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Quick Overview


s are short-lived perennials that can tolerate poor soil conditions, but do best in light sandy soil with good drainage. They prefer partial shade. The seeds can be sown in the fall or the spring and must be sown into soil that will stay continuously moist until germination. Sowing in the fall usually produces the best results. Native columbines can reach a height of 3 feet. The European varieties rarely grow beyond 18 inches. s are hardy from Zone 3 to Zone 8.

Type Spacing Planting Depth Days to Germination Maturity
Short-lived Perennial 8 in. 1/2 in. 2-3 months 4-6 months


Columbines are native to many parts of the world including the Pacific Northwest and the Northeastern United States. In 1640, John Tradescant the Younger brought the American columbines to England where they immediately raised the interest of gardeners. The American columbines were larger and the spurs of the flowers were much longer, hence the flowers had an exaggerated drama about them that the English and European columbines did not possess. During the 17th and 18th centuries a number of columbine “oddities” emerged. An upside down columbine with spurs at the tips of the flowers survived until the late 18th century but then disappeared. Striped columbines became the rage, but disappeared before the beginning of the 20th century and double columbines, which can still be found today, were known from at least the 1500s. Columbines became a favorite during the latter part of the Victorian Era when cottage garden became popular. No British cottage garden could be without a stand of columbines or a border of columbines.

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