Columbine – A Harbinger of Spring

Columbine - Songbird Cardinal
Columbine – Songbird Cardinal

A walk through the aisles of the perennials houses causes one to “ooohhh and ahhhhh” after such a long winter and with this spring where we have a week of spring and another long week of winter only to have spring pop back on the calendar.  Upon spotting the Columbine on the bench, it does cause you to stop and just gaze in amazement.  Such a perfect looking flower.

Did you know that the Columbine is the State Flower of Colorado?  The Columbine will stand up to wind and the arid conditions of the Rocky Mountains.  This makes it a great perennial for Minnesota gardens, suitable for Zone 3 to Zone 9

Columbine - Songbird Bluebird
Columbine – Songbird Bluebird


The curious flower comes in many colors, including bi-colored varieties.  The Columbine can be grown in full sun, but “partial shade” is the standard recommendation.  Plant them in well-drained soil.  You will often find them out in the wild growing on a rocky ledge which also makes them a great plant for xeriscaping.  Once established, they are drought tolerant and perfect for rock gardens, containers, edging plants or woodland gardens.

Columbine - Spring Magic - Rose & Ivory
Columbine – Spring Magic – Rose & Ivory

Attractive to hummingbirds, these flowers which look like jester’s hats, will put birdwatchers in a good mood!

Most columbines will grow to about 15″-20″ tall.   They will grow well with lots of blossoms in the spring and will sport a modest amount of blossoms through the balance of the growing season.  They can be a short-lived plant – sometimes living only 3 – 4 seasons.  If you dead head them,  the plant will then send the energy back to the roots instead of into the production of seed, thereby extending the life of the plant.  The trade off — if you don’t deadhead and the plant makes lots of seed – they will re-seed themselves.

Pictured here are three of the varieties of Columbine – or Aquilegia – the genus name, derived from the Latin word for ‘eagle – that we carry.