How to grow Aquilegia common name Columbine

How to grow Aquilegia also know as Columbine

  Aquilegia are an easy to grow, spring flowering perennial. Aquilegia have very pretty, 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 which is why they are labelled green wheelbarrow indicating 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 mixes well with other plants and shrubs and are a reliable, easy to grow spring flowering plant. 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 or the small plants.  Once established Aquilegia do seed across  quite a lot although the small plants come away easily. In common with some Hellebores, their flower heads tend to hang down which can make it difficult to see the delicate beauty of the flower heads. Although the foliage on Aquilegia fades and dies back they are not a true herbaceous perennial, which dies back completely to bare earth in the winter. 

After flowering the foliage tends to  become 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 chose from and all Aquilegia flower from spring until early summer.

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

Where to plant Aquilegia

  Aquilegia are a versatile plant which can be grown in sun and 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 1 m. The less there is to say about a plant the easier the plant to grow; it's clear from this short description that Aquilegia is easy to grow,  and is 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. 

Aquilegia are a lovely spring plant as these images show. Aquilegia vulgaris is the wild species which is usually blue, illustrated above right.

Above in the center 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 to much of a problem.

Aquilegia flower from April to May depending on the variety.

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

Aquilegia plants 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.