Disguised as delicate ephemeral beauties, Bleeding Hearts are resilient and trouble-free woodland plants that offer sprays of heart-shaped flowers. Perfect for the romantic.
Oft associated with old-fashioned cottage gardens, the Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) plant was introduced by Robert Fortune when he returned in 1846 from a plant expedition under the aegis of the Royal Horticulture Society to northern China where the plant was widely cultivated. Thank you, Mr. Fortune.
(N.B.: Wondering what plants to pair with Bleeding Hearts in the garden? For our favorite combinations, see Shady Secrets of an Expert Gardener.)
Above: Shade-loving, clump-forming woodland perennials that generally grow two- or three-feet high, Bleeding Hearts have delicate fern-like leaves and heart-shaped blooms in shades of red, pink, and white in late spring and summer. Hardy in growing zones 4 to 8, their arching stems make excellent cut flowers. Place in one of Alexa's affordable vase picks: Simple Glass Vases for Under $30. Image by Mark Quinn via Flickr.
Above: A relatively new variety (2008), Dicentra Burning Hearts have gray-blue fern-like foliage and deep red flowers. The compact size of this variety make it a good choice for containers and along walkways or borders; $11.01 at Bluestone Perennials. Image via Garden Web.
Above: Bleeding Heart 'Alba' (Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba') with pure white flowers and light green foliage; $28.17 for a one-gallon pot at Nature Hills Nursery. Image via Flickr.
Above: The most common variety of Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) has pink and white flowers on long stems with green foliage; $28.17 for a one-gallon pot at Nature Hills Nursery. Image via Deeproot.
Above: Native to the Appalachian Mountains, Fringed Leaf Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia) is hardy in zones 3 to 9. It is a compact variety that grows to about 15 inches; $6.49 for a 3-inch pot at Prairie Nursery. Image via New York Metropolitan Flora Project.
Above: The Gold Heart variety of Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis Gold Heart) offers pink flowers with vivid golden foliage. $19.95 at White Flower Farm.
For more ideas, see Design Sleuth: The Ultimate Shade Garden.