How to Grow Aquilegia common name Columbine

Aquilegia are an easy to grow, spring flowering perennial whose common name is Columbine.  Aquilegia have delicate, nodding flowers which can be single, as illustrated far left A. vulgaris, double illustrated center A. 'Nora Barlow' and multi coloured illustrated right with Aquilegia 'Swan Lavender' a real favourite. 

 Aquilegia require very little attention and are not fussy about their growing conditions making them a green wheelbarrow plant indicating they are easy to grow. Aquilegia have attractive leaves at the base of the plant, with a long stem supporting delicate flowers as shown in the images. The image far left shows the Aquilegia 'Swan lavender' with variegated Euonymus, and a deciduous yellow rhododendron, R luteum (which is one of the few scented Rhododendrons,) which makes a lovely spring combination which is bright and yellow. 

 Aquilegia tend to self seed a lot, and if you do not want them popping up where they were not planted, (or wanted,) it's best either to remove the seed heads.  In common with some Hellebores, the flower heads tend to hang down which can make it difficult to see the delicate beauty of the flowers. Although the foliage on Aquilegia fades and dies back, they are not a true herbaceous perennial, as they do not die back completely to bare earth in the winter. 

After flowering the foliage becomes pale and is best cut off and the plant will grow fresh foliage in late summer /autumn. One advantage of Aquilegia is they flower reliably year after year. Aquilegia vary in size on average they grow to around 60-70 cms, which suggests when growing Aquilegia they are best placed in the middle of the border in terms of height.

The foliage of Aquilegia is attractive, with delicate leaves, illustrated below right.

There is a scented variety called Aquilegia 'fragrans' which has white /cream flowers. There are many varieties to choose from and all Aquilegia flower from flower from April to May depending on the variety.

If Aquilegia is not the plant for you check out summer flowering plantsspring flowering plantsscented plants and climbing plants for more ideas.

How and Where to plant Aquilegia

Aquilegia are a versatile plant which can be grown in sun or semi shade and grow best in a light soil, but this is by no means essential. There is little to be noted by way of growing conditions, as Aquilegia is an unfussy plant.  Most varieties commonly sold grow from between 30cms to 1m. The less there is to say about a plant the easier the plant to grow; which means from this short description that Aquilegia is easy to grow,  and a reliable garden plant flowering year after year. All varieties are fully hardy between H5- H7 which is hardy down to around -15 which covers most of the UK. 

You can grow Aquilegia from seed, and they do freely self seed. To grow from seed sow into trays or small pots in an unheated greenhouse from late winter onward and leave to germinate. Like all seeds once they have germinated they need to be thinned out and re planted into small pots. 

Aquilegia can be planted any time during the growing season from late February through to November and they will establish themselves. Aquilegia are tough plants requiring little attention.  They require no pruning although around June on wards the foliage can look untidy. Cutting it back will tidy up the plant and the plant will soon produce new foliage. 

Aquilegia are very pretty and the various images on this page illustrate just a few of the many types and colours. 

Aquilegia vulgaris is the wild species which is usually blue, illustrated above right.

Above in the centre image is one of the double flower varieties, this is A. 'Nora Barlow' these types are also known as 'granny's bonnet' and are one of the shorter lived varieties, although its preponderance to self seed means this is not too much of a problem.

Green wheelbarrow means easy to grow

Green wheelbarrow indicates that Aquilegia are easy to grow and maintenance free.

Aquilegia with pretty pink flowers

Aquilegia with pretty pink flowers

Aquilegia alpina

Aquilegia alpina

Aquilegia has attractive foliage

Aquilegia vulgaris plena

Aquilegia vulgaris plena

Aquilegia swan red and white

Aquilegia swan red and white

Aquilegia caerulea 'Blue Star'

Aquilegia caerulea 'Blue Star'

Key Points To Growing Aquilegia

Height Up to 30cms - 1m

Growing conditions tolerant of most conditions 

including semi shade/sun

Low maintenance easy to grow

Cottage garden plant

Flowering time spring and early summer