How to grow Aquilegia

How to grow Aquilegia

The flower form resembles an eagle’s claw, hence the probable origin of this name from aquila the Latin for eagle (Ranunculaceae). Columbine. Hardy herbaceous perennials for the herbaceous border and rock garden. The flowers and leaves are very dainty. Unfortunately, they are inclined to be short lived in heavy wet soils, but they are easily increased by seed. The flowers appear in May and June in a wide range of colors from yellows and creams to blues and reds and purples. The garden hybrids have been raised from various species, e.g. the long-spurred hybrids from Aquilegia longissima. ‘Mrs. Scott Elliott’s’ is a well-known strain, and more recently, there are the McKana Giant hybrids, with larger flowers and long spurs.

How to grow Columbine
How to grow Columbine

Species cultivated

  • Aquilegia alpina, 1 foot, flowers blue, white center.
  • Aquilegia atrata, 9 inches, purple-red flowers.
  • Aquilegia bertolonii, 6 inches, flowers deep violet-blue.
  • Aquilegia caerule ,2-i feet, flowers pale blue and white; various named forms, such as ‘Blue King, `Crimson Star, candidissima (Snow Queen), pure white, cuprea (Copper Queen’) coppery, ‘Dragon Fly a dwarf strain in various colors. A. canadensis, 14 feet, pale yellow.
  • Aquilegia chrysantha, 2-4 feet, golden-yellow.
  • Aquilegia clematiflora hybrida, 11 feet, spurless flowers in pink and blue shades.
  • Aquilegia. discolor, 3 inches, blue and white flowers.
  • Aquilegia flabellata, 9 inches, white, tinged pink; var. nana alba, 6 inches, flowers white.
  • Aquilegia formosa, 1i feet, yellow or yellow and red flowers; var. truncata, smaller flowers.
  • Aquilegia fragrans, 14-2 feet, white or purple fragrant; needs a sunny sheltered position.
  • Aquilegia glandulosa,1 foot, lilac and white flowers.
  • Aquilegia helenae, 11 feet, blue and white.
  • Aquilegia longissima,2 feet, long-spurred yellow flowers.
  • Aquilegia skinneri, 2 feet, crimson flowers.
  • Aquilegia viridiflora, 9 inches, green and brown, fragrant.
  • Aquilegia vulgaris, the common columbine, 1-21 feet, various colors and forms, including the double flore pleno, sometimes known as Granny Bonnets.


The requirements are sun or partial shade and a loamy soil enriched with leaf mold and not too heavy or dry. Dwarf species, grown on the rock garden, need well-drained soil and full sun. Plants do well on chalky soils. Seed is sown in May or June in the open, in August in a frame or the plants may be divided in spring or autumn.


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