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Bleeding Heart

Filed Under:
February 5, 2018

Host: Gary Bachman, Ornamental Horticulture Specialist


One of my early memories of garden plants reminds many gardeners of living valentines today on Southern Gardening.

Early each spring the flower stalks start to rise out of the ground, red tinged and before much of the main foliage. And then the unique heart shaped flowers are displayed on long, thin stems that sway and move with the slightest breeze. Known botanically as Dicentra spectabilis, bleeding hearts are a welcome sight in every garden. The traditional color is pink, but there is a white variety called ‘Alba’. A newer selection is particularly attractive called ‘Gold Heart. The pink flowers are displayed with the gold tinged foliage attached to reddish stems. Bleeding heart can grow up to 48 inches tall and 30 inches wide depending the climate each spring. The plants will flower all through the spring season until the warm temperatures in the early days of summer. With the increasing temperature bleeding heart will go dormant for the summer. Fern-leaf dicentra is another species of bleeding heart that is native to North America. These plants have a longer bloom period that can extend into the fall when grown in the light shade, especially in northern Mississippi. Bleeding hearts can reseed in the right conditions and you can readily transplant the seedlings to other areas of your landscape.  But they also hybridize easily especially if you have a couple of different selections.  The best way to propagate is to divide the crown of the plant after it goes dormant. Divide the crown into pieces, each having at least one pink eye. Replant immediately into soil amended liberally with good quality compost.

These long lived perennials have few pests so try some in your garden this year. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.

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