Columbine, Aquilegia, is a short-lived perennial wildflower in the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup family.
It thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9 in sunny to partially shaded locations and prefers moist soil of average quality that drains well.
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Ephemeral spring blossoms are noteworthy for their nectar-filled spurs, delectable hues, and striking bicolor combinations.
A darling of cottage gardens, there are about 70 species and an extensive array of cultivated hybrids from which to choose.
Flower heads range between one and four inches wide, with hybrid cultivars being the largest and native species the smallest.
In our guide to growing columbine, we share all you need to know to grow your own lovely plants.
This article is a roundup of 35 exceptional varieties to take your springtime landscape to new and colorful heights.
Here’s what we have in store:
35 Columbine Varieties to Love
Let’s take a look at these beauties!
1. Barlow Mix
A. vulgaris var. stellata Barlow Mix is a lighthearted pink, purple, red, white, and bicolor take on the darkly delicious ‘Black Barlow,’ described below.
The Barlow series features spurless, double blossoms that bob like confetti with their faces turned upward toward warm breezes.
A festival in every seed packet, these partygoers are the life of the garden party at 24 to 30 inches tall.
Barlow Mix is available from Eden Brothers in one-ounce and quarter-pound packages of seeds.
Aquilegia ‘Biedermeier’ brings more guests to the celebration with a mix of whites, reds, purples, pinks, and bicolor blooms in pastel hues that cool and refresh like sherbet on a summer afternoon.
At 12 to 18 inches tall, they mix and mingle amiably in mid-story placements, flaunting their long, curvaceous spurs like proud peacocks.
‘Biedermeier’ plants are available from Nature Hills Nursery in #1 containers.
3. Black Barlow
A. vulgaris var. stellata ‘Black Barlow’ is a cultivar in the Barlow series. It has no spurs and faces upward to show off two full rows of velvety petals in a shade of maroon so dark it verges on black.
Hauntingly alluring, you’ll want to give this vampire some sun so it doesn’t slink imperceptibly into the shade and out of view. At 24 to 30 inches tall, it’s a statuesque attraction.
‘Black Barlow’ is available via Amazon in packages of 50 seeds.
4. Blackcurrant Ice
A. flabellata ‘Blackcurrant Ice’ flits and flutters onto the springtime scene in a simple skirt of five mauve sepals accented by short spurs surrounding a center corolla of creamy yellow.
Like a dainty butterfly, it dips and nods along garden paths at a petite six to 12 inches tall, beckoning hummingbirds to come and play.
‘Blackcurrant Ice’ is available from Nature Hills Nursery.
5. Blue Dream
Like Little Boy Blue, A. caerulea ‘Blue Dream’ can’t wait to blow its horn to welcome spring.
With five baby blue sepals, short spurs, and a crisp white center corolla, its new suit is becoming as it casts a shy eye upward.
Tall for a youngster, it’s sure to be the apple of your eye at a height of 24 to 32 inches.
‘Blue Dream’ is available from Outsidepride via Amazon in packages of 1,000 seeds.
6. Blue Star
Standing at attention, A. caerulea ‘Blue Star’ boasts five sepals in a regal shade of purplish blue, calling out, “Strike up the band!” White corollas and short spurs make for smart attire.
At heights of 24 to 32 inches, it marches majestically into spring.
‘Blue Star’ is available from Eden Brothers in one-ounce and quarter-pound packages of seeds.
7. Cameo Mix
Like reveling woodland fairies, A. flabellata Cameo series blossoms bob their pastel blue, pink, and white heads, with spurs curled for the occasion. Their dainty sepals ensconce miniature corollas of glimmering white.
At six to eight inches tall, these tiny merrymakers may bless you with a fairy ring before they depart.
8. Chocolate Soldier
Understated A. viridiflora ‘Chocolate Soldier,’ aka green columbine, doesn’t raise its head to reveal its position.
Instead, it nods as if in slumber, knowing that its green sepals and brownish-purple corolla are not likely to be detected by the casual observer.
At a height of nine to 12 inches, its stature and coloration may remind you of a hellebore, another early-season bloomer.
Learn more about how to grow ‘Chocolate Soldier’ in our guide.
9. Clementine Blue
Like a wild cornflower beside a county road, unassuming A. vulgaris ‘Clementine Blue’ is clad in fully double lavender-blue petals that blush to rose at the tips at the mere mention of its charms.
At a modest 14 to 16 inches tall, this carefree springtime wanderer is a pleasing addition to walkways leading home.
‘Clementine Blue’ is available from Outsidepride via Amazon in packages of 10 seeds.
10. Clementine Red
The fully double petals of A. vulgaris ‘Clementine Red’, are bright pink and unspurred, for a starlike quality reminiscent of a summer strawflower.
Facing brazenly upwards, they take center stage.
Perched atop stems 14 to 16 inches tall, they command the attention of returning robins, awakening woodland creatures – and passersby – as they proclaim spring’s glorious return.
‘Clementine Red’ is available from Outsidepride via Amazon in packages of 10 or 20 seeds.
11. Clementine Rose
A. vulgaris ‘Clementine Rose’ wows audiences of her own with unspurred pink, fully double petals for a subtler spring display.
Also ranging from 14 to 16 inches in height, why not let two collaborate for a two-tone bed and border sensation?
‘Clementine Rose’ is available from Outsidepride via Amazon in packages of 10 or 20 seeds.
12. Crimson Star
Just when you thought you’d chosen your favorite, it’s Christmas in springtime.
A. x hybrida ‘Crimson Star’ is radiant with red sepals, jutting spurs, and snowy corollas that bring to mind star-topped trees of the festive season.
And while spring may have sprung, these 24- to 32-inch red and white wonders smile up at us with a reminder that it’s always time to celebrate.
‘Crimson Star’ is available from Outsidepride via Amazon in packages of 1,000 or 2,000 seeds.
13. Crystal Star
Like a pinpoint of light in a black velvet sky, A. x hybrida ‘Crystal Star’ embodies the mystery and wonder of the earth’s spring rebirth with its single row of creamy white sepals, matching centers, and mauve-tinged spurs.
From an elevation of 24 to 32 inches, this luminous marvel captivates all with its steadfast upward gaze.
‘Crystal Star’ is available from Eden Brothers in packets and one-ounce packages of seed.
Like a full-bodied Zinfandel, dark columbine, A. atrata, is an Alpine native with wine-colored sepals, curled spurs, and a matching corolla for a toothsome addition to the garden table.
15. Dragonfly Mix
Like an undulating dragon in a Chinese New Year parade, A. caerulea ‘Dragonfly’ Mix brings a sparkling extravaganza.
From pinks and reds to purples, whites, yellows, and bicolors, the finely honed spurs bob playfully on faces raised skyward.
At a height of 18 to 24 inches, this cacophony of color happily wends its way around the landscape with great aplomb.
‘Dragonfly’ Mix is available from the Mountain Valley Seed Company via True Leaf Market in packages of 1,000 seeds.
Precociously purple, A. vulgaris ‘Dwarf,’ aka European columbine, is a richly color-saturated tour de force, from its luxurious tendrils to its sepals and corona.
Despite its diminutive 10- to 18-inch profile, it makes an assertive statement, especially when in the company of fellow purple powerhouse, grape hyacinth.
‘Dwarf’ is available from Eden Brothers in one-ounce quarter-pound, and one-pound packages.
17. Earlybird Purple and White
Bright-eyed Aquilegia Earlybird™ ‘Purple and White’ presents like a posy fresh for gathering. Pinkish-purple sepals and spurs light up white corollas, casting upturned faces in a lavender glow.
At 14 to 20 inches tall, it is a delightfully conspicuous invitation to revel in the joys of the season.
‘Purple and White’ is available from Burpee in packages containing 20 seeds, or four live plants.
18. Eastern Red
If hybrids are not your style, here’s a classic North American native species.
Eastern red or A. canadensis, aka wild columbine, has red nodding heads comprised of a single row of sepals and short spurs that enclose a yellow corolla.
At two to three feet tall, it’s a substantial winter send-off.
Eastern red plants are available from Nature Hills Nursery in three-packs of two-inch containers.
Fragrant columbine, A. fragrans, is a Himalayan species with sepals, short curled spurs, and a corolla cloaked in white and infused with lavender, for an ethereal visage.
At 12 to 18 inches tall, it can’t be a figment of any gardener’s imagination, but the honeysuckle-like fragrance is definitely the stuff dreams are made of.
Golden columbine, A. chrysantha, aka golden spur columbine, is a North American native.
With pale yellow sepals, long spurs, and slightly brighter yellow corollas, this wildflower faces upward like a rare bird preparing for flight.
At a towering 30 to 36 inches, it appears to be high in a treetop with other birds from the flock, enjoying a brief respite from a long winter’s journey.
21. Green Apples
With a fully double, unspurred flower that is comparable to a clematis, A. vulgaris var. stellata ‘Green Apples’ has a softly sophisticated aura.
Without the ado of brighter hues, it subtly shades from pale green to white, as smoothly as slipping off a silk scarf.
At a height of 18 to 32 inches, it is both graceful and awe-inspiring, a gentle contrast to bolder tones in proximity.
22. Little Lanterns
If you’d like to plant a native species like Eastern red columbine but don’t relish the look of the small flowers on tall stems, A. canadensis ‘Little Lanterns’ offers an alternative.
With the classic red and yellow, lantern-like flowers, and a height of only 10 to 12 inches, this well-proportioned, compact cultivar is destined for a bright future in the garden.
‘Little Lanterns’ plants are available from Nature Hills Nursery in #1 containers.
23. McKana Giant Mix
If you’re looking for a raucous riot of color, A. hybrida ‘McKana Giant’ Mix fits the bill.
Attired fancifully in shades of pink, purple, red, white, and yellow mixed and matched by Nature’s paintbrush, its effervescence is contagious.
At a grand 24 to 36 inches tall, these blooms are all dressed up and ready for fun.
‘McKana Giant’ Mix is available from Eden Brothers in packages containing one ounce, a quarter-pound, or one pound of seeds.
24. Nora Barlow
A. vulgaris var. stellata ‘Nora Barlow’ looks upward in anticipation of the appreciation of passersby.
Adorned for a debut in fully double pink, unspurred petals with a hint of green at the tips, it is a vision of loveliness.
Like its Barlow series siblings, it’s tall and shapely at 24 to 30 inches, and a diva on the garden runway.
‘Nora Barlow’ is available from Outsidepride via Amazon.
The Oriental columbine, A. oxysepala, is a picturesque garden-dweller with burgundy red sepals, curled spurs, and yellow corollas that resemble small nodding pagodas.
At a prominent 24 to 36 inches tall, it wears its blossoms like charms on a treasured bracelet, a souvenir perhaps from a mystical excursion abroad.
‘Oriental’ is available from Eden Brothers in one-ounce and quarter-pound packages of seeds.
26. Pink Petticoat
One glance at A. vulgaris ‘Pink Petticoat’ and you’ll wonder if you should avert your eyes, for surely Little Bo Peep has hung her bloomers out to dry.
The nodding heads consist of unspurred mauve sepals and dense layers of rounded petals that are white at the tips, like a pair of the fairy tale shepherdess’ finest unmentionables.
27. Red Hobbit
Aquilegia ‘Red Hobbit’ is a smaller version of 24- to 32-inch ‘Crimson Star,’ with the same spurred red sepals and white corolla reminiscent of Christmases past.
