Bleeding Heart Plants Were One Of My Grandfather's Favorite Plants
This is a shade loving, forest-type of plant with succulent (water-filled) leaves. It thrives in shade with even soil moisture. It does not grow well (if at all) in dry shade.
Hardiness - USDA zone 3 (good tough plant)
Bloomtime - early spring for most - longer for some (see below for long-blooming varieties)
Propagation - easiest by division in very early spring
Planting Distance apart - generally 18-24 inches is good
Plant Height - depends on variety - from 12 - 36 inches (see below)
Colors - red, pinks, whites
Growing in Sun
This plant prefers to grow in the shade but if you give it enough water, it will tolerate a bit more sunshine. It may go dormant in mid-summer (the plants says I have enough sunshine now - I'm going to sleep) and then reappear the following spring if you're growing it in the sun. Full hot sunshine will stress the plant and you may find it won't survive for as long as its shaded cousins.
Plants to Look For
There are two main types of bleeding heart plants you'll find in garden centers.
The first are the old-fashioned ones my grandfather grew in his garden. Tall, early spring blooming with pinkish heart-shaped flowers.
The second are more modern bleeding heart plants bred from crossing some shorter forms to give us 12-18 inch tall varieties that bloom for a long time.
Dicentra spectabilis - 36-48 inches tall, blooms in very early spring. The species is pink but there's a white-flowering form called 'Alba' and a gold leaf form called 'Gold Heart'.
Dicentra 'Gold Heart' spring foliage
I've grown all of these plants and like them very, very much. The gold leaf plant was lost in a garden shuffle a few years ago but it's well worth having if you have the right spot for it. It isn't as aggressive as the other two.
When to Divide in Spring
These are often referred to as fern-leaf bleeding hearts because of the fringed leaves.
There are several very good modern hybrids and these tend to be longer blooming and shorter than the above plants. Again, I've grown most of these in my garden and simply think they're a must-have plant.
These are the ones I think you want to look for (bred from Dicentra exemia and Dicentra formosa)
One of the deepest reds and a great plant is 'King of Hearts' - I heartily recommend this plant and have it in my own garden.
'Luxuriant' is an older hybrid but a good one still. Again, I have it and wouldn't get rid of it. More "pinkish" than 'King of Hearts'.
A good series is the "Hearts" series - 'Burning Hearts' is the red, 'Pink Hearts' is pinkish and 'Ivory Hearts' is the white. All short and long-season blooming.
Use both - the tall spring blooming and shorter long-season bleeding heart plants for long season bloom in your shade garden
Click here to ask about bleeding heart plants
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