Aquilegia canadensis, Wild Columbine

Ilona Erwin

Aquilegia canadensis

Aquilegia canadensis

Aquilegia canadensis, Wild Columbine is a woodland plant of springtime. It blooms mid to late spring in my garden. It grows in partly shady, partly sunny openings and waves in the brisk breezes. Native to the U.S. and Eastern Canada, this columbine grows in rocky ledges and slopes, and low woods. Also known as “Eastern Red Columbine”. USDA Distribution Map.

[ The Look ]

Aquilegia canadensis is one of those plants that seem filled with grace and charm, something belonging to fairy scenes in the open woodland. The base of leaves are like large maidenfern, with tall wirey stems holding aloft single spurred flowers. The spurs are a translucent coral blending into the yellow petals and anthers, a very attractive corolla [the whorl of petals] of red-orange framing yellow.

What sets this type of columbine off from the cultivated varieties is the length of the spurs, and the relatively small spectrum of color. It is a much more dainty and refined appearance, the merry maids of the deep woods you might call them.

The plant grows to 1-3 feet tall.

The leaves are beautiful until the leafminer hits, and even then they are pretty for the duration of bloomtime. They often have a bluish green look to them.

Flowers early, reported in February for some, although it is usually later in March for me. Blooms for a fairly long period.


abundant columbines

[ To Grow ]

Hardy to USDA Zone 2-8, best in Part Sun to Part Shade, this is a cold climate plant. Likes moisture, but needs good drainage. Propagate through seed. Mine lightly seeds itself in its general area, but does not spread widely, and the individual plants themselves do not seem long lived (maybe several years). Columbines appreciate soils with organic matter, and thrive in a woodsy soil, but are not picky. Alkaline to neutral soils suit best.[1]

Seeds need light to germinate. Once you have a stand of them, try scratching in seeds into other parts of the garden… who knows if they might like that area and grow into a nice stand of spring beauties?

In my own garden it is scattered among the English ivy, under a large Maple tree, which shows that this is a plant which can hold its own with those partners. Shaded and to the dry side, a small stand of Wild Columbine lends grace with its glowing colors of oriental lanterns, orange and pale yellow.

Leafminer is the main pest, and you can’t seem to avoid them. They riddle the leaves with white tracks. If the plants start to look shabby, just cut bat and they will re-sprout new growth. Keep the plant moist for best appearance.

[ Garden Guide ]

  • Good choice for bee gardens, or hummingbird garden.
  • Under pines
  • Woodland and rock gardens
  • Dry Shade areas

Grow with:

[ Fun Facts ]

Received its Latin name from the talon-like spurs. Bumblebees and the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird like the flowers. Being in the buttercup family, the leaves are toxic.

Supports Columbine Duskywing Butterfly.

Scientific classification facts, from Earl J.S. Rook’s site:

Kingdom Plantae, the Plants

* Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
o Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
o Subclass Magnoliidae
+ Order Ranunculales, the Buttercups
# Family Ranunculaceae, the Buttercups, with Anemone, Clematis, Coptis (Gold Thread), Delphinium (Larkspurs), Hepatica, Ranunculus (Buttercups), and Thalictrum (Meadow Rues).
* Genus Aquilegia, the Columbines

Wild Columbines are most suited for wild gardens, and naturalistic shady ones.

Classification info
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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.