Hybrid columbines are herbaceous perennials and members of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes monkshood, delphinium, and anemone. There are a large number of hybrid columbines and many are of uncertain parentage because the various species hybridize easily when grown in proximity to each other. The hybrids differ in regard to the length of their spurs. The long spurred ones probably have A. canadensis, A. chrysantha, A. formosa, and A. longissima in their ancestry, while the short spurred hybrids probably have A. vulgaris parentage. Several noteworthy strains have been bred that vary in color, height, compactness, and length of flower spurs. The genus name, Aquilegia, may come from the Latin word aquila meaning eagle and refers to the spurs that resemble an eagle’s talons.
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Bloom: Long to short spurred or no spurred flowers in bicolors and various colors from late spring to early summer
Size: 1.5-3’ H x 1’ W
Light: Light to moderate shade, tolerates more sun in cool climates
Soil: Fertile, moist, well-drained
Hardiness: Zones 3-9
Care: Remove foliage damaged by leaf minors as soon as it appears; foliage may be cut down to ground level but will quickly reappear and remain attractive .
Pests and Diseases: Leaf minors
Propagation: Fresh seed (but seed from existing hybrids will probably not breed true)
Companion Plants: Cranesbills (Geranium spp.), evening primrose (Oenothera spp.) iris, peonies, Amsonia spp., Baptisia spp.
‘Biedermeier’ strain (bicolored flowers in many colors with white tipped petals on compact plants about 1.5’ tall)
‘McKana’ strain (2.5’ tall, has large long-spurred bicolored flowers in combinations including lilac and white, red and yellow, and shades of pink)
‘Spring Song’ hybrids (3’ tall with flowers in mixed colors)
‘Nora Barlow’ (fully double spurless flowers on plants 1-2.5’ tall)