Colorado has an elegant state flower.

Colorado must really like blue. Not only is the state tree the Colorado blue spruce, but the state flower is the Colorado blue columbine, Aquilegia caerulea. However, the flowers are not always blue, and in fact, are often white or various shades of pink or soft yellow, or a combination of two colors. The many other specie and hybrids of columbine add even more shades and combinations of richer shades of blue, red, yellow, orange and purple. The distinctively lacy foliage is somewhat bluish. A few varieties have chartreuse foliage.

Although potentially perennial, most columbine do not reliable regenerate after winter dormancy, so are instead grown as spring and summer annuals. Flowers are not as abundant as those of other annuals, but are interesting close up, and very attractive to hummingbirds. Mature plants stand about a foot tall, so work nicely in pots surrounded by lower and more colorful annuals like lobelia and alyssum. Columbine prefers partial shade and rich soil. Plants in full sun tend to be more compact and seem to be a bit faded. Incidentally, some parts of the plants are toxic.


10 thoughts on “Columbine

    1. I probably should have worded that better. Space is limited in the gardening column, and this is just an excerpt from an already brief article. What I should have said is that they do well in big pots or planters of mixed annuals or perennials. Since they are not sufficiently prolific in bloom to work reliably well alone as bedding plants over a large area, they tend to be incorporated into mixed plantings that include other plants that bloom more prolifically. Their flowers are more interesting than abundant. However, they certainly can be grown alone. We actually grew some alone in a planter box at work, just because someone in a nearby office happens to be fond of them.


  1. In this part of Texas, we grow yellow Hinckley Columbine that will reseed and some plants last a couple of year. My parents bought their house in Pennsylvania in 1958 and some kind of purple columbines were already growing there and continue to this day.

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    1. Yes, various species are native or will naturalize in various regions. They do not do so in the chaparral or desert climates here, but there is a species that is native to the coastal mountains.

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    1. The colors of its bloom actually resemble the colors of the species that is native to the coastal mountains here on the opposite side of the continent. The western species has smaller flowers though, and is quite rare, even within its native range. I think they are all pretty. I have not met a columbine that I did not like. If I were to grow them, I would want the straight species from specific regions, such as the Eastern columbine or the Colorado blue columbine.

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    1. Do they self sow reliably? I would like to grow more of them, especially since someone at work likes them, but they are so unreliable. Those that self sow appear in weird situation. It would be nice of they would grow so well in the right situations.

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      1. Well, they have definitely self sewn in my garden. And they seem also to spread through their roots, or have extremely long ones). They like growing in with other plants and not too much sun. I was going to offer you some seeds, but I appear to have used them on the garden’s outside border (to no avail, as the County did some sort of work on the edge of the fence, dug a bunch of stuff up, stomped all over it, spread some topsoil, and…dropped grass seed on the top of it…Go figure. We planted some flower seeds last fall, but…)

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      2. Thank you anyway. I am hesitant to try seed, but might if I happen to find the native sort available. It is not as pretty, but is more reliable.


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