Commonly known as the Rocky Mountain Columbine, Aquilegia Caerulia blooms during early summer in the mountain regions of Western America. These striking flowers feature a signature two-toned purple and white star-shaped petals, with a contrasting yellow center of stamens. The tall upright structures of these plants, with their vibrant blooms facing upward towards the sky, create a truly beautiful sight in the garden. The fern-like foliage further accentuates this visual appeal. The blooms are, however, short-lived, only lasting for a few weeks between spring and early summer.
Aquilegia Caerulia belongs to the family Ranunculaceae, and is classified as a perennial plant. This means it can come back and bloom year after year, provided the right conditions are created.
How to Plant and Grow Rocky Mountain Columbine
Rocky Mountain Columbine requires well-draining, slightly acidic soils, which are moist but not soggy. They prefer a slightly shady environment and can tolerate full sun if the soil is constantly kept moist. Care should be taken to water the roots without splashing the foliage, in order to avoid developing fungal diseases. Temperatures should remain moderate, and fertilizer should only be used in minimum quantities.
Meaning and Symbolism
The delicate blossom of the Rocky Mountain Columbine is thought to have most meaningful symbolic connotations. It was once believed to shelter the fairies when they came out at night under a full moon and hence, has come to represent good luck and fortune. It is also the official state flower of Colorado in the US, denoting Colo’s commitment to hard work, determination, and honesty.
The genus name Aquilegia is derived from the Latin term for eagle, “aquila”; a reference to the shape of the flowers resembling an eagle’s claw. As for the species name Caerulia, it is derived from the Latin term for “dark blue” which is what the petals of the flower turn as they age.
History, Mythology, and Religious Significance
In ancient Greece, the Rockies were believed to be sacred and were thought to bring strength and courage to their possessors. These flowers were also used in traditional medicine as they are believed to have healing properties when ingested. In Buddhism and Hinduism, these flowers have an equally sacred connotation, signifying harmony, contentment and fertility.
Flower Varieties and Defining Characteristics
The most common of all the varieties of Aquilegia Caerulia is the Rocky Mountain Columbine. It is a sturdy plant growing between 18 to 24 inches tall and features the characteristic two-toned star-shaped petals that come in pure white, light and dark purple, pink, and yellow shades. They have simple two-parted fern-like foliage and produce single or double flowers.
The Spicy Columbine is shorter than the Rocky Mountain Columbine and produces pinkish-violet flowers with a spicy fragrant. The Summer Snow Columbine is a variety that produces single flowers that are cream-white in color with a light yellow center. Its foliage is deeply lobed and serrated which adds to its beauty. The Cascade Columbine is a variety that produces large flowers in shades of pink and purple with a bright yellow center. Its leaves are lacy, serrated, and delicate.
How to Pot and Repot Rocky Mountain Columbine
Rocky Mountain Columbines prefer large pots with a drainage hole to allow the excess water to drain out. They can be grown both indoors and outdoors, and should be placed in an area where they will receive lots of indirect sunlight. Begin by filling the pot with a general-purpose potting soil, mixed with 20% compost. Plant the columbines 8-10 inches apart. Water the plant regularly, and make sure to allow the excess water to drain out.
Rocky Mountain Columbine can be repotted every two years. Carefully dig around the plant to remove it from the existing pot, taking care not to damage the roots. Choose a new pot that’s 2-3 inches bigger than the existing pot, and fill it with a light-weight potting mix. Carefully place the plant in the center of the pot, making sure the rootball is completely covered. Water thoroughly, and allow the excess water to drain out. Place the potted plant in an area where it will receive lots of indirect sunlight.
How to Prune
Rocky Mountain Columbine should be pruned at the end of the blooming season in late summer or early fall. Pruning helps to keep the plant compact, encourages new growth and helps to keep it healthy. Prune back the stems that have bloomed to encourage new growth and to reduce overcrowding. Remove dead leaves or stems that are damaged and faded away. Prune out any branches that are crossing each other, or growing in the wrong direction. This will allow more light and air to reach all of the stems so that they can bloom properly.
How to Propagate
Rocky Mountain Columbine can be propagated from both seed and division. To propagate from seed, sow the seeds in a container filled with moist potting mix. Keep the soil moist, and place the container in a sunny spot. The seeds should germinate within 10-15 days.
To propagate by division, dig up the clump in spring and divide it into small sections. Each section should have a few roots and stems attached to it. Plant each piece 2-3 inches deep in a new pot filled with a light-weight potting mix. Water the newly planted divisions, and keep them moist, but not overly wet. They should take root in a few weeks.
Common Pests and Diseases
Rocky Mountain Columbine is generally pest and disease-free, but can be affected by powdery mildew, aphids, and slugs. To prevent powdery mildew, make sure to provide adequate air circulation to the plant by spacing the plants further apart, and removing dead leaves from the center of the plant. Aphids can be removed with a stream of water from the hose. For slugs, crushed eggshells provide a good barrier around the plant, and you can also use a commercial slug and snail repellent.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How big do Rocky Mountain Columbines get?
A: Rocky Mountain Columbines usually grow between 18 to 24 inches tall.
Q: When is the best time to plant Rocky Mountain Columbines?
A: Rocky Mountain Columbines should be planted in early spring when the soil has warmed up and there is less risk of frost.
Q: Can I grow Rocky Mountain Columbines indoors?
A: Yes, Rocky Mountain Columbines can be grown indoors as a houseplant.
Table Fact Sheet
|Partial shade/full sun
|Well-draining, slightly acidic
|Spring to Early Summer
|White, purple, pink, yellow
|Montana to Arizona and New Mexico