The Columbine is one of the “old” garden flowers. But it is anything but old-fashioned, thanks to breeders and enthusiasts who keep bringing new varieties onto the market. A wide variety of colors and color combinations are available, each flower more beautiful than the other. An example of this is Aquilegia vulgaris ‘William Guiness’, a black-purple flower with a pure white center. One speaks of fairy-like flowers and if you look closely, you can see a resemblance to an elf, as they are usually depicted.

In nature, columbines are rather inconspicuous with their muted blue-violet hues. In the garden, on the other hand, there is an explosion of color. From pink to purple, crimson, blue to pure white, a lot is possible. Yellow varieties are also on offer. The two- and multi-colored flowers are particularly interesting. The main flowering time is in May, but later flowering varieties are also available. In addition, many plants bloom again.

The Columbine likes partially shaded places, wooded fringes and stands well under light trees. But she also doesn’t mind the sun if the substrate fails accordingly. Unfortunately, the Columbine is not a long-lived plant. It stays in one place for about five years, then it usually disappears without a sound. However, it spreads beforehand and appears in other parts of the garden. So it has usually not disappeared from the garden.

Popular varieties

There are numerous hybrids. The Rocky Mountain Columbine (A. caerulea) and the Gold Columbine (A. chrysanthal) are particularly common. Here the strikingly long spurs are the specialty. The North American columbine varieties add a lot of color to the palette.

  • A. caerulea hybrids, carmine red with white bell (‘Crimson Star’ and ‘Red Hobbit’), sky blue with white (‘Blue Star’), red with yellow (‘Coral’), lemon yellow (‘Maxi’ and ‘Florida’ )
  • Spurless Columbine – A. vulgaris var. Stellata ‘Black Barlow’ – dark purple double form
  • Zwergakelei – A. flabellata var. Pumila ‘Ministar’ – only 15 to 20 cm high, blue-white flower bells, very vigorous and healthy
  • Alpine Columbine – A. alpina – native species that sometimes has a hard time in the garden and thrives best in the cool, damp mountain forest
  • Canadian Columbine – A. kanadensis ‘Little Lanterns’ – Red and yellow, 25 cm high, very slender flowers
  • Common Columbine – A. vulgaris – mostly monochrome varieties, e.g. ‘Ruby Port’, with dark wine-red, densely double flowers
  • ‘Winky Blue & White Double’ – unusual, double flowers in blue and white with a yellow center, actually atypical flower shape for columbines

‘Balow’ Series – filled

  • ‘Nora Barlow’ – historical variety with double, spherical flowers in dusky pink with green tips. Looks like a double dahlia.
  • ‘Black Balow’ – dark purple, almost black double flowers, have a very mysterious effect
  • ‘White Balow’ – white flowers with an intense fragrance
  • ‘Rose Balow’ – altrosafarbene Blüten
Attention: In the wild, the columbine is under protection!

Columbine – care

Columbines are extremely easy to care for. If they are on the right substrate, you don’t have to do much. The plants bloom for a long time and usually thrive in the shade and in locations that are unsuitable for many other plants. However, they like to spread. If you want to prevent this, you have to take action and remove the seed pods. Otherwise there is not much to do. Water and fertilize a little and cut once a year, that’s all.


The location is one of the deciding factors for a columbine to feel comfortable. With a few exceptions, they do not like to be in full sun. They prefer partial shade, for example under light deciduous trees. Some species also like shade or light shade. The best thing to do is look at the exact name when buying and then exactly what the variety likes or dislikes.

  • Gladly a bit shady
  • Also sunny, with the right soil and when it doesn’t get too hot. Usually, however, the plants then wither faster than in partial shade.
  • Wandering shade is very cheap.
  • ybrids get along very well in the sun
  • Tolerates little or no root competition from other plants
  • The plants also thrive in the shade, but remain smaller.

Plant substrate

The plant substrate is also important. The soil should be permeable, but not too dry and by no means too wet. A moderately moist to moist substrate is best. Humus is also very important.

