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Aquilegia canadensis

Common Name(s):
Columbine, Wild columbine
Herbs, Native Plants, Perennials, Wildflowers

Columbine is an easy plant to grow because it adapts itself to a wide variety of conditions; however, it grows best in moist, rich, well-drained soil with light shade. These 1 to 3 foot high plants generally begin blooming in early to mid-May and often continue blooming through June. For the nature lover, columbines are a favorite flower for hummingbirds.  The native columbine is perfect for shady gardens, where it is not nearly as disfigured by leaf miner as non-native species. They also make an excellent addition to the rock garden. 

Columbines tend to lose vitality after 3-4 years and are best replaced at that time. Plants should be set out in the garden in spring or late summer. Plant them one to two feet apart with the crown at soil level. Once established, feed them monthly with a soluble all purpose (5-10-5) fertilizer and keep them well watered during growing season.

The native columbine is perfect for shady gardens, where it is not nearly as disfigured by leaf miner as other species of columbine; attracts moths and butterflies; grows from a thin, woody rhizome. 

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Leaf:                     Blooms:  Spring            Nut/Fruit/Seed:  

Wildlife Value:  The flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds and other pollinators.  The seeds may be eaten by songbirds.  Hummingbirds are the primary pollinators.  It is highly resistant to damage from deer.  

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: This species has very good resistance to leaf miner which often causes severe damage to the foliage of many other columbine species and hybrids.

Sun, part shade
1-3 ft.
Flower Color:
Red and yellow
USDA Hardiness Zone 3 to 8
The Columbines leaflets are oval with rounded lobes, basal and alternate on the stem with one to three times compound with three divisions each. They have slender, much-branched stems. Its delicate, biternate foliage is somewhat suggestive of meadow rue (Thalictrum) and remains attractive throughout the summer as long as soils are kept moist.
The Columbine features drooping, spurred, bell-like, 1-2", red and yellow flowers (red sepals, yellow-limbed petals, 5 distinctive red spurs and a mass of bushy yellow stamens). Its spurs point upward.
The Columbine is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. It has a wide range of soil tolerance as long as drainage is good. It prefers rich, moist soils in light to moderate shade. Freely self-seeds and will naturalize to form large colonies in optimum growing conditions. Remove flowering stems after bloom to encourage additional bloom. Keep soils uniformly moist after bloom to prolong attractive foliage appearance. When foliage depreciates, plants may be cut to the ground.
Partial shade
Moist but well-drained
Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain
North America, North Carolina
Life Cycle:
cpp, apvg, ncemgva2018, native plants, wildflower, yellow, pollinator, perennial, hummingbirds, deer resistant, partial shade, showy, spring, butterflies, red

NCCES plant id: 678

Aquilegia canadensis Aquilegia canadensis
Aquilegia canadensis plant Aquilegia canadensis plant
Image by Squamatologist, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Aquilegia canadensis-flower Aquilegia canadensis-flower
Image by Leo Papandreou, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Aquilegia canadensis flower Aquilegia canadensis flower
J Poyston, CC BY-NC-2.0
Aquilegia canadensis -leaves Aquilegia canadensis -leaves
Eleanor, CC BY-NC-2.0
Aquilegia canadensis Aquilegia canadensis
Chris Kreussling, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0