Aquilegia, also known as Granny’s bonnet or crowfoot, is a plant that originated from the northeastern regions of the United States and Canada. Apart from the native species, there are also introduced European species that are available for gardening enthusiasts. Moreover, there are hybrid variants that have been created, which offer an extensive range of colors, impressive sturdiness, and towering heights – characteristics that many gardeners seek.
The A. canadensis, also known as Eastern or wild red columbine, can be found in the cool shade of woodland areas and is easily recognized by its downward-facing pendant blossoms of red or pink with yellow centers. Mountain hikers may be familiar with this native plant. Another native variety is the Colorado blue A. caerulea, which we discuss further in our article on 11 Native Blue Wildflowers for the Garden. European Aquilegia has also found its way to the United States and is naturalized here, with common types being A. vulgaris and A. alpina.
Growing columbine from seed is easy, but dividing plants may not be as successful as the rootstock and foliage are fragile and may not survive the process. This is a short-lived perennial, with plants lasting around three years, but it is also a self-sower, meaning that if you allow the seedlings to grow, you’ll have blossoms for years to come. Keep in mind that while native plants will produce seeds identical to the parent plant, the seeds of hybrids may not produce plants of equal quality, and the colors are likely to vary. Plants growing near each other are likely to cross-pollinate, potentially resulting in the dominance of one color over others.
To start seeds indoors, do so in late winter, or wait until the last average frost date of spring has passed in your area before sowing directly into the garden. Alternatively, sow seeds after summer heat wanes to allow plants to establish themselves before the first frost. When starting seeds indoors, lightly moisten the potting medium. Outdoors, work the soil down about six inches until it’s crumbly, adding sand or leaf mulch to improve drainage and loosen the soil as needed.
To plant canadensis seeds, gently press them onto the soil surface without covering them and maintain even moisture without over-saturating the soil. When starting seeds indoors, put them in a cool place until cotyledons appear and then move them into indirect sunlight to avoid scorching tender sprouts. Gradually acclimate seedlings to garden conditions before transplanting them outside for full sun to part shade with well-draining, average soil. Water weekly in the absence of rain and space plants according to seed packet instructions to prevent fungal disease. Chill seeds overnight to speed up germination and avoid cross-pollination by not planting different cultivars near each other. Aquilegia is great for beds and borders due to its shallow root system and clumping growth habit in various colors.
Aquilegia, commonly known as columbine, is a popular choice for cottage-style gardening due to its sparse foliage that complements both tall and short plants. It adds a delicate and wispy foreground display and is also great for small spaces and container gardening. Columbine thrives in the shade cast by taller companions and attracts beneficial pollinators like butterflies, bumblebees, and hummingbirds. Consistent moisture is necessary during germination and seedling stages. Weekly watering is recommended for well-established plants in the absence of rain. Deadheading spent blossoms throughout the growing season encourages more growth. Columbine is short-lived but self-sows, producing seedlings that differ from parent plants. Regular weeding ensures minimal competition for water and discourages insect infestation. Cultivars created especially for the American garden offer exceptional features such as pest resistance, peculiar colors, double petals, varying spur lengths, and upward-facing blossoms. Blue Star is an excellent cultivar with unusual cerulean blue star-like outer sepals, slender spurs, and contrasting white centers making it a stunning focal point in any garden.
Looking to add a pop of color to your garden? Look no further than the ‘Blue Star’, also known as A. caerulea. With its three to four inch blossoms and expected height of around 30 inches, this plant is perfect for creating a festive welcome for visitors to your home. ‘Blue Star’ blooms from spring into summer, making it a great addition to any garden. You can even order ‘Blue Star’ seeds now from Eden Brothers!
For a show-stopping display of multicolor blossoms, consider planting the ‘McKana Giant’. This variety stands tall at two to three feet and adds striking vertical interest to any garden.
