Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis L.)

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) in my garden
native Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) in my garden

The Red Columbine is so graceful and so lovely. I took this photograph in my garden. The late afternoon sun was sinking in the sky and the soft light illuminated the form of the blossom.

I was first attracted to this plant when I saw a stand of yellow Columbine growing in the shade of a house here in Philadelphia. I wanted to grow the beautiful hanging flowers in my own garden.

In my garden, it is among the earliest bloomers. The hanging blossoms attract hummingbirds to the sweet nectar within. Long-tongued hummingbirds and bees are its pollinators. Red Columbine blooms from March to July, which is a good long time for a hummingbird plant.

This native plant looks delicate but is quite hardy and can live 2-5 years. I have seen it growing out of what seems to be solid rock.

The seeds of the plant probably lodged in a pocket of soil and just start growing. The plant readily re-seeds. So, if you plant it in a suitable spot it may drop seeds for many years and a stand of the plants may live for a long time, multiplying and spreading.

Red Columbine is native to eastern and central North America.  It is endangered in Florida. The plant can be found in rich, moist woods to rocky outcroppings.

The species which is pictured here has naturally red and yellow flowers. The garden cultivars focus on changing the shades of yellow and red. Columbine easily found in garden centers and even big box home improvement stores.

Red Columbine if a favorite spring flower in my small Philadelphia garden. It self-seeds itself readily. In spring, its tall flower stalks dominate my garden. After the flowers have finished blooming and the flower turn into seed pods, I cut off the seed pods. If I don’t I will have even more Red Columbines the next year.

 

Columbine (Aquilega canadensis)
Columbine (Aquilega canadensis) in my backyard garden.

I plant one Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) several years ago. From the one plant which is the basic red and yellow, a pink-mauve or purple flowers sometimes bloom.

If you have hummingbird in your general area, you may spot hummingbirds sipping nectar as they move from flower to flower.

 

A deep purple Columbine flower blooms in my garden. Photo by Donna L. Long.
A deep purple Columbine flower blooms in my garden. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Red Columbine Facts

Common name: Red Columbine, Wild Columbine, Canada Columbine
Scientific name: Aquilegia canadensis L.
Family name: Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae)

Native range: Eastern and Central North America from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan, south to northern Florida, western Oklahoma and eastern Texas. Endangered in Florida.

Habitat: dry woods, wooded to open rocky hillsides, beach ridges, shorelines, roadsides, quarries and peat bogs. I have seen Columbine growing out of rock with little if any soil.

Height: 12-30 inches tall (30-80 cm)
Light: sun to light shade
Hardiness zones: 3 to 9
Bloom period: early spring, March to July; fruit in mid to late summer (June to August)
Flower color: red with yellow

 

Columbines (Aquilegia canadensis)
Columbines (Aquilegia canadensis) in bloom in my garden.

Columbine’s Role in the Ecosystem

Attracts: hummingbirds, butterflies, bees

Host plant to: Columbine Dusky (Erynnis lucilius) – the only food source for this butterfly.

Wildlife: Red Columbine is pollinated by hummingbirds, which depend on the plant as an important nectar source. In addition, at least four bee species have been found to be effective pollinators of Red Columbine in southeastern Wisconsin and northwards.

 

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) still blooming
Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) still blooming, Photo by Donna L. Long.

Growing Columbine

Growing Tips: This short-lived (3-5 years) perennial is very adaptable in the garden. The plant is easy to moderately difficult from seed. Dividing and transplanting established plants may not be successful.

Description: The flowers are downward facing with the petals forming a tubular spur.

 

More Information on Columbines

Spring Blooming Native Plants of Philadelphia 

Spring Blooming Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds 

Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

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