Past Articles Library | How to Grow a Graceful Classic-Columbine
Do you have that one area that is somewhat shady and you just do not know what to do with it? Well, if you answered yes, you are not alone but do not fret, there is a plant that would love this garden space. What is it? You guessed it, it is the columbine.
Columbines are one of those plants that love partial shade but if the area turns sunny then this is fine too. The columbine will survive but will bloom less. Having said that though, there is one factor that the columbine does require unconditionally and that is a well draining soil that is rich in nutrients.
Now that you know the growth requirements of the columbine, let’s learn how to propagate them. This plant is grown from seed. It can be started indoors or out. Depending on your need and your garden condition will determine which technique you choose.
While columbine seeds do fine if they are directly seeded into the garden bed, there are times that this will not work for the gardener. This can be due to lack of garden prep or maybe there are existing plant material in the beds at the time you need to direct seed. Regardless of your reason for growing your columbine seed indoors, there are a few basic steps you need to follow before planting your seed begins.
First, you need to clean your pot or flats in a basin of water with a capful of bleach. Once you have scrubbed the containers, rinse them in clean water and set out to dry.
Next, fill the containers with an all purpose potting soil and gently tap down on a hard surface. The tapping down of the soil will move air out of the potting soil. Once that is done, you are ready to plant your seed.
Sprinkle the seed on the soil surface but do not cover with soil. To mimic the cold conditions that the columbine seed requires for germination, place the flats or pots in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. After that time period, you should begin to see little green dots on the soil surface, which are the seeds germinating.
If you choose to use this approach, make sure you start the seed 6 weeks prior to your local frost free date.
After the seedlings have their second set of true leaves, move them individual into pots. Place on a shady windowsill and monitor the soil moisture. Continue to care for the seedlings until a 1 week prior to your local frost free date. This is the time by which you will need to harden off the seedlings. The hardening off process is one where you slowly expose them to their new environment. This should be done for a few hours starting off and then lead to a full day of outdoor exposure. Once you have left the seedlings out all day, you are ready to plant them in the garden space.
Columbine plants should be placed in the garden early spring to late summer. To begin the planting process, starts with preparing the garden space for the new plants. If the garden space is an existing bed, loosen the soil. On the other hand, if the space is not existing flower bed you will need to remove the turf and till or turn the soil over several times. Once that is done, smooth the soil over and you are ready to plant.
If you have more than one columbine to plant, it is a good idea to mark the area the locations of the columbine. This plant needs to be spaced out so that there is 1 foot between each plant. While you can stake the area, a good alternative that will give back is powdered milk. Measure off the area and mark with powdered milk where you want your columbine. Yes, the powdered milk will mark the area but it will also add calcium to the soil.
Now that the garden space is marked, dig a hole that is twice the width of the container and the same the depth. When it comes to the columbine, the planting process is a little different. You only want the columbine to be planted as deep as the pot but where the difference comes into play is the crown. The crown is where the stems and roots meet. If you bury this crown, you will kill the plant.
Once the plant has been removed from the pot, loosen the roots by teasing them. Place the plant in the hole and cover the roots up. The key of this step is to make sure that the roots are covered without burying the crown of the plant.
To aid in weed control and to protect the crown and roots, add a good 3 to 5 inches of wooden mulch or straw.
After the plants are established, feed them once a month with a 5-10- fertilizer formulation.
If you do not want to go to the trouble of starting your seeds indoors, you can plant directly onto the soil early in the spring to midsummer. The process to direct seed is easy and starts with preparing the garden space as described previously. Once that is done, pull out the powdered milk again and mark off 1 foot increments. These are the locations by which you can put a seed. Do not cover the seeds with soil. This particular plant’s seed germinate much better when exposed to sunlight. After all the seeds have been planted, mist the soil surface.
To encourage this plant to bloom more, deadhead the flowers as soon as they are spent. This will serve two purposes. One, it will force the plant to put on more blooms and second, it will cut down on the reseeding of this plant. The latter may be a little confusing but columbine can become invasive.
Another technique is to cut the columbine down to the crown right after blooms. Doing so will remove any seedpods and encourage the plant to bloom again.
While the two techniques described above will control the outcrop of new plants, keep in mind that columbine plants normally have a 3 to 4 year life cycle before their beauty and health begins to decline. In doing so, allowing some new plants to crop up throughout the years can be beneficial to keeping healthy columbine plants around.
To help the plant look its best, water it once a week and more often during drought conditions.
While the columbine looks wonderful by itself, consider combining it with foxgloves, impatiens, and violas.