Dicentra

May 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm Leave a comment

A unique plant every gardener should incorporate into their garden is the bleeding heart because it provides a splash of colour to those shady areas of the garden. The bleeding heart is a perennial plant which means it will bloom again every year in the spring. This plant is often recognized for its drooping heart-shaped flowers. There are many different species of bleeding hearts available to gardeners.

Examples of Species
The most familiar species to gardeners is called Common Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis). It will grow into large mounds which can be 47 inches in height and can spread about 18 inches across. Flowers will bloom in the late spring and early summer. The flowers have white inner petals and pink outer petals.

Another species of bleeding heart often seen in gardens is called Fringed Bleeding Heart (Dicentra exima). It is called a ‘fringed’ bleeding heart because it has grey-green fern-like leaves. It will form clumps that are 24 inches in height and can spread about 18 inches. The flowers bloom in the spring and are either white or pink.

The last species that is of particular interest to gardeners is called the Western Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa). This plant’s most distinguishing features include blue-green fern-like leaves, and pink flowers. It is a low-growing plant that can reach a height of 18 inches and can spread across as much as 36 inches. More often than not this plant species is found in gardens on the west coast of Canada because it is found growing wild in the forests.

Growing Conditions and Uses
All species of bleeding hearts require similar growing conditions which include; planting in shade or part shade, and average to moist soil. You can plant bleeding hearts in full sun, but the plant will stop producing flowers midway through the summer when the sun is its most intense. They should be well-watered throughout the summer, but not to the point that you have waterlogged soil (can result in root rot). Placing compost around the plant will ensure it gets the nutrients it requires and will result in the requirement of less fertilizer. Planting in shade or part shade will also ensure that your bleeding heart remains in bloom until the fall. Since most species of bleeding hearts grow naturally in shady woodlands and moist canyons, they are well-suited to shade gardens and woodland gardens. They can also be planted in close proximity to a pond or stream.

Final Thoughts on Bleeding Heart
There are many different varieties of bleeding heart to choose from with different flower and leaf colours. A few examples to choose from include Dicentra spectablis “alba” which has flowers that are entirely white, and Dicentra spectablis “Steward Boothman” which has dark pink flowers and blue-grey leaves. Coral Bells and Hostas are good companion plants with bleeding hearts and help fill in the gaps after the leaves start to turn. Leaf spot and downy mildew can be an occasional issue, but usually this plant species will not encounter problems as long as you provide proper care for it.
Adam Mohamed

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