One of my all-time favorite perennials for the garden are bleeding hearts (Dicentra species). Bleeding hearts are a long lived, old-fashioned flower that blooms in spring. The foliage of most varieties collects nutrients for the next season, then fades and dies back in the heat of summer. Dicentra is a native perennial, found in the eastern woodlands of North America.
On trips to the woods in early April I can find Dicenta cucullaria, the Dutchman’s Breeches plant under the leafless canopy of our oak-hickory forests. This wonderful native has white flowers that resemble breeches, hence the name, and is attractive to long-tongued bees including honeybees, bumblebees, and mason bee.
Bleeding heart ‘Valentine’ has dark red stems and flowers and pairs well with hostas, coral bells, and ferns in the shade garden. Other old-fashioned bleeding hearts including pink and white also work well in the shade gardens. ‘Gold Heart’ is a great yellow leaved selection that adds a brilliant light to the depths and darkness of the shade garden.
Bleeding hearts needs part sun to deep shade. Because they come up before the trees are leafed out, they can survive in deep shade conditions. They prefer well-drained to slightly moist soils. Old fashioned bleeding hearts grow from 1 to 3 feet tall and wide. Dutchman’s breeches grow 10 inches tall and wide.
Look for bleeding hearts at Grimm’s Gardens, both in the nursery and online!