Aquilegia formosa. This native of the west coast and Rocky Mountains can be spotted in moist woodlands from Alaska down to California. Its distinctive red flowers dance and wobble in the slightest breeze. Red Columbine is a hardy perennial in Zones 3 to 9, and it thrives in partial shade. It can be grown in full sun, but it would benefit from even more soil moisture. Its wonderful flowers appear mid-spring to early summer, with spurs at the back that are generous with nectar, luring hummingbirds, butterflies, and long tongued bees. The flowers are followed by decorative seed pods that dry and begin to shed their contents in late summer.
Aquilegia is a hardy perennial known as Columbine.
Season & Zone
Exposure: Partial shade – full sun is tolerated where summers are cool
Direct sow in autumn or mid-winter. Seeds can be started indoors, but it’s more complicated: Sow seeds in flats of moistened, sterilized seed starting mix, and place these inside plastic bags in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. Then sink the flats outdoors in the ground in a shady spot, and cover with glass. As seedlings appear, transplant them or pot them on. Germination takes 30-90 days.
Sow on the soil surface and transplant or thin seedlings to 30-50cm (12-20″) apart.
Seedlings are easy to move, but delicate. Keep them out of strong sunlight, and water frequently, but gently. Deadhead regularly to prolong the blooming period. Columbine’s flowers are followed by distinctive seed pods that open on their own when seeds are ripe. These can be removed to prevent self sowing, or for very easy harvest of the seeds. We like to harvest Columbine seeds mid-summer and spread them in any shady spot that could use some colour.
Grow Columbine in humus-rich, moist, but well-drained soil.