Discover the many different types of Columbine flowers and why both gardeners and birdwatchers love these short-lived yet colorful and prolific herbaceous perennials.
The scientific name of Columbine flowers is Aquilegia. They belong to the buttercup family, falling under the genus that consists of about 60 to 70 species. They are herbaceous perennials that are found in woodlands, meadows, and in regions at higher altitudes all over the Northern Hemisphere.
The word Aquilegia is derived from a Latin word aquilia which means eagle. These plants are named so because of their flower petals which resemble an eagle’s claw. The petals of Columbine flowers are spurred, which is the major characteristic that sets Columbine flowers apart. Columbine, which is the common name, is derived from the Latin word for ‘dove.’ They are called so because an inverted Columbine flower resembles a cluster of 5 doves.
Columbine flowers are highly effective in attracting hummingbirds that make them a favorite of birdwatchers. They have beautiful, bell-shaped flowers that make them excellent garden flowers. Columbine flowers bloom from mid-spring till early-summer. Columbine plants are short-lived, living up to 2 to 3 years only. However, these plants produce seeds prolifically and often persist in gardens.
There are numerous types of Columbine. A number of colorful hybrids have been developed as well. The colors of Columbine flowers range from light pastel to bright red and orange to yellow and purple. The foliage of Columbine plants has a lacey appearance, making them a very attractive plant type for the garden.
Types of Columbine Flowers
Many types of Columbine flowers are found. It won’t be an exaggeration if we tell you that Columbine flowers are found in almost all colors! The most common types of Columbine flowers have been listed down for you.
1. Aquilegia alpine
Aquilegia alpine is commonly known as Alpine Columbine. It is native to mountain slopes of the Alps and high meadows of Europe. They are compact species of Columbine, with bright violet-blue colored flowers that are bonnet-shaped. The nodding flowers rise on slender stems. The foliage of Alpine Columbine is blue-green in color. Alpine Columbine is a great option if you want to add some color to your garden.
Alpine Columbine blooms for 4 to 6 weeks from late spring till early summer and might re-bloom when fall settles.
These plants have a bushy, upright habit of growth. They can grow to a height of 18 to 24 inches. They are short-lived. They form large colonies in growing seasons, owing to their prolific self-seeding characteristic.
Alpine Columbine grows best in well-drained soil, having average to medium moisture. They require rich soils. They also need full sun to part shade for best growth. They cannot survive in dry or poorly-drained soils. They are easy to grow. They can be grown from seed in spring after the risk of the last frost has passed. Alpine Columbine attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. They are susceptible to leaf miner.
They are great for cottage gardens, flower borders, flower beds, neutralized areas, and shade gardens.
2. Aquilegia atrata
The common name of Aquilegia atrata is Dark Columbine. The word Atrata has been derived from a Latin word that means dingy or blackened. The reason why this plant has been named so is because of its flowers that are dark purple to black, with dominant yellow-colored stamens.
It is beautiful flowering species native to forest clearings and alpine meadows of Switzerland and Northern Europe. It has numerous branching stems. It is one of the most highly sought Columbine flower species that behaves as a showstopper in spring gardens because of its deepest colored flowers.
Each stem carries up to 10 flowers. These plants grow to a height of about 24 inches, above the rosette of crow’s-foot leaves.
They require rich soil for optimum growth. The soil should be humusy. It needs full sun or part shade for best growth. It is winter hardy (-30oC). They are draught-resistant. They self-seed and grow prolifically when the soil conditions are satisfactory.
They are a great choice for cottage gardens, garden borders, and beds.
3. Aquilegia caerulea
More commonly known as Rocky Mountain Columbine, Aquilegia caerulea is native to New Mexico and Arizona. It is known for its two-colored flowers which are star-like. The petals are creamy-white and sepals and spurs are violet-blue, with yellow-colored busy stamens. The three colors in one flower make Rocky Mountain Columbine flowers irresistible.
