Bleeding Heart Plant The Laciest Of Valentines

Many of us remember huge clumps of Bleeding-heart growing against the foundations of old country houses or snuggled up by front and back steps.

But until the 1940s, there was a long period when its long, gracefully arched sprays covered with dainty pendant hearts tipped white were not seen. 

Heart PlantPin

Bleeding-Heart: Dicentra Spectabilis

Now Bleeding-heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is in favor again, and we’re glad for, apart from its loveliness, it is not fussy about soil, has no insect or disease troubles, is easy to grow, and is sure to bloom.

On the alert for changing fashions, horticulturists now offer flowering Bleeding-heart grown in open nursery rows, then lifted with a good ball of earth, and potted, or potted in pots in the fall. 

Such florists’ plants will continue to grow and bloom in the garden if planted and watered in as soon as the weather is favorable.

Bleeding heart is also available in September as a dormant root similar to a peony but smaller and lighter. 

Standard rooms have 3 to 5 eyes; larger ones have 5 to 8. The larger will increase the clump size and most flowers in the first year.

Planting The Bleeding-Heart

Before planting, the ground should be dug deep and broken up fine. 

The fat and pinkish-lavender leaf and bud eye at the top should be placed not more than 2” inches below ground level in heavy soil and slightly deeper in lighter, sandier soil. 

Although it may not be necessary, newly planted roots are safer if mulched with straw or excelsior the first winter.

Good Fertilizers

Chicken manure, spread over the ground before it thaws (January or February), will do wonders.

Natural cow, sheep, and horse manure are all good substitutes. Where barnyard manures are not available, commercial manure will do. 

It may be applied before the ground thaws or later when it may be worked in areas around plants during the first cultivating period of spring. 

Grow in Different Shaded Locations

Plants grow well in full sun or light or heavy shade in almost any soil except one that’s excessively dry or wet. 

In a sunny spot in light soil, pink noses break the ground in late March or early April here in Chesterton, Indiana. 

Those in more exposed, shaded locations on the north side of the house may be 2 weeks to a month later. 

The growth of stalks is rapid, especially when warm weather prevails. And, even if a late hard frost nips and whitens flowers and foliage, new stems shoot up fast from the plant’s base. 

Importance Of Soil

Although plants growing in open, sunny soil produce the first flowers, those in moist, shadier areas give the longest blooming season-as long, often, as two-and-one-half months. 

Of course, the richer the soil, the faster clumps develop and produce flowering stalks-more of them, taller. and larger.

Each winter, one 5-year-old plant we had carefully fed with chicken manure produced three dozen flowering stems from 2′ to 3′ feet high. 

The beauty of such a specimen is matched, to our way of thinking, by few other perennials.

Mark its Location

When foliage yellows and dies down in late summer, markers should be placed close by the plant to indicate its location. 

If this is done, the spot will be avoided during the fall planting and cleaning period. For short of a casualty, nothing else will bother Dicentra spectabilis. It may be left alone for a decade or more to increase in size and beauty each year. 

Bleeding Heart Companion Plants

With Daffodils

Bleeding heart is an excellent background plant for the pink and blue Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica). 

Daffodils look well with it, as does the long-spurred blue columbine (Aquilegia caerulea). 

Bleeding-heart is exquisite when edged with blue and white wood violets or, for a longer flowering edging, blue and white pansies.

With Foundation of Planting Yews

A foundation planting of yews (Taxus), both upright and spreading, on the north side of the house is a wonderful foil for groupings of Bleeding-heart edged by or massed with hardy primroses, especially the hardy, new giant-flowered polyantha primroses. 

If there’s enough room in such plantings, it may be interplanted with the large, fragrant white funkia. 

Good Gardening Tricks

The wide leaves of the last will shade and cover the withering stems of Bleeding-heart later in the season — a good gardening trick. 

Other fine groupings for a sunny location are Bleeding-heart with early flowering hemerocallis — Dr. Regel, Earliana, or the old lemon lily Flava. 

For ribbon, border dwarf iris such as the yellow Stewart, cream Little Elsa or white Schneekoppe may be used. Or pink, white, or blue Phlox subulata

Then, though not long-lasting when cut, some wonderful flower arrangements may be fashioned with lacy Bleeding-heart sprays if there are enough to spare.

44659 by Deanette M. Smith