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Plant Profile: Bleeding Hearts

April 08, 2016

In early spring, bleeding hearts are among some of the earliest perennials to bloom. They blend beautifully into mixed, slightly shady borders. This plant isn’t a fan of lots of hot sunshine, and even in a protected spot, its top growth may 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.

Dicentra spectablis 'Alba'

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

Bleeding hearts come in several forms. Dicentra spectablis is the large, cultivated spectacular bleeding heart species that offers pink flowers with a white “drip.” It works beautifully in large containers as well as in the landscape.Β  If seeing your Dicentra bleed in a truer red and add fragrance to your garden, look for Dicentra ‘Valentine.’

Want a native bleeding heart?

Dicentra formosa

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

Dicentra formosa, or fern-leaf bleeding heart, is native to the Pacific coast — where we live. It thrives in Seattle gardens, so much so that some consider it weedy. This little perennial will naturalize (aka spread) in garden beds, but it plays well with others. Plant it in a mixed woodland shade border with deer fern, evergreen huckleberry and trillium for great early spring effect. When summer’s heat kicks into gear, this little plant’s ferny foliage will begin to yellow and fade for the season.

What about foliage?

Dicentra ‘Burning Hearts’ has a compact form with sea-foam green foliage that’s somewhat fern shaped. If you need to brighten up your shade garden, choose Dicentra ‘Gold Heart.’ This version of the spectablis forms has golden leaves and stems, paired with traditional dripping pink blooms.

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