Aquilegia – Columbine, Perennials Guide to Planting Flowers

Aquilegia  - Columbine, Perennials Guide to Planting Flowers

The names of this flower are interesting to the garden lover with imagination. It is called Columbine, some say because the flowers appear like the cap of a court jester; others have suggested that the spurs of the flowers causing them to appear like a ring of doves (Colombo) about a dish. And its name Aquilegia, is it from aguilegus, to draw water, or from aquila, an eagle? Both derivations would be apt, for the Aquilegia appears to draw water from the rocks upon which it grows in the wild and the shape of the flower suggests the talons of an eagle.

Plant information

Canada Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). This is the common species native to the Eastern states. The flowers are red and yellow, and the spurs are medium short. Rocky Mountain Columbine (A. caerulea) isĀ a most beautiful sort which in its wild form has white petals and usually white sepals and long blue spurs. It is a native of the Western States and is found at elevations of from 7,000 to 10,000 feet. As a parent it has produced many excellent white, pink and blue varieties. The variety Rose Queen is one of the most charming sorts.

A. chrysantha is a yellow sort with long spurs which blooms somewhat later than the other sorts. It has been much used as a parent for long-spurred hybrids.

Common European Columbine (A. vulgaris). This is a European species with bright lilac flowers, although its white form nivea is most commonly grown. It is a dwarf sort, 1 1/2 feet, tall and with stout, curved spurs. This variety has the best foliage of any Columbine,

Where to plant Aqulleglas

Most species are excellent for the rock garden, as well as for the herbaceous border, where they make clumps sometimes 2 feet in diameter. It is difficult to arrange Columbines as cut flowers, they seem to strangle each other. When a truly exquisite effect is desired, cut a single truss of bloom and place it in a vase by itself.


Aqulleglas bloom in from 12 to 15 months from seed; in other words, they rarely or never bloom the first year when the seed is sown in the open border. When sown in August of one year they will bloom nicely the next year. The seedlings prefer warm, sandy soil.

The seed sometimes germinates irregularly but it is usually advisable to sow the seed shortly after it is ripe. The plants make little growth during the hot Summer from Spring-sown seed. Large plants may be divided in September.

It might be advisable for the amateur gardener to buy plants of the various sorts which, if planted together, will cross to form many hybrids. Most Columbines do well in the sun but will stand some shade.

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