Plant Pick – Growing Aquilegia


I grew up with aquilegia’s in the garden, and remember being around these plants from when I was tiny. As such, I don’t really think of them as all that exciting. Many species, particularly the wilder varieties, can be fairly bland and though the dainty flowers offer a welcome treat spring, the blooms can be dull lavender and white. However, there are an extraordinary number of cultivars that come in a fantastic range of colours. As soon as you start looking beyond the common garden specimens, you’ll discover an entirely new world of obsession.


One of the things I love about aquilegia’s, also known as the columbine flower or columbine plant, is that they’re exceedingly good at self propagation. They’re also herbaceous perennials. After a few years you’ll have so many plants you can start giving them away. Of course, one of the problems with self-seeding is that you won’t have control over the cultivar-crosses, though you may find a few surprises when these lovely plants begin to flower.

Another benefit of aquilegia’s is that whilst I always think of them as low growing plants, when they’re in flower they can actually reach a metre tall. This is fantastic when you need to bring a bit of height to spring beds. Their foliage is also very attractive, so that even after the spent flowers are cut, you have mounds of lovely leaves to continue acting as ground cover.


If all these advantages weren’t enough, aquilega’s are also great in partial shade. In fact, I hardly ever plant them in full sun as they’re too many other plants crammed into my tiny garden. Instead, I intersperse them with heucheras and begenia in my shady borders where they bring a welcome flash of colour.

Aquilegia leaves are particularly attractive.

As with most of my plant picks, pulmonaria are extremely easy to care for and will quickly provide a great carpet of ground cover for shaded areas of your garden. You can pinch off the flower stems after the blooms die, but if you’re too busy, then this isn’t really necessary. Other than removing old, ripped and dying leaves, care is extremely easy.

Name: Aquilegia (Columbine Flower)

Thrives In: Grow in full sun or partial shade, but I find they’re particularly good in the latter. They form clumps and can tolerate low temperatures and a moist soil too, making them easy to overwinter.

Yearly Care: When the flowers fade, remove stalks unless you want self-seeding to occur. Aquilegia form a single long tap root so they’re not readily propagated by division. Collect seeds instead. Cut back older leaves in the winter to allow fresh growth to thrive. This can also be done post-flowering, when new shoots will unfurl.

Growing Medium: Aquilegia’s prefer a moist but well drained spot. They’re long tap roots mean they can survive in sunny spots as long as they’re mature.

Quick Tip: Use in shady borders to bring height and colour in the spring and summer months. The foliage is attractive, so pair alongside contrasting plants and then enjoy the extra display of flower stalks mid-year.

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I'm Geoff, and I'm a plant hoarder.

Like magpies collect bright shiny things, I can't resist plants. An exquisite flower, soft ferny foliage or a beautiful majestic tree - I love them all!

Here, I'll indulge in all things flora and share my passion. Join me as I develop my garden and hoard more plants without apology.