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Bleeding Hearts


Picture of bleeding heart flowers

Picture of bleeding hearts.

David Beaulieu


Plant taxonomy classifies the most popular bleeding hearts as Dicentra spectabilis. I mention some other types below for purposes of comparison and contrast.

Plant Type for Bleeding Hearts:

Bleeding hearts are herbaceous perennials.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones for Bleeding Hearts:

Bleeding hearts are growable in planting zones 3-9.


Bleeding hearts usually reach 2'-3' in height with a similar spread. The plants' flowers are either pink or white, and they appear in April or May.

Other Types, Species of Bleeding Hearts:

There is a type with gold (golden) leaves named Dicentra spectabilis 'Gold Heart.' As "spectacular" as the regular Dicentra spectabilis is, the golden type adds another whole dimension to growing these plants.

Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) bear white flowers that truly do remind one of pairs of pants hung out to dry. It is often categorized informally as a wildflower. Fringed bleeding hearts (Dicentra eximia) bear dusty-pink blooms, and their foliage is prized for its fringe-like texture.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Bleeding Hearts:

Grow bleeding hearts in partial shade to full shade, in a well-drained, slightly acidic soil that has plenty of humus.

Plant Care:

Divide these plants in the springtime. Being deer-resistant perennials, at least you don't have to be concerned about protecting them from marauding deer pests.

Uses for Bleeding Hearts in Landscape Design:

Bleeding hearts are traditional favorites in shade gardens. Their foliage tends to die back after the plants are done flowering, leaving behind vacant spots in the planting bed. To retard die back, give bleeding heart liberal doses of water after flowering. It's also a good idea to surround bleeding hearts with hosta plants and other shade-loving perennial flowers that will fill in those vacant spots during the summer. Bleeding hearts are striking enough to warrant their use as specimen plants in spring.

Outstanding Characteristic of Bleeding Hearts:

The outstanding characteristic of bleeding hearts is no doubt the shape of the flowers. As the plants' common name suggests, bleeding hearts bear heart-shaped flowers, from which a little "drop of blood" dangles at the bottom. On the type with pink flowers, the drop is prettiest, in my opinion, before the bloom fully opens, since, during this early period, the sides of the drop are streaked with pink; after the bloom fully opens, the drops are just white. They are truly among the most whimsical plants you can grow in the landscape.


Need more choices for shady locations? See my article on the Best Perennials for Shade.

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