Thoughts About Wild Columbine

The Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is at its peak in our garden right now. Judy took some pictures on Sunday that are much better than the ones I took and used in my Bloom Day post. So mostly I just wanted an excuse to show Judy’s Columbine pictures.


I do have some thoughts on the subject, though. A nursery catalog I used to read obsessively claimed that Columbine are like candy, you can never have too many. While my primary care physician would frown on the implication that one can’t have too much candy, I don’t think he would object to a greed for Columbine.

DSC_0086The dangling flowers put me in mind of red and yellow chandeliers. They are just too dang beautiful.

DSC_0015They also have minds of their own. We have plenty of Wild Columbine, just not in any of the spots where I planted them. Wild Columbine will pick their own places to live, thank you very much, through self-sowing. They seem to like a lot of moisture, having colonized a spot in front of a downspout where other plants have not had the desire or ability to settle in. They do not like competition from taller plants, however.

DSC_0089They do luxuriate in rich soil, growing well over 3′ in our garden. Reportedly, though, they are more compact and live longer in thin, sandy soils. On the other hand, being short lived isn’t such a problem given their propensity to self-sow.

DSC_0092Wild Columbine is a good wildlife plant. The flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. The seeds are eaten by finches and buntings.

During our honeymoon, Judy and I camped in a place called Columbine Canyon in northern New Mexico. We saw lots of Columbines growing along a mountain stream near our campsite. They looked like A. canadensis, even though its range is not supposed to extend to New Mexico. Maybe it was just a very similar species – there are many Columbines native to North America. In any case, this could be another reason why I am so fond of this charming wildflower.


40 Comments on “Thoughts About Wild Columbine

  1. A very charming flower, and I am particularly fond of red and yellow.

  2. I have a potted columbine, light blue. I want to plant in soil. Where do I plant it , shaded or full sun ? Where I live, temperature can go up to 110F. Today, it was 100 F.

    • Could be a species of Columbine I’m not familiar with. The species I grow would shrivel up and die in 110F. There are a couple of blue species, I think. I’d definitely plant yours in moist soil in shade.

  3. Lovely photos of the columbine, especially the first one. I love columbines and have just replanted some today, but I agree with you, they always know where they want to go in the garden, and will make their way despite my plans!

  4. I also love columbine and I find that the wild grow much better than the fussy cultivars sold in the nurseries. They are now showing up in the back garden having made quite the trip from the front area. I am letting them have their way since they are just so pretty. Thanks for sharing Judy’s pics.

  5. Yes, all you have to do is drop a few seeds into an area and off they will romp. So beautiful and the harbingers of the returning hummingbirds that love them. Judy, you got some beautiful shots here.

  6. Such a lovely story about columbines and why they are so special to you. I love them, but like so many other plants, they will not grow at the little house in the big woods.

    • That’s too bad, but your part of the world has so many other delights to offer. Would I trade Wild Columbine for fresh lobster rolls? Hmm…

      • Others in Maine don’t have to choose between columbines and lobster rolls. It’s this yard—dry shade, part sun-part shade at best, sun in the afternoon. Makes it difficult to grow anything, but I persevere 😉

  7. I have a few–they’re done for the year and seeding out–but your show is magnificent. Kudos on the photos, they’re fabulous!

  8. I’m fond of columbines myself. I initially started with three and am down to one, but have ordered another. My hope is seeds from the current columbine will come up next year. Yours are lovely, but I’ve never seen a columbine that wasn’t pretty.

  9. Beautiful photos. My wild columbine is back (!) and lovely this year. It never seems to completely disappear but has never taken over like it did I-forget-now-how-many-years ago, I’m always looking for it in the spring. That sounds like the perfect honeymoon. 🙂

  10. There is something magical about columbine flowers…it think it is because fairies use them for dresses : )

  11. I’m with you – the more columbine, the merrier! Mine is rather tall and spindly but it plays well with others despite its self-sowing habit.

  12. I love your Columbines and am so envious! I have lots of pink and purple aquilegia, but I haven’t managed to get these red ones to grow for me. Beautiful photos Judy!

  13. GREAT POST! A good friend’s mother has quite a few of these and I have been tempted… SO, if I put them where they don’t like they will move? I have other plants that do that. At first I would move them back where they belonged, but then I started just making the beds bigger. OH, that is a good subject for a new post!

  14. Hello, Gardening Friends. Always enjoy reading your thoughtful insights and musings.

  15. Kudos to Judy on the beautiful photos. I absolutely love the colors and delicacy of wild columbines. It doesn’t hurt that the foliage is lovely too.

  16. Wonderful images of the columbine, Jason! I love these plants, you are right, they prefer to place themselves. Great native plant for pollinators too – win win.

  17. I guess I never realized my columbine is wild. Love these pics! I have no problem with purple and my newest pinks, you have some lovely reds!

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