PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spp.)

Around the same time little herds of Crocus are popping up, Bleeding Hearts wake up and start to unfurl their leaves on fresh stems. They wake early from winter slumber to take best advantage of cool, wet spring weather. Various species of Bleeding Heart are native around the world including cooler parts of China, Japan, and North America including one specific to Pacific Northwest woodlands, Dicentra formosa, or, Pacific Bleeding Heart. Here’s a plant-geeky thing to know about Bleeding Hearts – several years ago taxonomists re-categorized it and invented a new botanical name, Lamprocapnos (replacing Dicentra). The name, taken from two Greek words that translate into ‘bright smoke’, doesn’t make any sense to us so we, along with much of the plant industry, stubbornly stick to ‘Dicentra’. Call us old-fashioned.

Bleeding Hearts grow quickly in early spring and thrive in shady, cool, moist areas. Their happy place is tucked in among larger shrubs or under the canopy of a small tree with lots of other plant friends to snuggle up to. The most common type (Dicentra spectabilis) can get 2-3 feet tall in a multi-stemmed bushy shape. The native Northwest plant only gets about 8 inches tall and slowly spreads into a colony. They will shrink back from the summer heat but come back in cool autumn weather, then go dormant for the winter. Bright pink heart-shaped blooms dangle along stems from April to July.

Our favorite variety is called ‘Gold Heart’. It has yellow chartreuse leaves contrasting fuchsia colored flowers.

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