Aquilegia caerulea
Common Name: columbine
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Ranunculaceae
Native Range: Western North America
Zone: 3 to 10
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Blue & white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Good Cut
Attracts: Birds
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer

Culture

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Tolerates wide range of soils except heavy, poorly drained ones. Prefers rich, moist soils with light to moderate shade. Remove flowering stems after bloom to encourage additional bloom. Keep soils uniformly moist after bloom to prolong attractive foliage appearance. When foliage depreciates, plants may be cut to the ground. This species may be grown from seed and may self-seed in the garden under optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Aquilegia caerulea, commonly called Rocky Mountain columbine, is a bushy, clump-forming perennial which occurs in the U.S. Rocky Mountains at elevations of 6000 to 12000' from Montana south to New Mexico. In cultivation, it typically grows 1.5-2' tall and features large, upward-facing, bicolored flowers (to 3" across) with 5 pale to sky blue sepals and 5 white petals with backward-extending, straight and slender blue spurs (to 2" long). Blooms in spring. Compound, biternate, almost fern-like, medium green leaves with lobed and deeply-cleft leaflets. Foliage is somewhat suggestive of meadow rue (Thalictrum). State flower of Colorado.

Genus name comes from the Latin word for eagle in reference to the flower’s five spurs which purportedly resemble an eagle’s talon.

Specific epithet means dark blue.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Foliage usually declines by early to mid-summer at which point it should be cut to the ground.

Garden Uses

Borders, cottage gardens, open shade gardens, native plant gardens or naturalized areas. Also a good selection for a hummingbird garden.