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May 2010
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Bleeding Heart (Dicentra) : how to grow, soil conditions and what care should be taken.

Dicentra often goes by the common name bleeding heart because of the shape and appearance of the flowers. Some of the common names for Dicentra include Bleeding heart, Lady in the bath, and Dutchman’s breeches.

Characteristics of Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)

– Dicentra are shrubby hardy perennials.
– The outstanding characteristic of bleeding hearts is no doubt the shape of the flowers.
– They range in size from 7 to 60cm in height and depending upon the species.
– They come into bloom anytime from the beginning of spring to the end of summer.
– They have a foliage that is almost fern like and delicate flowers of pink or white.
– Dicentra plants have a mounding growth habit with long, arching flower stems.
– Most bleeding hearts grow between 1-3′ tall and wide.
– Bleeding hearts can be purchased boxed or bare root in their dormant state from garden shops or catalogues.

Growing conditions for Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)

– Dicentra are hardy zones 2b-10 and prefer dappled shade and cool conditions.
– In areas with hot summers the foliage and flowers may die back in the heat and return with cooler fall weather.
– Moist, fertile soil is best for bleeding hearts.
– Summer is a good time to divide Dicentra as it winds down for dormancy but most bleeding heart plants won’t grow aggressively in the garden so don’t need to be divided very often.
– Bleeding heart can be sown directly outdoors in the fall and may self-seed in the garden.
– The plant can also be grown easily from rhozomous cuttings or stem cuttings.
– Grow bleeding hearts under shrubs or evergreen trees. Brighten up the shade with the white flowers of D. spectabilis ‘Alba’.
– Add a light application of organic fertilizer to the planting hole.
– Water well when you’re finished planting.

Care for Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)

– Keep the plants moist with regular watering, and add a fertilizer every 3 weeks during the growing season.
– Add a 2-3 inch layer of mulch and compost around the plant to keep it moist.
– It’s important to water regularly during the summer, and never let them dry out. They like the same water routine as roses.
– In the fall, during autumn clean up, cut the remaining stems, using rose pruners.

Uses of Bleeding Heart

– Dicentra pairs nicely with many cottage garden plants such as hardy geranium, foxglove or daylilies.
– Spring flowers and foliage make a beautiful addition to the early garden.
– Use bleeding heart for a beautiful spring garden, shady spot under ornamental deciduous trees or with other old-fashioned cottage garden plants.

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