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How To Collect Columbine Flower Seeds

If you’re looking for perennials for your garden that are east to grow you can’t go wrong with columbine plants. Columbine flower colors come in a wide assortment due to hybridization and there is probably one suited to your garden’s color scheme. It is unfortunate, in my estimation at least, that columbine flowers are forever linked to the tragic events of 1999, I actually prefer to use the genus name Aquilegia because of this. The columbine flower’s meaning doesn’t make it any more appealing to me either. Columbine flowers are suppose to be symbols of ingratitude, faithlessness and representative of deceived lovers. If after reading all this you still want to grow columbine’s in your garden-you’re in luck. Once you know how to collect columbine flower seeds you’ll have more columbines that you know what to do with.

How to collect columbine flower plant seeds

The structural shapes of columbine flowers give them an alien appearance. After the flowers have been pollinated the petals fall off exposing a tube-shaped seed pod. If you look closely at the columbine flower photo above you’ll see two seed pods developing.

Columbine plant seed pods
Seed pods continue to develop and may get a little wider, but not by much. The green seed pods of the columbine turn brown as the seeds you want to harvest mature inside.  In the picture of the columbine seed pods above the unripe seed pod is green (on the left) and the ripe seed pods (on the right) are brown.

Ripe columbine seed pod

When you’re looking at columbine seed pods another visual clue that you can collect seeds is the way they open. Each pod creates these funnel shaped-tube and expose the seeds. You may even hear the seed pods ripen in the garden before you see them. Strong winds and brushing against the seed pods will create a rattling sound.
columbine flower seeds

Inside each seed pod there will be a lot of small, shiny back seeds. The columbine seed “pod” is sturdy and keeps the seeds on the stem for a long time. As I write this it is late October and I still have seeds in their pod in the garden.

Black columbine flowers

You may hear reference to columbines being promiscuous because they will readily hybridize in your garden with the help of pollinators. I originally only had the darker of the columbines (on the left in the picture above); the purple and white columbine came from seeds I saved from my garden. My almost black columbine flowers crossed with a lighter columbine to produce the bloom on the right.

How to Collect Columbine Flower Seeds Video

Columbines grow great in shady woodland gardens and the bright bloom colors of some of the hybrids really pop in the shade. Beside leaf miner bug damage I haven't noticed that they're bothered by garden pests. In my garden they seem to do perfectly well in full sun and with minimal watering. Columbine seedlings are easy to spot in the garden and should be weeded out if they’re growing in areas you don’t want them to because they’ll flower and set seeds and spread rapidly. After you’ve collected columbine flower seeds the easiest way to grow them from seeds is to plant them directly in the ground where you want them to grow. Plant columbine seeds late in the fall so they can germinate in the spring. The first year you’ll probably only get foliage, but by the second year your columbines will create a flush of blooms. If the meaning of columbine flowers interest you, then you may enjoy Shakespeare's Flowers, a great book on the flowers and their meaning found in Shakespeare's work. Columbines are mentioned in Hamlet they're one of the flowers Ophelia presents to the King, and coincidentally the middle name of the illustrator of the book is Ophelia. If you're new to gardening or saving seeds see How to Save Seeds From Your Garden for Next Year. My post with seed saving tips for newbie gardeners.


  1. It's funny how some plants can develop a bad reputation. I didn't know that about columbine flowers. I thought the word itself meant "dovelike." They are such delicately beautiful flowers but not well-suited to our climate. I had them in my Illinois garden years ago and shared the seeds with my sister who still grows them.

  2. I must try some seed collecting. I used to do it in my last home but haven't done this in several years. Because my garden is much smaller now, I tend to cut everything down at then end of the season.


  3. I am surprised to see so many seeds in a pod. Also, this pretty flower looks like Clematis Avant-Garde ;-)

    Thanks for the process! And as always, love your photos.

  4. Oooh, I'm not familar with this plant. It is a beauty! I'll have to look into getting these seeds.

  5. Edgewater gardener7:54 AM

    I have really dark purple, almost black, columbines in my garden and a few dark pink ones. The flowers are so beautiful when you look at them up close. So many details and beautiful lines. Your photos capture them so well.

    I am always disappointed that the flowers of my columbine face downward. Is that typical of columbines?

    I guess they reward the careful garden observer who looks closely. A treat for sure.

    1. Anonymous9:41 AM

      No, it is not typical of columbine flowers to face downward. There actually many varieties that do not. I have several different varieties, this year I am going to try and collect the seeds from one that is my all time favorite. It has the deepest violet outer petals with the inside a white. A stunning display. All of my friends want seeds from this little guy, so I'm going to give it a try.

    2. mine face downward as well

  6. It sure is a neat looking flower...I just checked and it will only grow down to zone 8, which leaves me out, sadly!!! :(
    I didn't think I had ever seen one before! Something to look for on vacations!!!

  7. @Walk2Write Columbine's root word does mean dove and Aguilegia root is eagle. I don't see the birds in them at all, maybe in the seed pods look like bird claws, but not in the actual flowers. But the flower has had a negative connotation since Shakespeare's time and there are a couple of references to it in his writings. I'm surprised it doesn't grow in your area, although considering how weedy it can get maybe that's a good thing.

    @Gatsbys Garden, I hope you start collecting seeds again, it is just so much cheaper to grow from seed from plants you already have.

    @Stephanie, You're welcomed, it does look a little bit like that bloom. thanks for stopping by.

    @MeemsNYC, Glad you like the bloom. Hope you find one that you fits your garden. While the blooms aren't as flashy I like the native columbine you can find in big box garden centers in the spring.

    @Edgewater Gardener, I had a pink one show up in my garden, I don't know where it came from but it was kind of charming, as far as pink goes. I'm glad you mentioned that because I've always wondered why people plant them so much when they can't see the bloom unless you lift the head. It is typical of columbines, although there are some like the firts picture that are kind of upright.

