May 10, 2022
As perennial garden beds begin to wake up and glow with early season color, spring bloomers are a sure sign that spring is here, and summer is not far behind. A staple spring appearance in any shadier perennial bed is Aquilegia (a-kwi-LEE-jee-a), or Columbine, a showy bloomer with complex flowers of many shapes and colors. There are numerous species and cultivars of Aquilegia, native to many areas of Europe and North America, including Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern Red Columbine, native to eastern North America including right here in Minnesota.
With delicate, lacy green foliage emerging early in the year, Aquilegia, of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, grow anywhere from six inches up to three feet round when blooming depending on variety. Columbine will tolerate full sun but prefers rich, moist, well-drained soils in areas where plants receive morning light and are shaded from hot afternoon sun. Columbine are excellent plants for areas with abundant wildlife, as they are both deer and rabbit tolerant, while attracting scores of hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees to their complex blooms. Flowering from mid-April to early May in numerous shapes and structures, as single or double, short-spurred or spurless flowers, Columbine is available in a myriad of colors including the soft blue and white of ‘Kirigami Blue and White,’ the striking red of ‘Winky Red and White,’ and the cheerful yellow of ‘Kirigami Yellow’ Columbine.
Over time, Columbine will gently spread in the garden by seed. To avoid spread, remove blooms after flowering to maintain tidy plantings, or allow seedheads to remain and develop a healthy stand of Aquilegia. Columbine is a wonderful hardy plant sure to spruce up any cottage garden, woodland garden, or perennial border.