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Plant Profile: Bleeding Hearts

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Wondering what to plant with bleeding hearts?

If you’re wondering what to plant with bleeding hearts, you’re in luck! That’s because there are so many beautiful planting combinations to pair with these plants. In fact, it’s important to include a variety of plants with your Dicentra (aka bleeding hearts). Because if you don’t, your garden may look bare much of the year.

In early spring, bleeding hearts are among some of the earliest perennials to bloom. And they blend beautifully into mixed shady borders. In fact, this plant isn’t a fan of lots of hot sunshine. And even in a protected spot, its top growth will probably fade in summer’s heat. But, don’t worry, it’ll be back next year.

Just be sure your design incorporates a few evergreens or longer-season perennials nearby to give your garden interest at other times of year.

Jump ahead to our quick list of top plants to pair with bleeding hearts.

Wondering what to plant with bleeding hearts like this Dicentra 'Alba'?

Dicentra spectablis ‘Alba’ is a white flowered cultivar that’s spectacular – true to the species name!

First, which bleeding hearts are you growing in your garden?

Bleeding hearts come in several forms. And all of them are worth including in your shade garden.

Dicentra spectablis is the large, cultivated spectacular bleeding heart species. It is often called the old fashioned bleeding heart. That’s because it’s the plant most think of as a bleeding heart. Old fashioned bleeding hearts bloom with pink flowers with a white “drip.” But, if you want an all white flower, the ‘Alba’ cultivar of Dicentra spectablis blooms pure white.

Hot tip: these old fashioned varieties really stand out in early spring container plantings!

Fancy bleeding heart cultivars to plant in your garden:

  • Want a truer deep red flower and fragrance, seek out Dicentra ‘Valentine’.
  • Dicentra ‘Burning Hearts’ has a compact form with sea-foam green foliage that’s somewhat fern shaped.
  • Dicentra ‘Gold Heart’ brightens shady spaces with golden leaves and stems, paired with traditional dripping pink blooms.

Try growing a native bleeding heart with ferny foliage:

Dicentra formosa, or fern-leaf bleeding heart, is native to the Pacific coast. So this bleeding heart thrives in Seattle gardens. In fact it grows so well that some consider it weedy. But, this hardy, but delicate little perennial will naturalize (aka spread) in garden beds readily. However, but it plays well with others. So don’t worry about it bullying out other plants in your garden.

Dicentra formosa

Native Dicentra formosa clothes the floor of woodland gardens with ferny foliage & abundant pink spring blooms

Why to pair plants like Dicentra carefully in shade gardens:

What to plant with your bleeding hearts begins with choosing shade loving plants. The next thing to remember is bleeding hearts are ephemeral and will hide under ground much of the year. So adding in evergreens is important. Plus, blooming plants that flower in late spring and summer will keep your garden looking great long after the bleeding hearts fade for the season.

Best plants to pair with bleeding hearts list:

  • Evergreen ferns like deer fern and sword ferns go great with bleeding hearts
  • Evergreen shrubs like Daphne odora, evergreen huckleberry, rhododendron, and Sarcococca go well with bleeding hearts.
  • Perennials like hosta, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, Hellebores, lungwort, and Solomon’s seal look great too. Moreover, growing a mix of perennials like these can help extend your flowering season for a longer period.
  • Groundcovers like Pachysandra ‘Windcliff’ work well with bleeding hearts.
  • Deciduous shrubs like Enkianthus, Edgeworthia, and Hydrangea pair beautifully in your mixed bleeding heart borders.
  • Grasses like Japanese forest grass pair beautifully with dicentras too.

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