Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Thursday, May 7, 2015

National Wildflower Week: Eastern Columbine

Beloved of hummingbirds and bumblebees, Aquilegia canadensis's flower lanterns are a must have for any wildlife gardener in the Eastern United States.
Red or Eastern Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis L.)
I discovered them in my garden the Spring after we moved here and they have been stars ever since. They're native to the Central Basin where I garden, but, I've always thought of them as a gift of the floral arranger who once lived here.

Eastern Columbine's bloom period overlaps with Golden ragwort and Phlox pilosa and I dubbed them the Happy Trinity of Clay and Limestone. In my metaphorical mindset, the trio is like a Mirepoix (cuisine)/holy trinity of ingredients and spices that when mixed together make the gardens colorful and tasty each spring. They're my garden's Spring flavor base and it gets even more delicious as Spring progresses. (Happy Flower Trinity)
 I love the way it intermingles with the pinks and purples throughout the garden, not to all tastes, but a delicious presentation none the less. With any successful garden recipe there are always plants that provide additional flavor and I will tweak the recipe a little each year, adding new ingredients, adjusting others, but, only when it will help the overall presentation and tastiness! (from an earlier post)

Aquilegia canadensis occurs naturally in rich rocky woods, north-facing slopes, cliffs, ledges, pastures, bogs, fens, roadside banks and good garden soil! They're easy peasy and if you want more let them go to seed...The seedheads are equally delightful! You'll know they are ripe when the it splits open and shiny black pearls spill out. Collect and plant them where ever you want more lanterns to light up your garden.


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I can't get enough of these beauties! I love the golden ragwort and columbine combo. I have them both growing in different areas of our garden but now that I've seen your intermingling plants I am going to move them around so I can try to get a similar effect. Happy Wildflower Week Gail!

  2. Yes, Happy Wildflower Week! I added some A. canadensis (also native here in Wisconsin--amazing range, this plant!) to my garden last summer after realizing it grows well in part sun and shade, alike. It's coming back in all the spots where I planted it in my garden! I also think it's beautiful in rosette form as the foliage emerges from the soil. Can't wait until the hummingbirds find the flowers. :)

  3. I have never seen Red or Eastern Columbine before. They are so delicate and beautiful and part of a lovely trio!

  4. Sadly this native variety is not liking where I put it so I may try to bog area once we fix a few things there and give it some space.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson