Aquilegia vulgaris (granny’s bonnets) is an easy-to-grow hardy perennial wildflower, sometimes also known as common columbine. It's the parent of many named varieties and is an old cottage-garden favourite, popular for creating clumps or drifts of late spring and early summer colour in informal plantings. It comes readily and cheaply from seed, sometimes flowering in the same year from an early sowing.
Aquilegia flowers are unusually shaped, forming a central bell-shaped cluster surrounded by flared petals, sometimes with pronounced spurs. They can be single or double, and come in a range of colours including purple, blue, pink, yellow, white, and bicolours. They are borne profusely in clusters on slender, upright stems that arch at the tops, rising from clumps of attractive, rounded, scalloped-edged leaves. Aquilegias suit an informal border, naturalistic-style plantings, and wild gardens.
Aquilegia vulgaris thrives in sun or partial shade and grows in any reasonable garden soil, excepting extremes of wet or dry. Once established, Aquilegia vulgaris needs virtually no care apart from cutting back the faded blooms and all the foliage in summer, which encourages a fresh neat clump of foliage to form. If the winter is mild, the foliage may remain and provide useful winter interest. Should hard frosts occur, the plant dies back to the ground, regrowing again the following spring.
Powdery mildew disease may be a problem during long dry spells in summer, making the leaves become greyish and tatty-looking, and this is best tackled by cutting back all growth to the ground as described above. Aquilegia vulgaris does self-seed freely, often cross-fertilising with other varieties. To avoid having lots of seedlings, remove the faded flowers or green seed pods before they ripen.
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Advice on buying Aquilegia vulgaris
- Many varieties of Aquilegia vulgaris are widely available as pot-grown plants or as seed
- Always check plants for signs of damage or disease before buying
Where to buy Aquilegia vulgaris