Like other types of Columbine flowers, Rocky Mountain Columbine blooms from late spring to early summer. As they self-seed, they grow prolifically in suitable conditions.
Rocky Mountain Columbine has an upright, bushy habit. They grow up to a height of about 24 inches. They prefer growing in full sun or part shade, in areas that have rich soil. The soil should be well-drained and moist for optimum growth.
These beautiful types of Columbine flowers make beautiful garden borders, beds, cottage gardens, rock gardens, and look great in plant containers for windows. Moreover, they perform well as cut flowers and can survive for up to 2 weeks in a vase.
4. Aquilegia vulgaris
Aquilegia Vulgaris or Granny’s Bonnet is one of the most popular types of Columbine flowers. This species is native to Europe. These perennial plants are bushy and clump-forming. They are extremely attractive, having violet, pink, white, or blue flowers. With short-hooked spurs and spreading sepals, the Granny’s Bonnet is sure one of the most loved types of Columbine flowers. The leaves of these plants are gray-green in color and round in shape and are divided into lobed leaflets.
The growing season for Aquilegia Vulgaris is the same as the other types of Columbine plants, that is, from late spring to early summer.
Numerous cultivars of Aquilegia vulgaris have been developed (the Barlow series) whose colors include white, pink, red, violet, and blue. The flowers may be single or double and usually either short-spurred or spurless.
They grow in an upright habit up to a height of 16 to 20 inches. Like other Columbine varieties, they too are self-seeding and short-lived. They grow best in full sun or part shade, where the soil is well-drained, has average to medium moisture and is rich.
As they are very attractive and easy to grow, they make great garden borders, garden beds, cottage and rock gardens, and shade gardens. They are also excellent cut flowers.
Numerous cultivars of Aquilegia vulgaris have been developed which are quite successful. Some of them are:
- Black Barlow (having the darkest blooms)
- Clementine Rose (pink-colored, double flowers)
- Clementine Salmon Rose (Salmon colored flowers)
- Magpie (bicolored flowers, white and dark purple in color)
- Leprechaun (gold and green variegated leaves)
5. Aquilegia McKana
Aquilegia McKana is one of the prettiest types of Columbine flowers because of their large flowers. The flowers of Aquilegia McKana are nodding and brightly colored, sometimes bicolored, and have longspurs. They are found in many colors including red and yellow, blue and white, and different combinations of purple and pinks.
They have lovely foliage that is fern-like. Their blooming season is from late spring to early summer. These perennials have an upright habit of growth. Like all other Columbine species, they too are short-lived, and self-seeding.the growth requirements are similar too, which are full sun or part shade, well-drained, moderately moist, rich soil. They are susceptible to leaf miner.
They are low maintenance plants that make breathtakingly beautiful garden borders, beds, cottage, and shade gardens.
6. Aquilegia canadensis
One of the most common types of Columbine plant is Aquilegia Canadensis, commonly known as the Red Columbine. It has been named based on its flowers. They are a native plant of rocky slopes and woodlands of Eastern North America. Red Columbine flowers, as the name indicates, are red in color with yellow stamens. They are nodding, with spurred petals that are upwards, and colored sepals (alternating with spreading). The leaves are compound. Not only are the flowers attractive, but the leaves of Red Columbine are also very attractive.
Red Columbine is heat and cold tolerant species. They require full sun or part shade, with well-drained soil. They perform best in an alkaline pH (6.8 to 7.2). They prefer sandy loam, medium loam, sandy, and limestone-based soil types. They don’t require soil that is too rich.
Their attractive flowers make them a good addition to gardens. They can even be planted in pots!
7. Aquilegia x hybrid
Aquilegia x hybrid is known for its showy, spurred blooms. Their foliage is fern-like. The flowers are found in many different colors including pink, white, red, blue, yellow, and violet. The flowers bloom from mid-spring till early summer.
