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Aquilegia canadensis (wild columbine)
Species Distribution Map: Click to enlarge
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Aquilegia canadensis

wild columbine or Canadian columbine

Red flowers with yellow centers hang like drifts of softly illuminated lanterns in April and May. Excellent as a shady rock garden naturalizer, it also is quite content in average garden conditions. Occurs naturally in rich rocky woods, north-facing slopes, cliffs, ledges, pastures, and roadside banks. Native to all states east of the Rockies, but not found in Louisiana.

Aquilegia canadensis LP32 - 32 per flat Availability
Aquilegia canadensis - 72 per flat Availability
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1-3 Feet


1 Feet


12 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone 3-8

wild columbine Interesting Notes

Aquilegia canadensis is one of the sweetest woodland wildflowers, known for its red flowers with yellow centers that hang like drifts of softly illuminated lanterns in April and May. It is a relatively short-lived perennial. However, it can maintain its place in the landscape by self-seeding. The Aquilegia genus tends to hybridize quite easily, sometimes with Aquilegia vulgaris (European columbine). Hybrids of the native A. canadensis can be distinguished from European hybrids because they are always a shade of red.

Although there are many Aquilegia species native to the western United States, Aquilegia canadensis is the only species native to the east. It occurs naturally in rich rocky woods, north-facing slopes, cliffs, ledges, pastures, and roadside banks in partial shade and filtered sun.

If you visit our trial gardens in the spring you will likely see the delicate red flowers of Aquilegia canadensis floating everywhere throughout our shade gardens. We love this plant for the impact it has while blooming en masse. Because red columbine is far from aggressive, we let it seed around between taller perennials and shrubs and into small pockets of soil in our living wall. We love this plant for its ability to fill in the gaps and look great popping up next to just about anything!

Several insect larvae eat Aquilegia canadensis foliage, but unlike many other Aquilegia selections it is much less susceptible to leaf miner damage. The flowers are pollinated by bumblebees and the Ruby-throated hummingbird.

Aquilegia canadensis Growing and Maintenance Tips

Thrives in part to full shade in any well-drained soil. Plants tolerate full sun if temperatures are cool, but they prefer partial shade. They may go dormant in mid summer if stressed by heat or drought, but will emerge again in late winter. Plants reseed readily and plantings may double in size in two years.

Good Substitutions

wild columbine Aquilegia canadensis 'Corbett'
dwarf wild columbine Aquilegia canadensis 'Little Lanterns'

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Shade
Full Shade
Part Sun
Part Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Salt Tolerance
Salt Tolerance
Early Spring
Early Spring

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Green Infrastructure
Green Roof
Wetland Indicator Status
Falcutative Upland (FACU)
Plug Type
Horticultural Plug
Landscape Plug™
For Animals
Caution: Toxic
Native to North America
Season of Interest (Flowering)
Late Spring / Early Summer
Propagation Type
Open pollinated