Wild Columbine in the Garden

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Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a perennial plant native to North America and grows well in just about any type of habitat, from rocky open woodlands, to loamy or sandy soils with moist or dry conditions. Because of these traits, wild columbine is a sturdy addition to your garden that will self-propagates for several years. Spreading by rhizomes, wild columbine blooms in the spring and grows up to 3 feet in height. The lobed, semi-evergreen leaves are bluish-green and can be quite striking in their own right. In fact, columbine and pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) are a beautiful combination when planted near one another.

Wild Columbine flower

Leo Papandreou CC BY-NC-SA-2

The showcase for this plant, however, is the bright red and yellow nodding flowers that grow on tall, slender stalks. Instead of having separate flower parts, the petals of columbine are fused together and grow backward into upright spires. In each of these spires are little pockets of nectar that attract long-tongued animals like hummingbirds, moths, and butterflies. The yellow stamens protrude downwards from the petals and offer a nice contrast to the reddish-pink petals.

Columbine is a versatile plant that thrives in most types of habitats. Because it is relatively easy to grow and readily establishes itself, columbine is a great choice for those areas in your yard where plants can be notoriously hard to grow. Columbine does well in partially shaded areas of your garden but may tolerate slightly more exposure to direct sun once established. If you grow columbine, watering is necessary only during the first few weeks of the establishment period; afterward, columbine is drought tolerant and so is a good choice for those interested in low-maintenance, low-impact garden plants. It does not tolerate standing water or poorly drained soils, however.

Sam Marshall

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Written By

Sam Marshall, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionSam MarshallExtension Agent, Agriculture - Horticulture Call Sam E-mail Sam N.C. Cooperative Extension, Haywood County Center

Contributing Author

Lucy Bradley, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionDr. Lucy BradleyUrban Horticulture Professor and Extension Specialist Call Dr. Lucy E-mail Dr. Lucy Horticultural Science
NC State Extension, NC State University
Posted on Apr 4, 2020
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