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5 Favorites: Bleeding Hearts


5 Favorites: Bleeding Hearts

February 15, 2013

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 to England 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.)

Dicentra spectabilis bleeding heart by K Yamad Flickr

Above: Photograph by K Yamada via Flickr.

Shade-loving, clump-forming woodland perennials that generally grow 2 or 3 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.

Dicentra specabilis alba by Patrick Standish via Flickr

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 (available seasonally). Photograph by Patrick Standish via Flickr.

Dicentra eximia bleeding heart by Audrey Zharkikh via Flickr

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.

For more ideas, see Design Sleuth: The Ultimate Shade Garden and Walk on the Wild Side: A New England Woodland Garden.

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