About Western Columbine: The name “columbine” is derived from the Latin “columba,” or dove, since an upside down columbine bloom looks like a circle of doves around a fountain. The Latin genus name “Aquilegia” means “eagle,” a reference to the spikes on the back of the flower that resemble an eagle’s talons. These unique hollow spurs on the blossoms contain an abundance of nectar, though only hummingbirds and other long-tongued feeders such as the hawk moth can reach it. Ruby-throated hummingbirds especially love this plant. Its natural habitats are woodland areas, rocky slopes, or along streams. A native wildflower, columbine has thrived in both America and Europe since the 1600s; in medieval times, these flowers symbolized foolishness because of their resemblance to a court jester’s slippers. Native Americans used this plant medicinally to treat various complaints such as poison ivy rash, heart trouble, or fever; they also crushed the seeds to obtain a pleasing perfume.
Western Columbine Germination: Plant in fertile, moist, well-drained soil and full sun or partial shade; this flower appreciates being shielded from the midday sun. Direct sow in early fall, sowing the seed just below the surface of the soil. For spring planting, mix the seed with moist sand and store it in the refrigerator for 60 days before direct sowing after the last frost. The seed can also be started indoors, planted just below the surface of a flat and kept at a temperature of 60-65 degrees F until germination; keep the soil lightly moist. Space seedlings 12-15" apart.
Growing Western Columbine Seeds: Keep the seedlings watered and control weeds. Mature plants tolerate some dryness, but should be watered in the heat of summer. Hot and humid weather may cause the plant to wilt, since this plant prefers cool weather and can survive light frosts. Flowers planted from seed will bloom in their second year of growth. After blooming, the foliage will die off. Established plants can be divided, though they will self sow readily; volunteer plants can easily be transplanted. Deadhead the wilted blossoms if new plants are not wanted. Columbine attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees as well as resisting deer and rabbits. Its natural growth in rocky areas makes it a good choice for rock gardens.
Harvesting Western Columbine: Columbine makes a lovely cut flower. Choose blossoms that have just opened for the longest vase life. Keep in mind that this plant can be toxic and should not be ingested.
Saving Western Columbine Seeds: Keep in mind that this plant will cross pollinate easily with other varieties of columbine. Watch the maturing seed pods carefully, since they will open and expose their seed when fully ripe. Shake the open pods into a container to remove the seed. Store the seed in a cool, dry place for up to two years.
Detailed Western Columbine Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Scarlet Columbine, Crimson Columbine Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Spring-Summer Height: 24-36 inches Spacing: 12-15 inches Light: Full Sun to Woodland Soil Moisture: Medium USDA Zone: 3a-8b Seeds Per Oz: 15,500 Produces dark green, rounded leaflets and nodding 1” blooms with red sepals and pale yellow inner petals.