Past Articles Library | Tips for Growing Columbine
Columbine, also known as Granny’s Bonnet, has distinctive spurred flower petals. It is native to meadows, woodlands, and alpine areas in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a hardy perennial. While individual plants live only about five years, it self seeds and so the plants come back again and again. Columbines range in color from light pastels to bright red, yellow, orange and purple.
Columbine attract bees, birds, and butterflies. They are resistant to deer. All parts of the columbine are poisonous to humans.
Columbine can be propagated by seed or transplant. It is considered hardy to the USDA zone 3. In most climates, columbine needs partial sun. In warm climates, more shade and less sun in the afternoon is preferred to keep the plant from burning up.
There are two ways to propagate columbine from seed. You can plant the seed in the fall and it will germinate in the spring, or you can put the seeds in the refrigerator for three to four weeks, then plant them in the spring. The seeds will not germinate without going through a period of cold. Do not, however, place the seed in the freezer. This will kill it. Plants planted from seed will not bloom the first year they are planted. If you want blooms the first year you plant columbine, plant a transplant of the plant.
To transplant columbine, carefully till up the soil to a depth of twelve to fifteen inches. Then work in about three inches of compost into the loosened soil. Dig a hole slightly larger around and deeper than the pot the columbine came in. Carefully remove the root ball of the plant from the pot. Plant it in the hole, making sure that the top of the root ball is level with the surface of the hole. Plants should be spaced eighteen to twenty-four inches apart. Water in thoroughly.
Columbine should be fertilized monthly when in bloom to ensure continued blooms. Use a general fertilizer such as 10-10-10 and follow the directions on the package.
Deadhead these plants religiously or the plants will interbreed and you will gradually end up with all one color flowers. In addition, the plants will spread and take over the flower bed if not deadheaded. Plants should be dug up and separated every second fall to maintain plant health.
Columbines are prone to powdery mildew. Water the plants from below and do not get water on the leaves or flowers when watering. In wet conditions, such as when there is lots of rain, powdery mildew is worse. Remove and destroy any leaf or flower effected with the mildew to prevent it from spreading.
Columbines are also prone to leaf miners. These flies lay their larvae in the leaf, where they crawl around and eat the chlorophyll in the leaf. Remove and destroy leaves that have leaf miners to prevent them from spreading. The new leaves that come out after the afflicted ones are removed should be miner free.