How to Grow and Care for Aquilegia Vulgaris

Aquilegia Vulgaris in a Cottage Garden

Often found gracing the pages of picturesque cottage garden books, the Aquilegia Vulgaris is as delightful as it is robust. Commonly known as Granny’s Bonnet or Columbine, this perennial displays delicate, nodding bonnet-like flowers that flutter in the breeze. 

Let’s embark on a journey to understand this charming plant and learn the tips and techniques for its successful cultivation, whether you’re starting by sowing seeds or planting grown plants. 

An Overview

Aquilegia Vulgaris (also known as the common columbine) is a cottage garden favourite, adored for its natural elegance and wide range of colour variations. It’s a hardy perennial that blossoms from late spring to early summer, adding a graceful charm to your garden.

Growing Guide: Cultivating Aquilegia Vulgaris

Choosing Your Plant

When choosing which aquilegia plant to grow or plant, look for plants with healthy foliage and vibrant, well-formed flowers. The plant should show no signs of disease or pest damage, specifically, you should look for any damage by leaf miners which can attack all varieties of aquilegia. 

Planting Out

This perennial prefers a spot in partial shade with well-drained soil. It’s fairly adaptable and can grow in a variety of soil types, although it prefers neutral to slightly acidic soil.

Caring for Your Aquilegia Vulgaris

Regular watering is essential, especially during dry spells. However, take care to avoid waterlogging the soil as this can lead to root rot

Aquilegia Care

Watering and Feeding

Aquilegia Vulgaris does well with consistent, but not excessive, watering. A balanced, slow-release fertiliser applied in early spring can encourage vigorous growth and blooming.


Applying a layer of organic mulch in the spring can help to maintain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and improve the soil’s organic content over time.


Prune the plant after flowering to maintain a neat appearance and prevent excessive self-seeding, which can lead to overcrowding.

How to Grow Aquilegia from Seed

The seeds can be sown in late summer or early autumn for flowering in the following spring. The advantage of sowing at this time is that the cold winter period can provide a natural stratification process that encourages germination.

If you’re looking for a great variety to try and grow from seed in the UK, then we recommend the stunning ‘Black Barlow’ variety with deep purple flowers.

Growing Aquilegia in Pots

When considering container gardening, it’s essential to note a few specifics for successful growth. Firstly, choose a pot that’s at least 30 cm in diameter to accommodate its root system. Ensure the container has adequate drainage holes to prevent waterlogged conditions, which columbines detest. Use a high-quality, well-draining potting mix enriched with organic matter for optimal growth.

Regular watering is crucial, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings to avoid roots becoming too damp. Positioned in partial shade, Aquilegia Vulgaris in pots will offer vibrant blooms and healthy growth, making it a worthy addition to any container garden ensemble.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Aquilegia Vulgaris toxic to pets?

Yes, all parts of the plant are toxic if ingested. Although rarely fatal, consumption can lead to gastrointestinal upset in pets, so it’s best to keep them away from this plant.

How long does Aquilegia Vulgaris bloom?

Typically, this cottage garden favourite blooms from late spring to early summer, providing a beautiful burst of colour for several weeks.


With its delicate blooms and easy-care nature, this flower is a gem in any garden. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, the charm of the Granny’s Bonnet is sure to captivate and delight.

Remember, every plant you nurture enriches not just your garden, but also your understanding of nature and its wonders. So let’s keep learning, growing, and sharing our wonky green knowledge!