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Little Lanterns Columbine: A Compact Variety for Shade

Virtues: Little Lanterns columbine is a cultivar of the East Coast–native Aquilegia canadensis. Like the species, it adds dainty red flowers to the shade garden in late spring. This variety keeps a lower height than its parent, however, making it easier to place in the front of the shade border or among low-growing woodland perennials.

little lanterns columbine

Common name: Little Lanterns columbine

Botanical name:Aquilegia canadensis ‘Little Lanterns’

Exposure: Part shade is best, but can take more sun in cooler climates

Season: Late spring, for flowers

Flowers: Little Lanterns columbine has the same red-and-yellow, down-hanging flowers as the straight species Aquilegia canadensis, but with deeper color. The blossoms appear in late spring and can go into early summer.

Foliage: The lobed, maple-like leaves are medium green. Eastern columbine is admired for its general resistance to leaf miners that, while relatively harmless, can taint the foliage of other columbine species and garden varieties.

Habit: Little Lanterns is an herbaceous perennial that grows 10 to 16 inches tall with a 8- to 12-inch width. This variety was selected because it stays shorter than the species.

Origins:Aquilegia canadensis, or eastern red columbine, is native to woodlands across roughly the eastern half of North America.

How to grow Little Lanterns columbine: Plant this perennial in well-drained soil in part shade. In areas where summers remain cool, it can take up to full sun. It needs regular moisture; provide supplemental water during any dry spells in spring. Hot, dry summer weather can prompt eastern columbine to fall dormant, but it should reappear the next spring. If you wish the foliage to remain attractive through summer, water the plant regularly after bloom. Otherwise, the plant can be cut back as the leaves begin to decline. This columbine will readily seed itself around the garden. If this is not wanted, deadhead before seed is set. Seedlings are easy to identify and pull or transplant. USDA Zones 3–8.

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