Favorite Plants: Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, the plant formerly known as Dicentra spectabilis) is one of the highlights of the spring gardening season in our family. Those delicate, dangling pink hearts with their backdrop of ferny foliage are so romantic and old-fashioned looking. I vow every year that I’m going to plant a few more. Hopefully, this year will be the year.

Here are ten tidbits about bleeding heart:

1. Hardy in zones 3 through 9.

2. You can find bleeding hearts that bloom in pink, white, or red.

3. Bleeding heart goes dormant in the heat of summer. The foliage turns yellow and starts to die back. It’s a good idea to have a container or some annuals ready to fill the space once this starts happening, or you’ll have a gap in your garden.

4. You can grow bleeding heart from seed. You need to start with freshly ripened seed, and sow in a cold frame. I’ve also heard of people winter sowing them, but I haven’t tried that yet.

5. Bleeding heart grows best in light shade (sunny mornings and shady afternoons are optimal) but will also grow well in part-shade and even full shade.

6. Bleeding heart prefers evenly moist soil, especially while blooming. In fact, if you keep the soil moist, you’ll extend the bloom period for your bleeding hearts, possibly as late as mid-summer.

7. Bleeding heart rarely, if ever, needs dividing. I’ve had mine for eight years, and it’s still growing strong without division.

8. Mulch your bleeding heart well to help maintain that all-important soil moisture.

9. Bleeding heart is also known as Lady in a Bath, Lyre Flower, or Dutchman’s Trousers.

10. The most common folklore behind the bleeding heart is, of course, a tale of unrequited love. Here is one lovely variation of the story of the bleeding heart, told with parts of the flower itself.

If you’ve got a moist, shady spot in your yard, and a bit of a romantic streak, this may be the perfect plant to add to your garden. And if you have kids, they will love exploring the flowers with you.