February 10, 2017

Plant Files: Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding Heart)

There is a lot to love about this old-fashioned favorite.
Every part has something to offer: the foliage has finely cut leaves, the stems are that purple-reddish color, and the flowers are so unique and beautiful!

I remember my grandma had one growing next to their back porch.
It was large and much taller than me as a youngster.
Fond flower memories.
Now I have one of my own, growing next to my front porch.
It's not as big and bushy as hers yet, but it has only had a few years to grow.
All in good time!

Scientific name: Dicentra spectabilis or Lamprocapnos spectabilis
Common name: Bleeding Heart
* Apparently the pure white variety is also called Dutchman's breeches.

Cold Hardiness: USDA zones 3-9
Usually 2-3 feet tall and wide. (I swear grandma's was twice that!) 
Blooms in April around here.
Prefers moist soil and shade to part-shade.

Floral Design: I've read on several sites now that they make excellent cut flowers and will last a long time in the vase (one said up to 2 weeks!)
My flowers have not been that abundant yet, so I haven't cut very many, but perhaps this year I will! 

Provides great contrast with many of the larger-leaved shade plants, like hostas.
The foliage usually dies off completely by mid-summer, so plant it where it won't leave a hole.
Mine usually lasts until early fall, but it's planted close to the faucet, where it gets extra water from drips and leaky hoses.

These are tough plants under the right conditions.
They don't do well in clay soil, as I found out--much to my chagrin--when I had 2 or 3 of them succumb in the Shade Bed.
The one pictured here I dug up from someone's house who was giving away whatever you could dig up out of her yard (!!) By the time I got it home in the back of the truck and got it properly planted, it looked to be in sorry shape. It didn't help that I later realized it was going to be too close to the grass (and would get walked on), dug it up AGAIN and replanted it again. Poor thing.
Suffice it to say, I didn't have very high hopes for it to survive.
Lo and behold, the following spring it not only put forth all kinds of foliage, it even flowered!
I was delighted!

Lastly, this is a fun one to have around with kids, because you can tell stories with the blossoms!
Here's a link to the Cinderella story, as told by the parts of the flower.
More commonly, is this Japanese legend associated with the flower, which is native to Japan.
Or, you can just show them the outer-petal bunnies (pink bunnies for Easter--awww), pull out the sword (the hilt is the part hanging down from the heart), and the inner-petal dancing shoes/slippers.
Fun times!
Just be aware that you may lose quite a few blossoms to storytelling after that! :)

I'm getting excited to see this beauty again in a couple of months!

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