When To Plant Columbine Seeds – A Guide

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Last Updated on January 7, 2023 by Urska

Is there a particular time when to plant the columbine or you can plant any time of the year and does that determine their bloom time too?

Columbine (Aquilegia spp) is one of the sweetest flowers grown across America. It has an airy appearance with small, rounded leaves and tall flower stalks that hold the flowers above the foliage.

These flowers start blooming early spring, with others blooming in mid-spring and peak garden season.  It has attractive dark green foliage that turns maroon-colored in fall.  These bell-shaped flowers are popular among gardeners and loved by hummingbirds, bees, and gardeners.

These flowers resemble the bird’s claw with the common name columbine derived after the Latin word dove.  The inverted flower looks similar with five birds clustered together.

This plant has been in cultivation for many years and comes in dozens of hybrids and cultivars developed each year.  It readily crossbreeds and you can grow two different varieties that might give you self-seeded varieties.

How To Grow Columbines

Columbine plants are easy to grow as long as your soil is well-draining and not too dry.  Though they like full sun, they don’t like it too hot especially during the summer.  Give them partial shade in the afternoons of summer.  Mulch can also help to insulate and protect these plants during the winter in some regions.

When To Plant The Columbine

  • Plant your columbine seeds anytime between early spring and mid-summer. Columbines start easily from seed and readily multiply once established.
  • Do not cover the seeds; as long as they are receiving plenty of light they will germinate and grow well.
  • If you are growing from transplants, plant during the same time with the crown placed at soil level.
  • Space both the seeds and the transplants anywhere from 1 to 2 feet.
  • For seed-grown plants, the bloom will appear in the second year not the first.

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Caring For The Columbine Plant

Columbine plants do not require too much care and maintenance.  However, they need some substantial care before they are established.  The care tips include

  • Keep the plant moist after planting until they are well established.  Water weekly with exception of the extended period of drought where you will need additional watering.

  • Fertilize them monthly.  Provide a water-soluble fertilizer every month to help produce brighter blooms and thicker foliage.

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  • Deadhead regularly to encourage re-blooming.

  • Cut the self-seeded plants in the fall to avoid self-sowing if that is not what you want.  However, if you want them to self-sow, leave them alone.

  • Treat any leaf miner problem with neem oil as a way to control and eradicate the pests.

  • Prune these plants back to the basal just after blooming to alleviate pests and insects that could harm the plant.  You could enjoy a new stem growth within a few weeks of pruning and a new wave of blooms.

Varieties Of The Columbine Flower

Columbine comes in a variety of species.  They include the dwarf varieties, which are just 6 inches tall as well as large varieties like the McKana’s Giants that are over 3 feet tall and produce large flowers.

Did you know aquilegia varieties readily cross-pollinate?  If you plant more than one variety, be ready to see new colors and combinations.  Some of the columbine’s varieties include

Aquilegia ‘McKana Hybrid’ – This variety produces long-spurred, bi-colored flowers that can be blue and white, red and yellow or other color combinations.  It blooms in the late spring to early summer.

Aquilegia ‘Crimson Star’ – This variety features long-spurred, crimson red flowers, and its blooms last for four to six weeks in late spring to early summer.

Caring For The Columbine Plant

Aquilegia caerulea (Rocky Mountain columbine)- This variety has fern-like foliage that is grayish-green in color and blooms for four to six weeks in the late spring and early summer. Its bloom has violet-blue sepals, white petals, and yellow stamens.

Aquilegia Songbird ‘BlueBird’– This variety blooms with long-spurred blue and white flowers that are up to 3 inches long.  It is part of the Songbird Series of Columbine that also includes ‘Cardinal’ and ‘Dove.’


How late can I plant columbine seeds?

Columbine is an herbaceous perennial, native to North America. It can grow to be anywhere from a few inches to several feet tall, and it grows best in full sun or partial shade. Although it can tolerate light shade, it prefers more sun. If you live in the northern part of the country, where the weather is not particularly cold, columbine can survive and bloom all winter long.

Are columbine easy to grow from seed?

Columbine is easy to grow from seed. If you are starting from seed indoors, you will need to germinate the seeds in a moist paper towel or plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks. You can also start your columbine seedlings outside after the last frost and bring them into a heated greenhouse once the temperatures have reached 50 degrees F. If you are starting your plants directly in the garden, be sure to sow them early enough that they have time to get established before the first killing frost.
You can plant your columbine seeds directly in the garden once they have sprouted or you can start them indoors about three weeks before the last expected frost. Be sure to keep your seedlings warm until they are large enough to go outside. As with other cool-season annuals, you may need to protect your seedlings during the first few frosts by covering them with a floating row cover. Remove the cover when the threat of frost has passed. Columbine is a long-lived perennial and will reseed itself if not cut back after the first growing season. If you would like to remove the flowers in autumn, wait until the leaves die back completely and then cut the plant back to the ground.

Will columbine bloom all summer?

Yes, you will have columbine all summer.

Can you start columbine seeds indoors?

Yes, you can start them indoors. You need to get a seed that is already germinated (and it must be an outdoor variety). Then, once the seedlings are big enough, they can be moved into your garden. This is especially important if you live in an area with cold winters.

If you have a garage or shed, you could set up a small growing space for your seeds. A plastic tub works well as a seedling pot and you can put a light over the top.

Can Columbine grow in shade?

Columbine needs full sun. They will tolerate some shade if it's not too hot.

They like to be dry and well-drained, but will do fine in most soil types. Give them lots of fertilizer, especially nitrogen, and water as needed. Prune them back when they get too big and start to lose their shape. They grow well in containers.

Why do columbine leaves turn purple?

In the spring and summer, columbine leaves are a beautiful deep red. But in the fall they change color to a brilliant orangey-red. This is called autumn coloring, and it's part of the story of this plant. Columbines are perennials. They live for years and can grow from seed or by dividing clumps of plants.


Columbine is known to self-sow and it is recommended because these plants are short-lived with an average lifespan of about 3 to 4 years.  Every 3 years you can divide the plants and re-plant them separately if you wish.

Did you know Native Americans use the columbine seeds for love charm and medicinal purposes? The crushed seeds and roots were used to treat headaches, heart problems, and sore throats.

Now that you know when to plant the columbine and the care it needs, why not try to grow your own this time around. Moreover, if you are already growing them, you can now add some knowledge to your garden for that perfect gardening.  Go on and have fun with your gardening!

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