  • Absolutely humus soil
  • Permeable soil
  • Nutrient-rich
  • Moderately moist to moist
  • Under no circumstances waterlogging


Anyone who has to dig up an “old” columbine in order to implement it has a lot to do. The strong, tough, fleshy, thickened roots hold tight to the ground. In addition, they have spread a lot in all directions. You have to make an effort to get them out of the earth. This is why it is also important to take plants that appear where you absolutely do not want them out of the ground in good time, to remove them before they can nestle and spread. Seedlings are easy to remove and relocate at a young age.

There is actually nothing else to consider when planting. Briefly water the root ball and then plant it directly in the bed.

  • Columbines fit into a perennial bed, placed in tuff between other perennials, preferably between those that only emerge in top form later in the year. In this way, the yellowing foliage of the columbine is well covered.
  • Good companion plants are astilbe, autumn anemones, iron hats, silver candles, hostas and ferns.
  • Put young plants in the bed from spring
  • Plant spacing 25 to 30 cm.

Watering and fertilizing

Adequate water is very important during flowering. Fertilizer then also helps to produce many and large flowers. Otherwise there is not much to do. The plants usually come out quite well on their own over the year.

  • After planting, it must be well watered until it grows, preferably the first three months.
  • Fertilizing with compost or leaf mulch is ideal because this provides humus that is urgently needed. This also ensures that the soil is slightly damp.
  • Otherwise no fertilizer is required.


When the faded inflorescences are removed, there is usually a re-flowering in autumn. But it is better to cut the plants close to the ground after flowering. Then she really drives through again. If you did not prune in summer or autumn after flowering, you should do so in early spring, when budding begins. Also then cut off about hand-high.


Columbines are sufficiently hardy. There are differences in winter hardiness, but they all manage at least –20 to –25 ° C, which is actually sufficient in our part of the world. If the plants do not sprout again in spring, this is usually not due to winter or frost.


The Columbine easily reproduces by self-sowing. That can be a nuisance. In addition, self-sowing is often undesirable because columbines cross easily and seedlings often split. So if you want to keep the variety pure, the seed heads have to be removed before ripening. This is also good for the mother plant, which is not so weakened. This makes it more durable.

  • Seeds do not need to be treated.
  • It is sown in spring (February to May)
  • It is best to use seed compost (germ-free)
  • Cover seeds 3 to 5 mm with soil
  • Keep the substrate evenly moist
  • Bright, but without direct sun
  • Germination at temperatures between 17 and 20 ° C.
  • It is better to place the seedlings in the shade
  • Later get used to the sun slowly
  • At first only evening and morning sun
  • Prick out at a height of 5 cm
  • Always plant out after the ice saints
  • Exception – the cold germ varieties such as A. chrysantha. The growing containers are then placed in the vegetable compartment in the refrigerator for 4 weeks after sowing.

Diseases and pests

Diseases are almost unknown. Powdery mildew can occur. But that is a clear sign of problems. The plant was either too wet or too dry and too hot.

The main pests are mealybugs and the Columbine gall mosquito.

  • Mealybugs – cover the plant with a cotton-wool-like net and suckle on the leaves, shoots and stems. Similar to aphids, harmful substances get into the plant. It becomes weakened and prone to disease. Mealybugs can sometimes be showered off. On the other hand, you can remove them manually.
  • Columbine gall mosquito – particularly likes to attack fresh buds – these must be cut off immediately and disposed of in the residual waste.
  • Sawfly caterpillars – cut off infected parts of the plant

The columbine is an interesting plant. I admit, I haven’t found it particularly interesting until now, and after researching this text I had to be taught better. I myself have a columbine in the garden, it migrated over from the neighbors and I let it go because it matches the color. But now my curiosity has been aroused and I will definitely get two or three different varieties. There are such great colors, shapes and color combinations, I want to see that. I usually only get the classic varieties from the gardener I trust. If you want something more unusual, you usually have to resort to the Internet. Almost anything is possible there. In any case, I found the varieties I had in mind there and will be ordering them in the spring. Some internet gardeners are very reliable when it comes to their plants and transportation. I’ve already had good experiences there, especially with those that specialize in a few species. They’re actually the best. So I’ll get more Columbines in the garden.

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