Red Columbines, or Aquilegia Canadensis (or Candadian Columbines), are a perennial that we found growing wildly in our yard without planting them. When they sprouted up, I saw interesting foliage and decided to see what it was before calling it a weed and yanking it out. When the flower opened, it looked familiar, and it looked cultivated and not “wild”. The flowers were quite brilliant and had a great shape.
What popped up in my yard was a Red or Canadian Columbine, but there are many cultivars that are unique in shape, size, and color. Columbines are spring blooming flowers. The backyard discovery was in mid March, and there were blooms before the end of that month. Dead-heading will encourage a longer blooming season. Giving Columbines partial shade will also help extend their blooming life, they do not bloom well in full sun during the hot summer months. Columbines are perennials, but their flowers don’t show up until the second year of growth. They are tolerant of infertile soil, provided it drains well.
Columbines do provide food for several caterpillars. They are also beneficial to native pollinators when in bloom. Aquilegia Canadensis is also deer resistant, and is actually toxic to most herbivores, so it is a good option if deer are a problem in your area.
There are other species of Columbines, some of which are not native to the United States or Northeast. Common Columbine (Aquilegia Vulgaris) is a beautiful purple bloom that is native to Europe. While it is an introduced plant, it is generally not considered invasive and is safe to plant in gardens. It offers many of the same benefits as our Native Columbines. The state flower of Colorado is also a Columbine, the Colorado Blue Columbine (Aquilegia Caerulea). This is a delicate blue and white bloom that has a shape that brings orchids to mind.
Red Columbines are a native North American plant that offer many positive benefits to native plant gardeners. There are also many cultivars and varieties of other Columbines available in a great variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Consider these brilliant deer-resistant flowers in your garden plans next year.