ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Plant Spotlight: Columbine (Aquilegia)

Updated on May 28, 2015
LisaRoppolo profile image

Lisa is a writer and gardener with extensive knowledge of plants and plant care. Her articles focus on easy-care tips for home gardeners.

Columbine Origins

Native to North America this herbaceous perennial can be found in the wild in woodland areas, meadows and rocky areas. Closely related to baneberry and monkshood (both of which also grow in the same areas) there are 60 to 70 different species of Columbine that come in a wide range of colors, sizes and petal styles. Most petals are single, star-shaped with either 5 or 7 points. Some come in double-flowering varieties and others come with bonnet type flowers. All varieties have downward facing flowers or "nodding" flowers on clover-like leaves.

Columbine Giant in Pink
Columbine Giant in Pink | Source

Columbine Care and Growth Habits

These easy plants do well in Zones 3 through 9 and will grow to mature height from 12 inches to 20+ inches depending on the variety. All perform their best in partial shade, but can tolerate full sun if given adequate moisture. They are not fussy about soil PH, only that it must be well-draining. Once established, Columbine can tolerate drought conditions. It blooms in late spring and early summer.

One of the best features of this perennial is that it does not require any winter protection and if left to form seeds, will readily self-sow. If planted near a different variety, they will often cross-breed and produce interesting hybrids.

To start plants from seed, the best time to sow is in the fall for the following spring/summer season. The seeds need a cold period in order to germinate properly. If you are impatient and don't want to wait that long, you can find several varieties for sale at your local nursery or garden center. These plants are already on their second year of growth and will produce blooms for you.

They aren't plagued by many pests, but do occasionally attract leaf miners, which do minimal damage.

Columbine "William Guinness"
Columbine "William Guinness" | Source

Do you grow Columbines?

See results

Common Columbine Varieties

There are literally dozens of different types on the market today, it is hard to chose!

Here are some of the most popular and common:

  • McKanna's Giant: Large plants that can get above 20 inches tall with multi-colored blooms.
  • William Guinness: Single blooms of dark purple/maroon.
  • Black Barlow: Double blooms in maroon shades.
  • Colorado Blue: Cobalt blue single blooms.
  • Crimson Star: Bright red single blooms with white centers.
  • Wild Columbine: Red/Orange blooms found wild in woodland and meadow areas with an intense nodding habit on streamlined flowers.

Columbine "William Guinness"
Columbine "William Guinness" | Source

Garden Applications

  • Because it attracts pollinators, hummingbirds and butterflies, it fits in well in wild flower gardens or butterfly gardens.
  • It is a perfect compliment for a cottage-type garden with it's graceful, nodding habit.
  • Great in containers.
  • Perfect for rock gardens because of it's drought tolerance once established.
  • A great front-of-the-border plant for part-shade areas.
  • Good for planting along edges of walkways for people to enjoy it's unusual-looking blooms.

Medicinal Uses

I would not recommend ingesting this plant unless certain precautions are taken: use the petals or leaves only in moderation. Do not consume the seeds or roots due to the toxic nature of these parts.

Native Americans used the flowers in a salad-type application raw with other foraged greens. The flowers are supposedly very sweet tasting.

Giant Columbine in white
Giant Columbine in white | Source

Did You Know?

The Colorado Blue Columbine (sometimes also called the Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine) is the state flower of Colorado. It was made the official state flower in 1899, voted on by Colorado school children.

In 1925, laws were passed in Colorado banning harvesting the plants in the wild, on public lands and without permission from property owners on private lands.

The Columbine has a Rich Mythology

When researching this plant to create this article, I had no idea of the rich and interesting mythology surrounding this plant.

In Greek and Roman culture, Columbines were the symbol of the goddess Aphrodite (Venus in Roman culture). Aphrodite was the goddess of love and fertility. It is thought the reason behind assigning this flower to her is because of the phallic-like properties of the wild flowers.

In Norse culture, Columbines were associated with the goddess Freya, who is the Norse goddess of love and fertility. One can conclude probably for the same reasons the Greeks and Romans assigned this plant to Aphrodite.

In Celtic culture, the flowers were supposed to open doorways to other worlds (probably due to the toxic effects of the seeds and roots if ingested!).

Early Christians used Columbine to symbolize and praise the Holy Spirit. The numbers 5 and 7 are strong symbolic numbers in Christianity and the petals of the 5 pointed Columbine flowers are reminiscent to 5 nesting doves. The English name Columbine means little-dove or dove-like, which reinforce this Christian symbolism.

Wild Columbine
Wild Columbine | Source
Giant white Columbine in my part-shade border
Giant white Columbine in my part-shade border | Source

Columbine Recap

This unique little flower is often over-looked by many, but is super easy to grow and care for. It makes a great plant for part-shade applications and come in a wide variety of colors, bringing some much needed hues to shady spots. It performs well in drought conditions once established and looks stunning in rock gardens. I highly recommend trying this plant out in your home garden.

Was this article useful?

See results

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)