These clump-forming perennial plants grow to a height of up to 3 feet. The fern-like foliage is gray-green to blue-green. The flower stalks have upright spikes and stalks with flowers hang downwards.
They require full sun to part shade for growth like most of the other Columbine species. They require constant moisture. However, the plant would die if the soil becomes waterlogged. The soil should be well-drained and rich. They grow aggressively owing to their self-seed character.
They are excellent cut flowers and make great dried flowers for ornamental purposes.
8. Aquilegia flabellata
The common name of Aquilegia flabellata is Dwarf Columbine or Fan Columbine. They are native to Japan and Korea (Eastern Asia). This is a dwarf species that grows up to 8 to 12 inches tall. Dwarf Columbine flowers are blue-violet or pale blue in color, with petals in a creamy-white shade. The leaves are divided and slightly glaucous.
Unlike other types of Columbine plants that were discussed above, the Dwarf Columbine is a slow-growing variety. The flowers bloom from April till July. They grow best in areas that are either full sun or semi-shaded regions as in light woodland. They prefer soil type that is light sandy, medium loamy, and well-drained and moist. They can grow in acidic, alkaline, and neutral pH.
Their compact shape makes them a suitable option for rock gardens. They make lovely garden borders, cottage, and open shade gardens. Blue Angel is one of the most popular varieties of Aquilegia flabellata.
9. Aquilegia chrysantha
Aquilegia chrysantha is commonly known as the Golden Columbine. It is native to the southwestern regions of the United States (from Utah to Texas) and northwestern Mexico.
The flowers of the Golden Columbine have five yellow sepals that are pointed and five yellow petals having long spurs that project backward. The flower has yellow-colored stamens in the center. They are bushy perennial plants that grow to a height of about 3 feet. The flowers are held erect on fairly long stalks. The leaves are often found divided into three and sometimes in two parts.
Like other types of Columbine varieties, they grow in full sun or part shade. They require a well-drained, moist, and rich soil.
Out of all the varieties of the Golden Columbine, Yellow Queen is the most famous type. These Columbine flowers are more bright yellow than others in this group. Because of this reason, they are planted in gardens to make the gardens look more beautiful. they are a good option for cottage and open shade gardens and garden borders.
10. Aquilegia pubescens
Aquilegia pubsecens is commonly known as the Sierra columbine. It is native to Sierra Nevada Mountains, hence named after it. The flowers of this type of Columbine are erect, with cream-yellow to pink colored sepals. The blades are cream-yellow. The spurs are yellow, cream, or pink in color. The stamens are so long that they extend beyond the flower blades. The leaves are glabrous and sometimes pilose.
The soil requirements for Sierra columbine are similar to the rest of its fellow in the group. The soil should be well-drained, moist, and rich. They prefer growing in regions that receive full sun or are part shaded.
Taking Care of Columbine Flowers
Most of Columbine varieties are low-maintenance but like all other plants, they wouldn’t perform well without adequate care. Here’s what you can do to care for your Columbine flowers:
- Since the blooming season for Columbine flowers starts from spring, the soil should be treated with adequate fertilizers (or plant food) and should be re-applied when new growth appears.
- Faded blossoms should be deadheaded to stimulate the second phase of blooming.
- The soil has to be kept moist which means these plants would need regular watering. Make sure not to water too much to make the soil soggy.
- 2 inches of mulch should be spread around the base of Columbine plants.
- Stakes or rings should be used to support the varieties of Columbine that grow tall.
- Make sure the snails do not feed on the Columbine flowers.
Columbine flowers are one of the prettiest flowers to grow in the garden. Their bright, vibrant colors make them stand out among other varieties of flowering plants. They don’t need a lot of maintenance and the best part about these plants is that they self-seed and, therefore, you don’t have to worry about sowing seeds. Depending upon your choice and preference, you can pick any variety from a long list of Columbine flower types. Each variety is beautiful in its own unique way!