red columbine - aquilegia formosa

Discussion in 'HortForum' started by stevej, Jun 6, 2003.

  1. stevej

    stevej Member

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    I purchased some young plants this spring and all of them are either miserable or dying. I have planted them in a partially sunny location in a relatively rich but well-drained potting soil. As soon as some new growth appears, it soon shrivels and dies. I couldn't help but notice how the plants in the native section of the botanical garden are all thriving!

    I thought this plant was relatively easy to cultivate and I have had much greater success with supposedly far more fastidious native plants. Maybe my best bet is to directly sow some seed this fall since this plant apparently resents being transplanted from pots(?)

    Any suggestions?
  2. Douglas Justice

    Douglas Justice Well-Known Member UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society 10 Years

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    Vancouver, Canada
    Aquilegia formosa is generally, like other columbines, an easy plant to grow. What you describe sounds like ideal conditions (unless it's full blazing sun all day and the plants are drying out). However, your description of new growth shrivelling sounds like you might have a weeevil / cutworm / wireworm problem (i.e., something periodically nipping at the roots). Have you investigated this possibility by scratching around the roots or checking above ground in the early morning or at dusk?

    Did you inspect the rootballs of the plants before planting? If the plants were root-bound and the roots not teased apart before planting, they might not have penetrated into the surrounding soil. This could explain sudden collapse of new growth.

    Another possible cause of dieback is excess salts. Salts can get into soil from a variety of sources; e.g., from manure, applied fertilizers, marine beach sand, components of "topsoil," dog or cat pee, and de-icing salts. Excess salts usually can be leached from the soil by repeated heavy watering, but this may result in other problems if the soil remains saturated for extended periods.

    Seeding the columbine around is a great idea, but if there is a problem in the soil (as postulated above), it will also affect the growth of seedlings.

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