    @Julie, Sorry to hear, but you gardeners in the south can't have all the nice blooms! :0)

  8. Great information and very well said. Columbine's seem like they want to have their seeds collected the way the hold them up in tiny little cups. I love the rustling noise they make as you shake them out.

  9. The native red and yellow columbine will self-sow like crazy around here, and I pretty much let it do what it wants. I've never had luck getting any other species or variety to grow well, which is sad b/c I do love them! We saw pure white ones growing wild in the mountains in Utah... so beautiful.

  10. I'm glad I'm an old coot ("Hey! You kids! Get off my lawn!" (imagine me shaking a walking stick for full effect here)), because the word columbine is firmly in my brain as a flower, not the location of the tragic shooting (was it really as long ago as 1999? Time flies). The seeds are awesome--I love their shiny blackness, and the seed pod shape and texture are cool. You may recall I have trouble with columbines--I know they spread like crazy for everyone and with me they die out. Seriously! Nita saved me some A. canadensis (native, yellow & red) seeds which I've already forgotten where I sowed, but hopefully I'll have some next year. :)

  11. wenna webb10:39 AM

    Such a great information and I've been looking for this..

  12. Hi, i live in the uk and these beautiful flowers started growing in my garden : ) i have a pure white columbine and a purple one. i have no idea where they came from but im soo glad they are in my garden as i love them x

  13. Anonymous5:53 PM

    A columbine appeared in my garden this year. So delughtful! I hope they propagate! I will try to save the seeds. Good thing a Facebook friend knewcwhat it was called, so I could learn more about the flowers from your site!

  14. Very nice Columbine blog.
    I love these flowers and have just begun thinking of growing from seed; yes, they sef sow but I want some different colors.

    The information you give is very good, only would add - did I miss this? - that keeping different plants far from each other will prevent cross fertilization. I plant the ones I want to remain 'true' to color across the yard - 30ft away.


    1. Chris m.

      I don't think isolation works very well with preventing Columbines from cross-pollinating. I started my garden with a "black" flower and now there are several different colors. They've been crossed by bees visiting other columbines in the neighborhood.

    2. I bought a beautiful columbine , blue and white like grows wild in Colorado. When it bloomed this year it was yellow and really pitiful looking. Now it's leaves have white lines from leaf miners. I don't like any other color.

  15. Anonymous8:27 AM

    My sister brought me some columbine seeds from her garden in Canada ( toronto ) will try growing then in march as I live in Karachi Pakistan wish me luch

  16. I'm so glad to have found this thread. One year I was weeding my garden and there amongst the weeds I found the most beautiful flower ever.. a crimson and vanilla columbine. I didn't have a clue what this beauty was so I used Google images and after a short time was able to identify it as a Columbine. That was 3 or 4 years ago. I have allowed it to self-sow and now I have a Columbine patch. For whatever reason, it reminds me of an orchid. I have added a deep purple to my back yard and am hoping that one will not influence the other. I came here to find out how to get seeds to share and now that I have learned this, I will be sowing in pots to share with friends and family :-) Your pictures are so beautiful, thank you for your great thumb.

    1. Hi Star, thanks for sharing your story and for the compliment. I love that you're collecting and saving columbine seeds from your garden.

  17. Anonymous9:36 AM

    Can you save the extra seeds for next year and if so how do you store them ?

  18. Anonymous11:53 AM

    Does anyone know what will strip all the leaves off these plants? Every year I only have the beautiful flower left and no leaves..

    1. Anonymous7:02 PM

      Mr. Brownthumb? Any ideas? I thought it might be snails and set a few beer traps, but no luck.

    2. I can't say with much certainty what it could be since I don't know your garden, what Zone you're in, or what kind of bugs are in your area. However, the only bugs that would do that in my garden would be slugs and maybe some leaf cutter bees. If the plants have been around for years and the loss of leaves doesn't affect the flowers: don't worry about it. You know why I say this? Because my columbine leaves are nearly white because leaf miner bugs love to grow in them. They don't affect the flowering, so I don't care much.

    3. Anonymous7:01 AM

      Thanks for your reply...we are a zone 5a-6. The columbine appeared one summer and I have managed to keep seeding them in with stocks, lillies and perrenial pansies. Nothing else gets eaten, only the columbine leaves. Although the flowers are still beautiful, they also have attractive leaves but I dont even have one left.

    4. I live in CO - have been saving / sharing columbine & delphinium seeds for years. Have never seen a red columbine! It is beautiful! Anyone want to trade seeds? I have pure white as well as dark purple/white columbine and dark purple delphinium.

    5. Anonymous4:55 AM

      I had the same problem with all the leaves being eaten. I'm almost sure it was mice since I`ve seen so many in the garden.. So what I did, was transplant them in pots and now they are doing so well and I`m even collecting all the seeds to get more plants :)

  19. Cimgraph9:55 PM

    Anonymous, I too had all the leaves of my garden columbine disappear this year! It bloomed beautifully last year on a healthy leafy plant. This year, after the blooms opened, the plant leaves were eaten my something, but left the blooms! I live in northeast Ohio. Any idea what it might be?

  20. Rabbits ate the plant leaves and blooms on my columbine, so I fenced in the plants with chicken wire and the foliage grew back. I've heard that other ways to keep rabbits out are to put 1/2" cubes of irish spring soap in something like a mesh bag and hang them close by (the scent deters them), or try Liquid Fence product.

  21. Anonymous9:44 AM

    Used to water a red volcanic rock that the owner had drilled out pockets in this large rock,put earth in the pockets and planted columbine seed. Beautful central item in his garden. Still in quest of large volcanic rock to replicate.



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