Heart-shaped pink and white flowers delicately dangling from graceful arching stems of lacey foliage make Bleeding Hearts a favorite flower in the spring garden.
The distinctive heart-shaped flowers of Dicentra spectabilis have inspired a romantic tale of love and loss. Carefully separating the flower blossom, the ears of a pink rabbit, a pair of delicate pink slippers and two graceful white earrings represent the gifts brought to a beautiful princess by the handsome prince.
But spurned in his seduction of the princess, the flower stamen is shaped like the dagger with which the prince stabbed himself through the heart. His death causes the princess to realize that he was her one true love all along and she vows that every spring her heart will bleed for her lost love.
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The Bleeding Heart plant that blooms from April through June and then goes dormant by August is an annual reminder of love’s fickleness.
These Pretty Pink and White Flowers Came From China
The Bleeding Heart was introduced to Victorian England by Robert Fortune who found it while on a Royal Horticultural Society sponsored exploration of China. The plant’s delicate appearance and easy cultivation brought it a quick and wide popularity with gardeners that persists to this day.
A member of the poppy family, the Bleeding Heart is a hardy perennial in USDA zones 2 through 9. The plant forms a bushy mound of deeply divided medium green leaves that can spread up to three feet.
Flower stems rise from the middle of the mounded leaves 27-35 inches high and along their arching stems, distinctive heart-shaped pink and white flowers dangle like lockets on a bracelet at intervals along the stem. The flowers stems can be cut for the vase.
Bleeding Hearts team up well with Solomon’s Seal, Painted Ferns, Hostas or Coleus.
Spring Gardening Care
Bleeding Hearts are usually purchased as potted plants often already in bloom. Roughen the edges of the root ball to encourage the roots to grow outward and plant in a rich and moist soil with good drainage with the crown slightly above the soil line.
In areas where summers are hot, Bleeding Hearts prefer full to part shade. But in colder zones, they can withstand full sun.
Bleeding Hearts require a cold dormant spell to develop the flower buds for the next spring bloom. If the plant doesn’t get enough cold, the next year’s flowering will be weak or it may fail to bloom at all.
After the plant has finished blooming, the flower stems should be cut back and the foliage sheared back to six inches. As the weather grows hotter the foliage will fade and the plant will have gone fully dormant by mid-August. In cooler climates the foliage may persist weakly until frost.
Divide in Fall to Get Flowers for Spring
Bleeding Hearts do not need regular dividing, but may be divided for propagation purposes every three to four years. Divide the crown with a sharp shovel in the very late summer, September for most areas, when it has gone dormant but before the next year’s growing points have started.
Fringe-leaved Bleeding Hearts are an exception to these instructions, according to TheGardenLady.org. This variety of Dicentra should be divided in spring while the foliage is emerging.
Bleeding Hearts are deer and rabbit resistant, but their tender foliage above damp soil makes them susceptible to aphids, snails and slugs. Sprinkling crushed egg shells or sharp sand around the plant will discourage crawling pests. Treat aphid infestations with insecticidal soap.
There is nothing fickle about this hardy pink and white flowering performer in the spring garden. The spectacular appearance of a mature Bleeding Heart in full bloom will surely inspire a love for spring gardening in any heart.