Dicentra The Bleeding Heart

Dicentra 'Valentine' has heart shaped flowers of true red as opposed to the standard dark pink.

Dicentra ‘Valentine’ has heart shaped flowers of true red as opposed to the standard dark pink.

The genus Dicentra includes the ever popular bleeding heart.  Each pendulous flower has a perfect heart shape, and the long sprays of blooms are simply beautiful in spring.  Dicentra spectabilis is the most popular species, growing to 5′ diameter plants that can tolerate shade, sun or even the presence of deer.

As of this writing, the latest cultivar is ‘Valentine’, which has a true red flower.  ‘Alba’ is pure white and basic Dicentra spectabilis is a deep pink (for comparison, see photo at right.  There is also a gold foliage form of Dicentra spectabilis, ‘Gold Heart’.  It has the traditional pink blooms.

Dicentra spectabilis is the classic bleeding heart with deep pink blossoms.

Dicentra spectabilis is the classic bleeding heart with deep pink blossoms.

Somewhat smaller in stature, but longer in bloom are some of the smaller species such as the very popular Dicentra eximia.  When you are looking for shade tolerant, deer resistant, and long bloom, give these a try (includes cultivars such as ‘Luxuriant’).  One of the most popular bleeding hearts now is ‘King of Hearts’ a hybrid that includes eximia in the bloodlines.  Not as dark red as ‘Valentine’, but a nice choice.

When planting Dicentra spectabilis remember that it goes dormant midsummer (it is not dying!).  It can be helpful to put something in front of it to hide the foliage as it recedes, such as a daylily, hosta, or whatever.

And as my British friend quips, “Those dicentras are just bloody good”.

Dicentra eximia is the fringed bleeding heart and blooms all summer.

Dicentra eximia is the fringed bleeding heart and blooms all summer.