Columbine, Aquilegia species and hybrids

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If it faces up rather than hangs down, it's a western columbine species or a hybrid. 

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A potpourri (below) of columbine/Aquilegia species information as a supplement to other articles.

It's a plant-based page rather than our usual topic-based page. It's a pivot point, one list of links to ours and others' articles that involve columbine/ Aquilegia species.





Many forms, colors and hybrids

Eastern columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) has down-facing flowers of red-orange and yellow. Other species' flowers face up and occur in a broader color range. Hybrids between the eastern columbine and blue Rocky Mountain columbine (A. saximontana) or soft yellow golden columbine  (A. chrysantha) produce up-facing flowers of many colors and bi-colors.

It's fun to grow a variety of columbine species but almost impossible to keep the collection stable  because the species interbreed freely. Just when you become attached to a drift of white-blooming hybrids you can be sure that self-sown yellow- or red-flowered seedlings will begin to usurp that spot.

Magnets for both desirable and pesty wildlife

Hummingbirds love every kind of columbine. So do columbine sawflies, insects that devour the leaves as bloom season ends, and columbine leaf miner, insects that feed within the leaf, disfiguring it with their serpentine tracks. Eastern columbine has some resistance to the sawfly.

Germination controversy

Most of the growers we've talked to and our own experience has been that columbine sprout readily only after having been kept for about 60 days where it's cool and moist -- 40°F or less, such as wrapped in moist toweling and plastic in the refrigerator, in moist potting mix in the 'fridge or outdoors, or on the ground over winter. Yet two growers say they are very easy to grow without special handling so we're going to re-try.

The discrepancy in experiences may rest with the type of seed used and how soon after ripening it was sown. Seed Germination Theory and Practice (Norman Deno, State College, PA) states that eastern columbine seed may lose its germination inhibition if stored dry and warm for a year before sowing.

If you plant columbine without any cold treatment, will you please email and tell us the result and your seed source? We will revise our easy-from-seed list as necessary.

Read more about columbine (Aquilegia):

     In dry shade: Choosing shady plants  and What's Coming Up 110 
Pairing with plants of more enduring appearance, Design a perennial bed
Process and species to design a rain garden, Use all the water

     Corn borer a pest: Growing Concerns 689
     Cut back hard after bloom:
            Erase and space
What's Coming Up 97, pg. 9
            Growing Concerns 620
      Dividing columbine: What's Coming Up 38, page 5
      Leaf miner control: Clip columbine, undermine miner 


Right: Pests such as this columbine sawfly are easy to see when they're on the flower.  However, most pests know better than to spend time out in the open or where they can be quickly spotted by hungry birds.  Look for them on the leaves, where their color blends perfectly.

      Cold treatment for columbine seed: Growing Concerns 756          


We're just introducing this set of perennial info pages. This page is in process but  we hope you'll take a look  and comment. Let us know if the format is useful, or share your suggestions, or tell us we shouldn't have this page at all... anything helps.


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