoroughly.


  • Do not overwater.
  • Deadhead faded flowers and new buds will develop along the stems. The bloom season can be extended by as long as six weeks into mid summer.
  • Cut back foliage to the ground in the fall.
  • When the ground is frozen, mulch to protect plants


  • Powdery mildew
  • Leaf miner

Recommended Varieties

  • Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) – Has unique, elongated hollow tubes inside the flower that point upwards. Native to North America.
    • ‘Corbett’ is a dwarf variety with yellow flowers.
    • ‘Little Lanterns’ is about 10 inches tall with blue-green foliage.
  • European columbine (A. vulgaris) ‘William Guiness’ – Stunning deep purple-black outer petals with white-rimmed inner petals.
  • The Swan series includes many improved bi-color hybrids:
    • ‘Swan Pink and Yellow’ –  Soft pink outer petals with pastel yellow inner petals.
    • ‘Swan Red and White’ –  Red outer petals with white inner petals.