Aquilegia canadensis (Canadian columbine)

Canadian columbine

Canadian Columbine Flower

Aquilegia canadensis - Flower Pod

Canadian columbine - flower pod

Zone: 3 to 8

Soil: sand to clay

Light: Part sun to mostly shady

Bloom colour: Red

Bloom period: May to June

Height: 1 to 3 feet

Moisture: Dry to medium

Attracts: Hummingbirds and bees to a lesser extent.

Notes: This plant is one of the first perennials to emerge in my garden and it is great early source of nectar for hummingbirds. In the West, especially in alpine meadows, there are a number of species from this genus. In much of the East and in southern Ontario, there is only one native species. One cannot fail to be struck by the unusual and delicate shape of columbines.

The long corolla excludes most bees from reaching the nectary. Canadian columbine does attract some bees that cut through the base of the flower to obtain the nectar and other bees that simply collect the pollen from the protruding yellow anthers.

It is also a host plant for the columbine duskywing. However, if you are limited in space, Aquilegia would not be your first choice for a bee and butterfly garden.

The plant can tolerate full sun, but it grows and looks better where there is a decent amount of shade. It can tolerate clay, but probably does better in a sandy soil. The native plant is superior to the small cultivars, which have less visual impact and seem to be less attractive to wildlife. You should expect to see columbine leaf miners which leave white tunnels in the leaves as the growing season progresses. Native columbines will remain healthy despite the noticeable damage. These plants reseed themselves easily and are easy to grow. Pull out any unwanted seedlings in their first year to prevent a deep taproot from developing. The individual flowers of columbines are exquisite and therefore these plants deserve a place in every woodland garden.
Native columbine

Canadian columbine