Aquliegia Alert

The Aquilegias (Aquilegia vulgaris) have just started opening in my rockery…


They really add height and colour after the tulips have faded…


I shall be looking out for a couple of new ones I planted late last summer, but in the meantime most of them seem to be pale pink or purple…


I can’t imagine my rockery without them, so I was very worried when I recently became aware of a terrible disease threatening Aquilegias in the UK. If you grow them or intend to buy one, please read one of the following links – early identification is essential.

Gardening For health

The Telegraph

Apparently it is limited to certain areas and is particularly widespread in the south-west of England. However, my Mum is farther north (Northamptonshire) and has been saddened to find that all of her Aquilegias have disappeared. It only takes one plant to spread this mildew, which then stays in your soil and will prevent you from being able to grow them in the future too.

Carrie Thomas, who owned the National Collection, lost almost all her plants last year. She has compiled some useful information on her website, including a list of reported cases and where they are:

Touchwood Plants


I hope your Aquilegias are safe!


42 thoughts on “Aquliegia Alert

  1. I read about it too in The Garden and hope it’ll stay away as I love them dearly and can’t imagine being without them. The variety of colour and form is quite unique and never ceases to fascinate me. A friend has a garden full of them and I can spend ages shooting them. Old-fashioned they may be but their charm is hard to beat 🙂

  2. Yet another threat to our gardening pleasure, when will it end? I know there have always been pests but it does seem that the new arrivals are most virulent and I suppose the gardener has less chemicals he is able to purchase, which is a good thing but we need to learn about the alternatives and garden centres need to sell them. My aquilegia are flowering too, they are the perfect companion planting for the roses.

    • We can only hope that this horrible mildew will be contained as more people, especially nurseries, become aware of it…. and hope that it never crosses the English Channel too!

  3. My Aquilegias are flowering too at the moment and as we are in the south west, it is a bit worrying. So far, thank goodness, everything seems fine, but I will be keeping an eye on them. We only have the old fashioned variety, so maybe we will be ok.

  4. Oh this is awful Cathy…a good reason why many countries don’t want us sharing seeds and plants. I hope it is not too bad and that it stays contained….to not have these treasures would be awful especially here with many of our native Aquilegias. Mine are just beginning to bud and I too look forward to their blooms.

    • Yes, I was reading how hard it is to import new varieties of plants from the US, and was actually quite glad the controls are so strict. No one seems to know where this mildew first came from….

  5. My aquilegias are starting to flower too and are all looking healthy. I seem to have predominantly pale colours so I was thinking of removing some of the seedlings and buying some new seed, so perhaps I’ll wait a while.
    Fortunately we have very few problems with downy mildew and associated fungal diseases – this is probably a result of cool temperatures and plenty of airflow. I would seriously urge gardeners not to resort to fungicides, but to propagate from plants which appear to be resistant.

    • Good advice and I am hopeful this disease will not reach you so far north and isolated from the mainland. I think it is recorded in Yorkshire, but otherwise only in the south and south- east of England.

  6. Oh my, I had no idea that aquilegias were prone to anything worse than the usual leaf-miner tracks later in the season (which I’ve trained myself to ignore, lol). I hope this new problem does not become widespread. 😦

    • Even though we are miles away, I shall still keep a close eye on mine too Anca. The rockery is slowly fillimg out with them all! 🙂

  7. Thanks for the heads up. My aquilegias (A. vulgaris too, same colour range) are taking over, so after they flower I am going to get ruthless. I rather like the look of A. canadensis though, so there may be some additions too.

    • I planted an A. canadensis last year but for some reason it hasn’t survived… I wonder if the slugs had it! Good luck if you plant one. If I find a plant – they are extremely difficult to find here – I shall give it another go, with extra TLC. 😉

    • I am assuming this disease originated in the UK and hope it will be contained there – hopefully enough people will become aware of it to stop it spreading.

  8. This is the first I have heard of this disease. I hope you are spared. I also hope it doesn’t migrate to this side of the Atlantic but the odds are probably that it will. Oof.

    • The downy mildew that affected Impatiens in the US was widespread in the UK and Germany too, so these problems do seem to spread. I shall be keeping my fingers crossed this one can be limited with vigilant gardeners playing a role too.

  9. It will be a sad day if I don’t have any aquilegias in my garden. They are such robust dependable May garden flowers. We must hope that some of them develop a natural immunity to the fungal disease and enjoy them while we can.

    • Yes, I was reading how Impatiens mildew was treated with fungicide and the disease became resistant to the treatment, so the only answer is for nature to heal itself… Everywhere I look I see Aquilegia right now, and I can’t imagine our village without them!

  10. Cathy, thank you for this alert about aquiligias in the UK, I only have a few in the garden I grew from seed 2 years ago, however, I took seed from from some of them last year and a blogging friend in Denmark sent me some seed from 2 of her plants, so I now have over a 100 seedlings growing (I didn’t plan they would almost all germinate), I will keep watch,
    your aquiligias look beautiful in the sun and dappled shade of your lovely trees, Frances

    • It sounds like you should have a lovely display soon then, Frances! I will keep my fingers crossed for you and hope this disease doesn’t spread any further.

  11. One of the first flowers that I grew from seed along with ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ and have never been without either since Cathy. I’ve read about this mildew in several magazines and am watching mine like a hawk. Would be most sad to loose them. Hope that your new purchases join the party soon.

    • When I first moved here I took a few seeds from some roadside rockeries in the village and they have since been a highlight in my garden every spring! Hope yours aren’t affected Anna.

  12. My Aquiliegias have been flowering for some time and have seeded themselves around the garden. apart from being attractive they are much appreciated by the early bumble bees. Amelia

  13. Aquiliegias are one of my favourite plants. I had not heard of this Cathy, the poor woman with her collection, I can imagine her devastation. So far nothing here, we are in the next county south to your mum.

    • Hi Julie, I do hope it doesn’t spread to you. I wonder if this mildew is introduced to gardens on other plants, which seem to be more resistant to it.

  14. I hadnt heard of this disease but I live in the South West so may be at risk. I had a look around at the weekend and I didnt notice problems in our garden or in the neighbours – so far so good.

    • Well that is good news! I hope your region stays mildew free, but do spread the word as vigilance may help contain it. Thanks Phil.

  15. Among my most favorites in my garden now are my Aquilegias. So far no sign of this scourge here in the damp, mildew rich Pacific Northwest in the USA, I’m constantly aware of mildew. That said, we have something here called powdery mildew, which seems to attack my black-leaved Ajuga plants every year in our relatively hot (drought-like summers, usually July through September). It’s actually a fungi problem. The name “poudery mildew” sems to me a bit of a misnomer, since this fungal disease does benefit from our wet moist climate, but the spores remain dormant until the hot dry weather comes. Here’s a great post ( about non-fungicide home remedies for powdery mildew, some of which might work for the downy mildew attacking UK columbines.
    And here’s a post about one of my favorites. A. alpina (

    • Hi Bart. It is a singular strain of powdery mildew that affects the aquilegia and I think it is often too late to treat the plants once they have been affected. Thanks for the info anyway! I also have an A. alpina… not flowering yet though.

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