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02/07/2012 in gardening, shade garden, Spring Garden

columbine sending up bloomstalk

As I’m seeing the columbines beginning to send up bloom stalks, I believe the time has come for a comprehensive post.

I first posted many of these pics at the myspace shade group, they took down the forum posts last year, I need to put this information back up.

Columbine is a great plant for the edge of the forest.columbine seedbed

Light requirement

Columbine do need some sun… Plant in part sun to part shade in GA, in northern states, columbine has better tolerance for sunlight, and may thrive in a sunny location.


Columbine do best planted from fresh seed…. meaning collect when ripe & replant immediately.

I’ve found that in my area, columbine do not self-sow worth shucks. I need to sow the seed in a seed bed similar to carrots…. Sow the seeds on top of the soil
I spoke to someone about sowing columbine seed recently, who couldn’t understand why her seeds weren’t coming up… turned out that she was giving them a good Christian burial…
blue columbine

Bloom time

Columbine bloom the next spring after a summer sowing in Georgia.
They are a short lived perennial, living 3 to 7 years, but their ease of propagation, make them well worth planting.

Set columbines out before blooming…. In the autumn when the columbine plants are large enough to handle, or in the spring before blooms open. Survive-ability dramatically declines after the blooms open.

This includes container-grown columbines… Which typically die after being decanted from those pots… It may take a month or two… My experience is that nursery-grown plants don’t usually survive being planted in the garden.

columbine bed

Localities found

Columbine can be found growing wild all over the continental US, and over much of Europe and Asia. This has led to a ton of cultivars as they love to cross with each other.

If columbines haven’t done well in the garden at your house, it may be time to plant a local variety. In Texas, there is big yellow flowering plant, and we all remember the Columbine school named after the blue flower growing in the Colorado mountains. On the Eastern side of the country, there’s a dainty pink variety (red and yellow)…

After planting a local columbine, the other nursery columbines will cross into the local population, and retain some of the previous characteristics while gaining the ability to survive in the existing climate.

I posted about landrace cultivars recently, which discusses developing locally hardy plants.

water requirements

I have a population of columbines that were grown without a drop of water in my droughty Jeffersonville Georgia garden over a number of generations, and when I carried the seeds to another garden in Macon GA, the seeds from the earliest bloomers were selected over a number of generations… Leading to drought hardy early blooms… in theory.

Last year was as dry as it’s been yet, after a number of increasingly dry years. In my new sand-hill garden, the vegetables all died, but the columbines weren’t bothered… I may be on to something.

lotsa colours of columbines

Spreading some mulch can be helpful in controlling weeds, and helping the soil to retain moisture.

mulching the columbine

Cultural difficulties

After columbine bloom, the foliage gets ratty…

Nothing you can do, summer is when columbine send up new leaves. I’ve found that while columbine is relatively pest proof most of the year, the new leaves are attractive to the local predating deer. Don’t allow them to graze the columbines! The deer will kill them!

An egg in a blender full of water will usually suffice to keep the deer off the columbine. I use a watering can to sprinkle the mixture over the leaves. I’ve seen a loop of poultry netting over the columbines used with success, the drawback is having to live with the wire…

Speaking of wire…
When attempting to grow from seed in a yard plagued by squirrels, and worse, armadillos, a bit of chicken wire stretched over the seed bed can be just the thing…

chicken wire over bed

I’m partial to columbine, and after growing these easy ferny March-bloomers, I’m sure that you will be hooked as well.

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7 responses to Columbines

  1. The columbines I saw growing at Ichauway Plantation were red. Native, they said.

  2. stone said on 02/07/2012

    Ok… red & yellow (Aquilegia canadensis) I see them as pink, but I added the correction…

    Here’s a picture from last year

    eastern columbine

  3. Columbine is my favorite flower! Mine always reseed themselves along the mulch path of my front garden. Some years I have more than others, but I have never been without them, though I have never purchased a plant or planted a seed. The lady who built my house 60 years ago planted a few, and their offspring were waiting for me thirty five years later. Mine are always pink or blue, sometimes double with frilly white edged skirts. I haven’t planted new cultivars, because I like these so much I don’t want other types to mingle and produce a different type of offspring. But yours are so charming, perhaps I will plant some in another area.

  4. P.S. You had asked me what camera I used for shooting the Coopers Hawk. I use a Panasonic DMC FZ40, a kind of hybrid between point and shoot and SLR. However, the hawk was less than 20 feet from me on a lower branch of a dogwood tree, so it wasn’t a hard shoot to make!

    • stone said on 02/11/2012

      That’s a very impressive shot. my little point n shoot takes terrible bird pictures, the cat doesn’t help…
      I did finally get the cranefly orchid posted.

  5. I’m glad to learn what I have been doing wrong — the good Christian burial. Loved the pic of your cat over on the Tumblr blog. Big Foot is still coming around.

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