Bleeding hearts are a long standing, popular staple in the shade garden. Old-fashioned bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabalis, has been cultivated in gardens since the 1840's and still reigns as the most widely grown of all the Dicentra. How can one deny the beauty of this queen with dramatic, long wands of pendant, heart-shaped pink and white blooms.

Dicentra spectabalis
Dicentra spectabalis

This rich display of floral jewels is followed by the droplet blooms of our native D. formosa and the east coast native D. eximia. These two species readily cross pollinate, and have given rise to many garden hybrids. The delicate feathery foliage of the American native species is close to the ground, and adds great contrast to the bold leaves of hostas, wild ginger or grasses. Dicentra spectabalis combines well with just about anything. Because D. spectabalis goes dormant in summer, it often combines well with late blooming or evergreen perennials such as Ligularia, Astilbe or Farfugium.

The less common D. scandens is a vining species with clusters of bright yellow flowers from late summer through fall. It is a wonderful plant to thread through flowering currants, Japanese Maples or train on a trellis.

A newer series of hybrid Dicentra called the Amore series offer stunning, fern like foliage on vigorous plants. Prolific clusters of large rose or pink from May to August! The Amore Dicentra have largely replaced the more difficult Heart series. They prefer to be evenly moist, but not wet during the growing season. Since these plants have attractive foliage and extended bloom time they are ideal for entry ways and prominent woodland paths or containers.

No matter which species of Dicentra you choose to grow, most are easy and low maintenance. They can add a sense of elegance or woodland wonder to virtually any shade garden. Even the fairies will approve.

A few varieties available at Portland Nursery:

Dicentra 'Amore Rose'

Dicentra 'Amore Rose'

Deep rosy pink flowers May to August

Grows 9-14" tall 14" wide in full to part shade.

Hardy in zones 5-9.

Dicentra formosa by Danny S. - 001

Dicentra formosa: Western Bleeding Heart

Native to the Pacific Northwest. Light pink flowers bloom May through July. This species reseeds and spreads by runners which lends it to naturalizing in the garden.

It grows 12-18" tall and 24" wide in full to part shade. Tolerates dry shade. Hardy in zones 3-9.

Dicentra 'Bachanal'

Dicentra formosa 'Aurora'

White 1" flowers May-September.

Growing 12-18" tall and naturalizes.

Full to part shade in zones 3-9.

Dicentra spectabalis

Old-fashioned bleeding heart. Dark pink flowers with white centers bloom April through May. Grows 24-36" tall and wide in full to part shade. Foliage dies back when soils get warm in the summer. Zones 3-9. Great cut flower.

Dicentra spectabalis 'Alba'

Dicentra spectabalis 'Alba'

Pure white heart-shaped flowers.

Dicentra spectabalis 'Gold Heart'

Dicentra spectabalis 'Gold Heart'

Bright gold foliage adds contrast to the bright pink and white flowers.

Dicentra 'Valentine' Monrovia

Dicentra spectabalis 'Valentine'

A newer cultivar with red heart shaped flowers topping dusky green foliage.

Dicentra scandens

Dicentra scandens

Clusters of slender, rich yellow flowers summer to fall. This climbing species clings with tiny tendrils.

Fern-like leaves have delicate white markings. It grows 6-12' tall, requires good drainage, hardy in zones 7-9.

Find the Best Perennials for your Garden

We have a wonderful selection of perennials year round, but if you are looking for a specific perennial we will have the best selection when it is in bloom around town. Note: Native plant pages will take you into the Native Plant section.


Lewisia: Bitterroot