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Columbine Flowers: An Early Summer Flower to Attract Hummingbirds

by | Updated: Dec 9, 2021

Blue and white columbine flowers (botanical name: Aquilegia)

Who else loves Columbine flowers?

(I have both my hands up.)

You’ll see Columbine flowers growing along alpine hiking trails in the Rocky Mountains… and in western gardens.

When I see them on mountain trails, I want to turn into Julie Andrews at the start of The Sound of Music, twirling around with my arms in the air, singing about the hills being alive. They make me giddy every time I see them.

Rocky Mountain Columbines bloom on a mountain in Colorado or Utah

Columbine flowers are perennials. This means they come back every year.

If you’re like me, you may think of Rocky Mountain Columbines first. They’re the bluish-purple and white flowers you’ll often see on mountain trails (like the ones pictured above). Rocky Mountain Columbines grow well in moist mountain meadows.

But you can find Columbine flowers in different types and colors.

There’s even a type of Columbine that can handle our hot, semi-arid summers at lower elevations in the intermountain west. (Scroll down for the scoop!)

Typically, Columbine flowers bloom in May and June at our lower elevations in states like Colorado.

And at our higher elevations, these flowers usually bloom in June and July.

Columbines are a WONDERFUL hummingbird magnet.

If you ever get a chance to visit the Betty Ford Alpine Garden in Vail, Colorado during the summer, make a beeline to the Columbine flowers.

If they’re in bloom, you’ll often be able to watch the hummingbirds blissfully zip from flower to flower.

It’s heavenly.

Tip: If you want to plant flowers that attract hummingbirds to your garden, add Columbines to your list.

Happy plants are longer-lived plants, so let’s chat about how to keep your Columbines happy.

The big thing is planting your Columbines in the right place in your garden.

Our summers can get really hot in our lower elevations in western states like Colorado and Utah. If you live someplace hot, your Columbines will likely prefer spots in your garden that have “partial shade” or “shade.” (A helpful guideline is 4 hours or less of sunlight, and avoid planting them in afternoon sunlight, which can be too hot.)

For example, you may want to plant them in the shade of a leafy tree.

They also like it when your dirt (which we’ll call “soil”) is moist and drains well.

To help keep your soil moist, it helps to put a layer of “mulch” (like wood chips or mini-bark) on top. You can find mulch at your local garden center.

But there IS a type of Columbine that can handle sunnier spots…

And it’s a much better fit for our gardens in the hot, semi-arid parts of the intermountain west!

If you’re looking for a Columbine flower that grows well in sunshine, ask at the garden center about Denver Gold® Columbine.

This plant’s official botanical name is: Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Denver Gold’.

Denver Gold® is a showy, yellow Columbine that flourishes in sunny locations.

It grows well in our tricky western soils up to elevations of about 9,000 feet.

In the photo above, you’ll see Denver Gold® Columbines (the tall, yellow flowers) planted next to purple flowers known as bearded irises.

Isn’t this a pretty combo?

Denver Gold® Columbines give you beautiful yellow flowers in May and June in our lower elevations. And if you trim off the dead blooms, you may get more flowers later in the summer as well.

It’s native to the canyon lands in the Southwest.

If you’re familiar with plant hardiness zones, which tell you how likely a plant is to survive the coldest winter temperatures expected in your area, Denver Gold® Columbines typically grow well in zones 3-8.

In the photo above, Denver Gold® Columbines (the yellow flowers) are planted alongside a bluish-purple flower known as Salvia (Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’).

Another showy combo!

If you live in another region of the country…

Ask at your local garden center whether Columbines will grow well where you live.

Related tips that may interest you:

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Ann from Go West Gardener with her flowerpots and garden

Hey there, I'm Ann

I’m a Certified Colorado Gardener, dog mama and Midwesterner-turned-Colorado girl. I help budding gardeners in the intermountain west skip the “Why didn’t anyone tell me that phase?”, so they can get pretty results faster. More about Ann >>

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