Tips For Producing Aquilegia

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Aquilegia canadensis

Aquilegia canadensis

Always one of America’s favorite perennials, aquilegia remains a great harbinger of spring. With colorful blooms gracing gardens everywhere for spring and early summer, columbine adds creativity and impact time and again.

Typically growing 2 to 3 feet high and spreading only 1 to 1 1/2 feet, aquilegia loves full sun to part shade and is hardy in approximately Zones 3 to 8. Showy and stunning, they attract hummingbirds nicely and tolerate rabbit and deer well. Another benefit: good drought tolerance and acceptance of drier soils.

While great for backdrops, borders and naturalizations, they’re also stunning container plants. And don’t underestimate their bicolor blooms’ value as cut flowers.

Planting

Plant one liner per 1-gallon pot. Apply a preventive fungicide drench at transplant. Plants will finish for spring sales in eight to 10 weeks. Plants can also be overwintered in cold houses for flowering early spring sales.

Growing Media

Use a well-draining commercial media.

Temperature

Provide 60°F to 70°F days and 50°F to 60°F nights for optimum growth. Cooler temperatures result in heavier flowering.

Soil pH And EC

Maintain pH in the range of 5.5 to 5.8 and keep electrical conductivity (EC) at 0.8 to 1.25 mS/cm using the 2:1 extraction method.

Fertilizing

Fertilize as needed with a liquid feed at 100 to 150 ppm nitrogen.

Irrigation

Allow plants to dry between ample waterings.

Vernalization

Aquilegia require vernalization for flowering. Generally, cold treatments are most effective once liners have established root systems and are at least six to eight weeks old. Vernalize in finished containers for two to three weeks.

Supplemental Lighting

Consider supplemental lighting to enhance shoot and root growth. Plants will also bloom earlier with high light.

Pinching And PGRs

Pinching and plant growth regulators (PGRs) generally aren’t needed for aquilegia.

Pests and Diseases

Pests shouldn’t be a problem if standard sanitation practices are followed. Monitor carefully for aphids, spider mites and powdery mildew.

Preventive measures should include maintaining good air circulation and managing humidity levels. Consider a monthly preventive broad spectrum fungicide rotation for added assurance.

Josiah Raymer is head grower and general manager for Emerald Coast Growers, a supplier of perennial starter plants, specialty plants and ornamental grass liners. You can eMail him at jraymer@ecgrowers.com.
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