Topping out at a modest 12 to 14 inches, this brightly colored cultivar eschews the fanfare of the merry season, opting instead for a quiet life among the gnomes and other whimsical friends found in many a well-appointed garden.
28. Rocky Mountain Blue
North American native Rocky Mountain blue, A. coerulea, aka Colorado blue columbine, is an heirloom species with a rich and rugged heritage of camping out beneath starry skies.
Its white corolla sits tall in the saddle atop light purple sepals and spurs any wrangler would be proud to don. The stuff of legends, this is native columbine at its best.
At heights of 12 to 24 inches, this rough rider needs room to roam.
Rocky Mountain blue is available from Botanical Interests. There are approximately 140 seeds in each 150-milligram package.
With its buttery sepals, spurs, and fully double corolla, Aquilegia x caerulea ‘Sunshine’ faces upward, and basks blissfully in golden light.
At a height of 18 to 24 inches, it plays well with fellow yellows, daffodil and forsythia. Enjoy peace and harmony when you let the sunshine in.
‘Sunshine’ is available from Nature Hills Nursery.
30. Swan Burgundy and White
It’s a night at the opera for dashing Aquilegia Swan ‘Burgundy and White.’ Facing confidently upward and clad in burgundy velvet with a freshly pressed corolla of white, it is a pillar of the flora community.
At 18 to 24 inches tall, it is reserved yet resplendent in its attire and deportment.
You can find packs of four live plants available at Burpee.
31. Swan Pink and Yellow
Also in the Swan series, the pastel shades of Aquilegia Swan ‘Pink and Yellow’ whisper of hatching chicks and a stealthy Easter bunny filling baskets in the soft dawn light.
An upward-turned face, coral pink sepals dipped ever so lightly in cream, slender spurs, and coordinating cream centers make for a sweet confection.
Gracing outdoor spaces with its 18- to 24-inch stems, this swan recalls no ugly duckling days.
Swan ‘Pink and Yellow’ is available from Outsidepride via Amazon in packages of 15 or 30 seeds.
Is it a bird, insect, or flower? You’ll have to lean in for a close look at the Utah columbine, A. scopulorum.
This long-spurred North American wildflower has sepals and spurs of blue, purple, or white, with white corollas.
At two to 12 inches tall, it teases passersby, enticing them to bend on one knee to discover its true identity.
33. William Guiness
Dressed to the nines, dapper A. vulgaris ‘William Guiness’ is clothed in maroon sepals with trim spurs and a corolla of finest white.
At a height of 24 to 30 inches tall, it is head and shoulders above the crowd at all times and in all places.
‘William Guiness’ is available from Outsidepride via Amazon in packages of 1,000 seeds.
34. Winky Double Red and White
A. vulgaris Winky ‘Double Red and White’ is as wholesome as a slice of apple pie on the front porch on a Sunday afternoon.
Deep red sepals with quaintly curled spurs and fully double white corollas remind one of a window box full of smart pink, red, and white geraniums.
A placement alongside a picket fence is this 14- to 18-inch sweetheart’s dream home.
Winky ‘Double Red & White’ plants are available from Nature Hills Nursery in #1 containers.
35. Winky Double Rose White
If ever there was a columbine perfect for the cottage garden, it’s A. vulgaris ‘Double Rose White,’ another Winky series stunner.
A single row of pink sepals is the backdrop for a corolla filled to the brim with ruffled white petals that blush pink.
At 12 to 14 inches tall, these flouncy little darlings are the perfect understory companion for ornamental cherry and plum blossoms above.
‘Double Rose White’ is available from Outsidepride via Amazon in packages of 25 or 50 seeds.
An Ephemeral Feast
We call columbine an ephemeral because it appears briefly in the spring and then vanishes.
With 35 outstanding varieties from which to choose, it’s time to get out your garden planner and design the spring beds, borders, meadows, and woodlands of your dreams!
Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below!
If you enjoyed this luscious collection of spring-blooming columbine, we recommend reading these flower guides next: