How To Plant, Grow, And Care For Columbine Flowers

The perennial columbine (Aquilegia) blooms from mid-spring to early summer. Here’s how to plant and grow columbine flowers in your garden!

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!


Columbine grows 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. See local frost dates.

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


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.


Columbine’s Latin name, Aquilegia, is derived from the Latin word for eagle, aquila. The long spurs that extend behind the flower petals resemble the claws of an eagle.

Native Americans used the crushed seeds as a love charm and for medicinal purposes.

The crushed roots and seeds were once used to treat headaches, heart problems, and sore throats.