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FutureStarrAWhere to Plant Columbine
On average to good soils, Columbine will thrive with little help from the gardener, and will continue to re-seed itself in the garden, often popping up where you least expect them. It’s a joy of spring to see the first hummingbirds finding the brightly colored blossoms, so plant them where you’ll be sure to witness the antics of these little airborne acrobats.
Soil: Well-drained soil that stays evenly moist but not boggy or constantly wet is preferred. Dappled-shade situations, such as you might find at the edge of a woodland, are perfect for Columbine. Such a site keeps roots and foliage cool whilst providing light to encourage good blooms. Heavy clay soils are not tolerated well; Columbine prefers sandier, loamier soils on the fatter side of average. Be aware however that too-rich soils can encourage vigorous upward growth that could require staking.Growth Habit: Depending on species, Columbine will grow from 1-3’ tall, and about 18” wide. Plants form a soft, mounding clump of bluish-green, deeply-lobed foliage that emerges in early spring. The fascinating, spurred flowers come in a huge array of colors and are often bi-colored. They are borne above the foliage from the center of the plant. After flowering, foliage can be cut back to encourage new, fresh foliage clumps to emerge. In areas with hot summers, especially in a full-sun position, foliage often remains dormant and reemerges in the fall. Seedlings can also seed themselves into the cracks between rocks or walls and remain green throughout a mild winter.
Dividing & Transplanting: If dividing, divide carefully. Columbine has deep roots and it will sulk after transplanting. Try to dig down as deeply as you can in a circle around the clump and lift the clump without breaking the soil ball. Lay that on the ground and divide quickly with a sharp spade, trying to retain a good amount of soil around the roots. Replant the divisions gently and keep well-watered.These perennials are most useful under trees in dappled shade or planted along the north or northeast side of buildings and walls. Individual Columbine plants are not long lived (3 or 4 years), but create long lived colonies of plants by reseeding themselves with ease. I make it a point to plant only non-hybrid types to ensure that my plants come true from seed and the flowers stay brightly colored like the parent plants. Many Columbines available from “Big Box” stores are hybrids. When these hybrids reseed themselves over several generations, regardless of their original flower color, the flowers of their seedlings will turn a dingy shade of yellow. (Source: www.highcountrygardens.com)