Aquilegia flabellata banner

Plant of the Month May, 2023

GENERAL INFORMATION: There are over 60 species of Aquilegia, all growing in the Northern Hemisphere. The spurred petals reminded people of an eagle's talons, hence the name Aquilegia from the Latin 'aquila', flabellata from 'flabellatus' – fan-shaped.

North American species have longer spurs compared with the European and Asian species. Plants cross easily, producing an enormous amount of seeds, sometimes giving you interesting colours. Aquilegia flabellata var. pumila blooms earlier than most, so usually breeds true. 

Synonym: Aquilegia flabellata ‘Nana’

Common Name: Fan or Dwarf Columbine.

Cultivars: Over 40 cultivars in various strains including Cameo, Fantasy and Jewel Series in blue, white, pink, salmon and purple colours.

Aquilegia flabellata seedlings

Aquilegia flabellata var. pumila.

Life Cycle: Short-lived deciduous tap-rooted perennial. Dead flower removal prolongs life.

Height:  About 15 cm high, 15 cm wide.

Bloom Time: Early May to June in Toronto. 

Aquilegia flabellata flower

Aquilegia flabellata var. pumila – close up.

Flower Colour & Size: The 4 cm flowers are nodding to out-facing, with five blue sepals, tinged with white. These alternate with five blue-spurred white petals, about 2.5 cm long. The back projecting spurs contain nectar in the curled tip. Numerous stamens surround five long beaked follicles. These split open longitudinally when ripe releasing many black seeds.

Aquilegia flabellata capsule

Aquilegia flabellata var. pumila – follicles.

Leaves: The compound palmate leaf has thee deeply lobed green/blue leaflets forming an almost circular fan shape. 

Aquilegia flabellata plant

Aquilegia flabellata  var. pumila – leaves.

Range: Native to Korea and Japan.

Habitat: Grassy and stoney areas in mountains.


Plant: In a rock garden or a trough.

Light: Full sun to part shade, with no winter wet.

Soil: Average, with plenty of organic material.

Water: Moist, well drained.

USDA Hardiness: Zones 4-9.

Companion planting: Other rock garden plants.

Aquilegia flabellata in rock garden

Aquilegia flabellata var. pumila in crevice.

Propagation: From seed: sow @ 20°C. Seed germinates within 3 months Germination is improved by using GA3. Self seeds in the garden. Does not usually cross with other Aquilegia species. The tap root makes division difficult.

Problems:  No serious problems. Leaf miner may occur – remove leaves. Deadhead for a longer flowering period. Cut to the ground when leaves start to die back.



Text and images supplied by Anna Leggatt (Toronto Master Gardener)