Columbine can develop drought tolerance after they establish fully in the garden. Watering these perennials well from the beginning is the real secret to helping them fully establish. Plants that have been under-watered or over-watered tend to become weak and may never fully recover. The root system requires both sufficient moisture and air circulation in the soil, which is why drainage is so important for most plants. Columbine prefers soil that is damp and moist, but not waterlogged or heavy.
How to Tell if Columbine Needs Watering
The symptoms of over-watering and under-watering can be very similar in most plants. Drooping leaves or stems, browning of the leaves starting at the bottom of the plant, and leaves turning crispy and crunchy after browning (too dry) or turning black and slimy (too wet). Improper watering can also weaken plants, leaving them vulnerable to pests and diseases. Even consistent watering with soaker hoses or drip irrigation can prevent this problem. The water is applied directly to the soil around the plant, where the roots will absorb it directly, keeping the foliage dry.
How Often to Water Columbine
Newly planted Columbine will respond well to one inch of water a week applied over 2 or 3 watering sessions. Watering deeply and less often will help the roots to reach deep in the soil to seek out the water. Frequent waterings for shorter periods promote a more shallow root system, which is less resistant to drought or heat.
Established Columbine plants require much less supplemental watering. A deep watering of 1 inch per week is what established perennials need. Mulching every fall or spring with organic materials such as compost, shredded leaves or arborist chips will not only help to shade and cool the root area, but it will also keep the soil moist longer by slowing evaporation from the soil surface.
Container-grown Columbine will need more frequent watering, potentially even daily in hot, dry climates. Mulches of compost and finely shredded mulch will help to conserve moisture in the pot. The container should be watered when the top 2 inches of soil are dry to the touch. If the pot has good drainage, there will be very little risk of overwatering. Make sure to water until it runs out of the bottom of the pot. This ensures that the soil in the pot is moistened evenly.
Best Time to Water Columbine
Morning is the best time of day to water. Watering early in the day will ensure that most of the water soaks into the soil instead of evaporating from heat or sun. Watering during the winter will rarely be needed. Columbine goes dormant and all of the top growth dies back to the ground by the fall. The most important thing will be to make sure that the planting site continues to drain well through the winter months. Columbine will not tolerate waterlogged soil or time in standing water.
How to Water Columbine
Step 1 - Asses the look of the plant for signs of under-watering
Step 2 - Feel the top 2 inches of soil for moisture
Step 3 - Early in the day, run a soaker hose or drip irrigation until the soil is wet to at least 6 inches below the surface. Sandy soils will need more watering than clay soils.
Step 4 - Avoid overhead watering in order to keep the foliage free from mildew and fungal disease.
Columbine Watering Tips
- Over-watered and under-watered plants often have the same symptoms
- Excellent drainage is the key to healthy Columbine plants
- Drip irrigation and soaker hoses deliver efficient watering that helps to keep the foliage dry
- Water containers until water freely runs out of the bottom
- Watch out for waterlogged soil in the winter
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