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Good choice for shade, woodland, and rock gardens and naturalized area.

Good choice for shade, woodland, and rock gardens and naturalized area. USDA, NRCS. 2012. The PLANTS Database (, 5 October 2012). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

Aquilegia canadensis 'Little Lanterns'

Wild columbine

Native to North America (selection)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Aquilegia canadensis ‘Little Lanterns’ is a lovely wildflower with delicate ferny foliage.  In spring, slender flower stalks emerge bearing red and yellow flowers.  The blooms are nodding and have spurs. Plants grow best in a partly sunny or shaded site with average or dry garden soil. This variety has more compact growth and more intense flower color than the species.

HABITAT & HARDINESS: This cultivar is of unknown origin. It is rumored to have been discovered in a nursery.

Plants are adapted to bright woodland gardens on slopes or along paths.

Hardy from USDA Zones 3-8.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:  Aquilegia canadensis ‘Little Lanterns’ is a mounding perennial with compound round-lobed leaves.  Foliage is airy, deep green and very attractive.  A green winter rosette is present except in extremely cold climates.

Dainty pendant flowers are held above the foliage in late spring and early summer. The flowers are comprised of 5 tubular red and yellow petals and 5 flat red sepals.  The petal spurs point up and contain nectar that is only accessible to long tongued pollinators like hawk moths and hummingbirds.

Plants usually attain a height of 1’ and a spread of 1’. 

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDSAquilegia canadensis ‘Little Lanterns’ grows best in partial shade but also adapts to sun and shade. 

Plants need a well drained soil.  They tolerate drought, alkaline soil and are usually not palatable to deer.

LANDSCAPE USES:  This plant is a perfect candidates for the Shade Garden or Wildlife Garden.  Aquilegia canadensis ‘Little Lanterns’ is also used as an Accent, Butterfly Nectar Plant, Butterfly Host Plant, Groundcover, Grouping or Mass Planting.  It provides Showy Blooms and is a valuable component of Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Rock Gardens, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders and Meadows.

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:  Try planting this with spring blooming wildflowers like Phlox divaricata, Iris cristata, Spigelia marilandica, Tiarella cordifolia and Heuchera Americana ‘Dales Strain’. 

Carex pennsylvanica, Asaram canadense, Osmunda cinnamomea, Athyrium filix-femina and Polystichum acrostichoides are nice foliage companions.

Aquilegia canadensis can be substituted for this plant.  Bear in mind that the straight species is a larger plant with height as much as 4’.

TRIVIA:  The floral spurs are narrowed just below the nectar containing tip.  This prevents small bees or short tongued insects from sipping the nectar.  Hawk Moths and Ruby Throated Hummingbirds have no problems because their long tongues are adapted perfectly for the task.

The genus name Aquilegia comes from the Latin word for eagle (aquila), because the shape of the petal spurs is said to resemble an eagle’s talon.

Host to the Columbine Duskywing Caterpillar.

Like many other members of the Buttercup Family, this plant has unexpectedly colored sepals.  In this case they are red instead of the usual green.


12 in


9-12 in

USDA Hardiness Zone:


Bloom Color:


Aquilegia canadensis 'Little Lanterns' Characteristics

Attracts Wildlife

  • Hummingbirds


  • Full Sun
  • Shade
  • Partial Shade


  • Naturalizing
  • Drought Tolerant

Deer Resistant

  • Deer Resistant

Flowering Months

  • May
  • April

Foliage Color

  • Green

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Moist

Plants that work well with Aquilegia canadensis 'Little Lanterns'

Woodland Phlox Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata)
Creeping foam flower Creeping foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Dales alum root Dales alum root (Heuchera americana 'Dales Strain')

Substitutions for Aquilegia canadensis 'Little Lanterns'

Wild columbine Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Indian pink (No Advance Order) Indian pink (No Advance Order) (Spigelia marilandica)
Harebell Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)