The ‘McKana Giant’ Mix of A. hybrida showcases flowers that seem to be painted by hand, displaying a wide range of colors including purple, red, white, yellow, and bi-colored arrangements. The long spurs are particularly eye-catching, with each flower measuring about two to three inches across. This beautiful plant blooms from spring into summer and can be purchased as seeds from Eden Brothers. Another impressive cultivar is the Swan Burgundy and White, with deep burgundy sepals and velvety long spurs that contrast strikingly against the white centers. These flowers also measure two to three inches across and are a stunning addition to any garden.
Introducing the ‘Swan Burgundy and White’ plant, standing at a reasonable height of 18 to 20 inches, making it an ideal addition to any companion planting. Its color scheme is versatile, allowing for seamless integration with both vibrant and subdued flowers. This variety blooms from spring until summer and can be purchased as seeds through Burpee.
The wiɩd columbine, also known as A. canadensis, is a native Canadian species that grows naturally. The wildflower has smaller blooms when compared to hybrids, and its height is generally shorter. Unlike its hybrid counterparts, wildflowers have a downward-facing head and upward-pointing spurs.
The eastern red columbine, also known as Aquilegia canadensis, boasts one- to two-inch flowers with red sepals and yellow centers. Although the spurs are also red, they are shorter than those found in hybrid types. This native species typically grows to heights of one to two feet and produces its blooms in the spring. To showcase this plant’s beauty, mass plantings are recommended as its nodding blossoms are quite small. You can find this plant at Nature Hills Nursery or purchase packets of 50 seeds from Earthbeat Seeds. If you encounter pests like leaf miners or powdery mildew, you can pick them off by hand or use neem oil as a natural pesticide and fungicide. The eastern red columbine is a moderate maintenance plant that prefers full sun to part shade and well-draining soil with a pH between 6.8-7.2. It is tolerant of deer, rabbits, various soils, and drought. This herbaceous perennial flowering plant is a favorite for beds, borders, cottage gardens, and small-space gardens and can be accompanied by allium, daylily, foxglove, heuchera, iris, peony, phlox, or poppy.
Beneath my weeping cherry tree, the sight of caerulea sprouting signals the end of another chilly winter in the Northeast. For those seeking a pop of color during the dreary days, consider an amaryllis from the Hippeastrum genus. These modest bulbs have been selectively bred to produce dazzling flowers in various hues. Discover how to properly cultivate an amaryllis indoors and ensure its blooms thrive year after year. This flowering plant is commonly referred to as the Barbados lily or lily of the palace, with a scientific name of Hippeastrum sp. It belongs to the Amaryllidaceae family, can reach up to 36 inches in height, and has a bulb diameter of up to 5 inches. For optimal growth, it requires ample sunlight, well-draining but nutrient-rich soil, and watering dependent on the season. Please note that all products mentioned are independently chosen, and I may receive a commission if purchased through one of my links.
Amaryllis plants have been the subject of much debate around their taxonomy. They were initially placed in the African genus Amaryllis, but later moved to the South American Hippeastrum species. Despite this, we still refer to them as amaryllis. Interestingly, despite being commonly referred to as a lily, they are not actually related to true lilies.
These plants grow from bulbs and have long green leaves during the summer months. When winter rolls around, they produce thick green stems with large flowers in shades of white, orange, pink, and red. While they may be reduced to just their bulb for part of the year, they are truly spectacular when they bloom.
Amaryllis has a long cultural history, with the first cross produced in England in the early 19th century. The hybridization and cultivation of different species has continued since then, with many colors, shapes, sizes, and numbers available today. They have become a classic Christmas flower due to their blooming time in the middle of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Red amaryllis tends to be a Christmas favorite and is often sold as gifts or decorations in ornamental pots and vases.
