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Dicentra (dye-SEN-truh)

Common Name:  Bleeding heart

Light:  - Part shade to full shade

Soil:  Rich, well-drained and well-aerated

Moisture:  Average to relatively dry

Blooms:  Spring and summer

Zones:  (3) 4 - 8


Dicentra s. 'Gold Heart'

Dicentra 'King of Hearts'

Dicentra Description and Cultural Information

Dicentra eximia, fringed bleeding heart. 10 - 18". This bushy little plant has ferny, gray-green foliage with mounds of clustered pink hearts from spring through summer. Zones 3 - 8.

Dicentra formosa, western bleeding heart. 8 - 18". Most of today's hybrid bleeding hearts originate with this plant. Plants have ferny, blue-gray foliage and warm rosy-mauve flowers and prefer somewhat dry conditions in rich soil with good drainage. Zones 3 - 8.

Hybrids of D. formosa and D. eximia include: 'Adrian Bloom', a darker flowering ruby red selection with a long bloom period; 'Auroroa', with large white flowers; 'Bacchanal', with gray-green leaves and crimson-red flowers; 'Boothman's Variety', with soft pink flowers and narrow foliage; 'King of Hearts', a compact hybrid, with rosy pink flowers and an exceptionally long bloom period; 'Luxuriant', with dark pink, almost red flowers; 'Zestful', with large, rose-red flowers. Zones (3) 4 - 8.

Dicentra spectabilis, old-fashioned bleeding heart. 1' - 3'. This favorite spring perennial has long strings of bright pink hearts on tall stems. Plants often go dormant by midsummer. 'Alba' has white flowers. 'Gold Heart' has golden-green foliage with pink flowers. Zones 2 - 9.

How to Grow:  Plant bleeding hearts in evenly moista but well-aerated, humus-rich soil in part shade to full shade. Give fringed and hybrid bleeding hearts good drainage and relatively dry conditions and at least half a day sun to keep them blooming all year. Dicentra is relatively easy to grow but may falter in poor or compacted soil, plus doesn't not like extended periods of time with excessive moisture. When planting it is important to set the crowns so all of the eyes are completely buried and then mulch lightly after planting. If the crowns become exposed they could dry out over the winter.

In recent years many Dicentra have become infected with tobacco rattle virus. This virus will cause a yellowish "flame" pattern on the foliage and it can spread to other types of perennials so if you see this pattern on bleeding hearts those infected plants should not be planted or kept in the garden.

Landscape Uses:  Combine bleeding hearts with spring bulbs, ferns, hostas, pulmonarias, virginia bluebells, primrose, anemone, and astilbe. The large Dicentra spectabilis will go summer dormant so plant them towards the back of the garden where they can die back without leaving a big gap in the garden.

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