Why plant Audubon® Native Columbine?
After a long winter without their perky presence, it’s a joy each spring to see the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return from their annual sojourn down South. Welcome them back to your garden with Eastern Red Columbine! This jaunty native wildflower starts blooming exactly when the hummers return, its blaze-red petals drawing them near for a closer look. So begins the mutually beneficial dance that has gone on for eons—the birds getting sweet nectar to fuel their frantic flights, and the plants getting pollination. Finches and buntings benefit from Eastern Red Columbine as well—they eat the seeds in late summer and fall.
Native to most of the eastern U.S. and extending into Canada, Eastern Red Columbine is a well-known and well-loved wildflower. It has been given many pet names, including rock bells, rock lily, honeysuckle, cluckies, and meeting houses (for the resemblance of the spurs to the steeples on meeting houses, or churches). “Columbine” itself comes from the Latin word for dove. To some early Native American tribes, Columbine was thought to be effective as a love potion. To Europeans, however, it inspired other ideas. To give a woman a Columbine bouquet indicated that her husband had been unfaithful!
How to use Audubon® Native Columbine in the landscape?
Eastern Red Columbine blooms at the same time as another of our native wildflowers, Woodland Phlox. The two make a pretty pair. Try them together in light shade at the forest’s edge or under a shade tree in your yard.
Hardiness Zone: 3-8
How To Plant Audubon® Native Columbine
In the wild, Eastern Red Columbine is adaptable, sometimes clinging to rocky outcroppings, other times making itself at home on the forest floor. In the garden, it is best in moist but well-drained soil and part shade. It’s easy to please. The only issue that may arise is leaf miner, an insect that burrows into the foliage, making telltale trail marks. This is not a serious problem, and it is less common on this species than on others. Red Columbine is typically a short-lived Accent, though it does reseed readily. New plants will pop up here and there, generally flowering in their second year.
How To Water
Water twice weekly for the first 3-5 weeks; then water weekly for the remainder of the year until winter. When you water, water slowly and thoroughly. Watering needs may be altered due to extreme weather conditions.
How To Fertilize
Incorporate Elements Starter Plant food granular form into the soil when planting. If planting in spring or summer start fertilizing late fall using Elements Starter Plant food granular form on an annual basis each late year. Continue this for three years to get your plant well established.
How To Prune
Each fall, just before winter sets in clean up the previous years foliage and compost it. Be sure your perennials are mulched well for winter protection. Two inches of an organic mulch will do the job. Consider leaving the plant debris in place through the winter and doing your clean up on the weather warms in the spring. While it doesn't make things neat and tidy, the debris provides overwintering protection for insects, their eggs and pupae including our native Viceroy butterfly.