The world of Amaryllis is vast and varied, with countless cultivars resulting from hybridization and selective breeding. The Pacific Bulb Society has a dedicated page for Hippeastrum hybrids if you want to explore the endless possibilities. Here are some of my personal favorites:
Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ is a classic and well-known variety, with bright red flowers that are foolproof to grow. Each stem produces three or four blooms up to 8 inches in diameter.
Amaryllis ‘Apple Blossom’ is a popular pink amaryllis with white blooms brushed with rosy pink, spanning up to 7 inches across. It’s an old-time favorite that’s sure to impress.
Amaryllis ‘Picotee’ is a unique variety with large, snowy white blooms measuring 8 inches across. The petals are edged with a fine, crisp red line, and each bulb produces two stout stems with four to five flowers each.
Amaryllis ‘Giant Amadeus’ is a double-blooming giant amaryllis with huge, dazzling white flowers featuring rosy red veins. The flowers can reach up to 10 inches across on sturdy stems, making a statement in any space.
Finally, Amaryllis ‘Pink Nymph’ is a stunning choice for winter color with its rich, rosy pink double flowers that open up to 10 inches across. Each bulb produces four extra-large flowers per stem, making it a glamorous choice for any home.
If you’re in the market for amaryllis bulbs- either for yourself or to give as gifts- consider choosing between a South African variety, which blooms early and adds gorgeous color to your holiday decor, or a Dutch variety, which blooms later and can brighten up January’s dreary days once the holiday lights are packed away. You’ll typically find amaryllis bulbs sold either as dormant bareroot bulbs or pre-potted and ready to display. Some retailers even offer waxed bulbs, which make popular Christmas gifts in the US and Europe. For a wide selection of both waxed and unwaxed bulbs, I personally recommend checking out Gardener’s Supply Company, but other reputable vendors include Eden Brothers, Nature Hills Nursery, and EasytoGrow.
Have you heard of waxed amaryllis bulbs? These bulbs are incredibly low-maintenance and require no water or soil due to a special wax coating. Originating from Holland, they come in various colors and designs, incorporating a hidden metal stand for stability during blooming. They can even be displayed upside-down with a special brass hanger. However, it’s important to note that waxed amaryllis bulbs are a one-time wonder because the wax prevents new roots from growing. After blooming, they must be discarded. Although they may be more expensive than unwaxed bulbs, they make for a beautiful floral centerpiece lasting up to six weeks. If you prefer tall flowers that last longer, opt for an unwaxed bulb grown in soil instead.
Caring for your indoor amaryllis requires some attention to detail. The most important thing to remember is that their needs change with the seasons. Generally, they thrive in bright light, but you should protect them from direct sun rays if they are blooming. Outdoor temperatures are fine for part of the year, but once it drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, bring them inside to bloom. Watering is necessary, but make sure the top few inches of soil dry out before watering again. Use well-draining soil and a container slightly larger than the bulb with a drainage hole. Fertilizing regularly is appreciated when growth appears. Pruning flowers after blooming and allowing foliage to remain to photosynthesize is essential. Repotting or dividing can be done during a dormancy period. Bulb division is the easiest method, where healthy bulbs produce offsets that can be separated, but bulb sectioning or growing from seed are other options. Following these guidelines will ensure a thriving amaryllis plant.
Are you wondering how to make your amaryllis bloom? The good news is that it usually doesn’t require much effort as long as you follow the yearly cycle. After the flowers have wilted, remove them along with the yellow stalk. Regularly fertilize and make sure your plant gets plenty of sunlight. In the spring, when there’s no risk of frost, move your potted amaryllis outdoors while still providing enough water, fertilization, and light. When temperatures start dropping, bring the plant back inside, which should trigger blooming. Once it starts blooming, consider placing it in a slightly cooler spot to maintain the flowers’ longevity. While special steps such as letting the bulb go dormant aren’t necessary, you can force it to bloom at a specific time by placing the bulb in a cool, dark place for two to three months before moving it to a sunny spot and resuming regular care. With proper care throughout the year, your amaryllis should start blooming within a month.