Perennial Overview: Columbine


Discover how to grow Columbine with instructions on starting seed, transplanting, site selection, care and maintenance, water and fertilization requirements, pests and disease, and harvesting and storage.

Columbine Stats at a Glance

Botanical Name: Aquilegia x hybrida

Height: 1.5-3 feet

Soil Conditions:  Well-drained, fertile, moist soil

Sun: Partial shade

Soil pH Conditions: 6.8-7.2

Planting Instructions

Can I Start Columbine from Seed?

To start indoors, fill individual peat pots with a fertile commercial soil starter and moisten.  Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the soil. Press them lightly into the soil to ensure contact with growing medium. Will germinate best if the seed trays are refrigerated for 3-4 weeks.  Move flats outdoors in a shady, well-protected spot.


Seedlings can be transplanted when they are at least 2” high.


Seeds can be directly sown into the garden in the spring in Northern climates and in the fall in Southern climates.


Time to Germination: 22-30 days
Light/Darkness Requirements:
Optimal Temp. for Germination: 40°F


Plants can be propagated by seed, division, and separation.   Divide in the spring. Columbine does not like to be disturbed and may take time to recuperate.


When Do I Plant Columbine?

Columbine should not be planted until after the last frost and the soil has reached at least 65°F.  You can hasten the warming of the soil with black plastic mulch.

Soil Temperature: 65°F


Where Do I Plant Columbine?

Columbine plants perform best in fertile, moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter but will grow in nearly any good garden soil that is well-drained. Incorporating several inches of organic matter into the soil when preparing the bed will improve growth and development.

Performs best in partial shade but will tolerate full sun in locations with cooler summers.

Soil Type: Well-drained, moist
Sun Exposure: Partial shade
Soil pH: 6.8-7.2


How Far Apart Do I Plant Columbine?

Space plants 10” apart.

Columbine Plant Care and Maintenance

Once established, most perennials require very little routine care and maintenance.

How Often Should I Water Columbine?

For many perennials, average rainfall is sufficient to keep the plants healthy.  Supplementation may be necessary in droughty conditions.

The key to watering Columbine is to maintain a consistent moisture level.  This is especially important during flower and fruit development. The soil should be moist to a depth of 6”.  Allowing the soil to dry out between watering will result in a shallow root system.

Water the soil around the plant. Overhead watering will encourage disease.  Drip irrigation is best.

Mulch around the plant will help to lock in moisture.


Should I Fertilize Columbine?

Most perennials do not require a specific fertilization regiment.  Fertilizing decisions should be based on a soil test.  If a soil test cannot be obtained and you feel that your perennial bed would benefit from fertilization, keep it light.  Work in a small amount of a low nitrogen fertilizer, such as 5-10-5 around the plants in the early spring and once or twice at six-week intervals.

Fertilize the soil around the plant at least 6” from the plant base. Irrigate into the soil.


Additional Care Instructions

Deadhead spent flowers to discourage self-seeding and to encourage continual blooming.

Columbine Diseases

The most common diseases associated with this plant include asochyta leaf spot, powdery mildew, rust, septoria leaf spot, and Southern blight.

Columbine Pests

The most common pests associated with this plant include aphids, caterpillars, leafminers, and stemborers.


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