Dicentra Spectabilis Growing Guide

Known best as the Bleeding Heart, this elegant herbaceous perennial has a delicate arching stem laden with pink flowers.  It originated in China and is now mostly known by the name Lamprocapnos Spectabilis. This is a plant of pedigree, having been given the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society for its outstanding qualities.

The hearts of these flowers look as if the heart of the petals are dripping dew, or blood if you believe the name.  Although you will only enjoy 4 -6 weeks of flowering, it will shrink away and recede beneath other plantings during the heat of the summer months.  This leaves room for roses and hosta to thrive in their stead.  With overwatering, it is possible to delay the flowering until later in the summer, though you will get the best display in the spring months.

Characteristics

  • Cut flowers
  • Showy
  • Deciduous

Colours

  • Lockets of pink flowers with white petal hearts

Sunlight Preference

  • Partial Sun
  • The plant can cope with full shade, though there will be far fewer flowers
  • It can also deal with full sun if the soil is kept moist

Soil

  • Chalk, Clay, Loam
  • Ph alkaline or neutral
  • moist but well-drained, moisture-retentive

Size

  • The plant grows up to 30 – 36 inches, both in height and width.  This is 75cm – 90cm.
  • Spacing: 30 inches or 75 cm

Other Common Names

You may find Dicentra Spectabilis at your garden centre listed under some other names.  These names include:

  • Bleeding Heart
  • Showy Bleeding Heart
  • Dutchman’s Breeches
  • Chinaman’s Breeches
  • Locks and Keys
  • Lyre Flower
  • Seal Flower
  • Old-Fashioned Bleeding Heart
  • Lamprocapnos Spectabilis

Family

  • Papaveraceae

Details

  • Plant Type: Perennials/ deciduous
  • Flowering Season: Late Spring or Early Summer
  • Water requirements: Average
  • Maintenance: Low
  • Tolerance: Deer and Rabbit
  • Attracts: Butterflies
  • Uses: Beds/ Borders/ Underplanting Roses and shrubs
  • Garden type: informal/ cottage

All parts will cause discomfort if eaten.  It can be toxic to people and dogs.

Plant Range

  • Siberia
  • Northern China
  • Korea
  • Japan

What Is Dicentra Spectabilis?

As the recipient of the RHA Award of Garden Merit, this showy perennial will be perfect in your informal or cottage garden.  It is something of a hardy species, accepting partial to full shade, as well as full sunlight if cared for properly.  However, it will flower best in partial shade and would much prefer humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil.

It is award-winning because the display of flowers it offers is outstanding. It is the perfect plant for those who love to cut and arrange flowers.  It provides a beautiful accompaniment to more upright counterparts, as the drooping flower head will add texture and layers to a bouquet.

The great news for those who struggle to keep plants alive in the garden is that it is difficult to kill. This beautiful plant, with its heart-shaped flowers, thrives with minimal maintenance.

Where To Plant Dicentra Spectabilis?

You will find Dicentra Spectabilis is an excellent addition to a woodland garden, as the leaf cover will offer a rich and moist soil that will help this plant to thrive.  However, be aware that if the plant is in the shade for too much of the day, it will limit the show of flowers.

It is also a great addition to a shaded border, where you can plant it among other perennials such as ferns and astilbe.  Remember to leave enough space for the foliage to spread when dormant.  It is also an excellent choice for underplanting roses, creating an exceptional layering to your cottage garden.

If you want to know the best place to plant Dicentra Spectabilis for maximum show and impact, find yourself some dappled sunlight.  This plant will thrive in this mood-filled mix of direct light and dancing shade.  As this is quite a low growing plant, it is best in the middle or to the front of a border.

When To Plant Dicentra Spectabilis

You should plant Dicentra Spectabilis between March and June.  Once planted, you will need to wait for the first frost, which will appear to kill the plant.  Cut the plant back and wait.  You will find that it will rejuvenate and flourish in the early summer months.

How To Plant Dicentra Spectabilis

The best way to introduce Dicentra Spectabilis to your garden is through dividing existing and mature plants.  If you carefully dig up the roots of the bleeding heart, remove those roots that dried and divide the rest, you can then plant these in your garden for an early spring display. 

It is best to dig in organic mulch into the soil before adding your plants or roots.  This will provide a supply of nutrients needed and maintain some of the moisture in the ground that Dicentra Spectabilis needs to thrive. If you can keep your soil moist, you may be able to plant in full sun, especially in colder climates.  However, it is best to select a partially shaded area.

During the summer months, this herbaceous perennial will die back to the ground.  It will turn yellow and wither.  You should cut the foliage back at this point.  However, do not remove the remains of the plant, as the bleeding heart will use this to store food reserves and prompt much better growth the following spring.

How Can a Polytunnel Help You To Grow Dicentra Spectabilis?

Domestic polytunnels are an excellent aid when growing Dicentra Spectabilis, especially if your garden falls in full sun for much of the day.  Polytunnels allow you to effectively control the temperature, ventilation and the level of humidity in your growing zone. Plus, it can maintain these conditions throughout the year. Therefore, growing Dicentra Spectabilis is made simple because you can keep the soil suitability moist and well-drained.

When To Cut Back Dicentra Spectabilis

The good news is that this low maintenance plant thrives without need for dividing.  It is probably suitable for most gardeners that it does not like to be disturbed too much. The plant has quite brittle roots. If you are looking to create more beds of this plant, it is best to take root cuttings in the spring.

It is worth reminding you that it is best to leave this plant alone if you want it to thrive. Most gardeners are surprised at how simple it is to grow such beautiful flowers. The length of stalk studded with pink flowers gives the appearance of a troublesome, high-maintenance creature. Nothing is further from the truth, as you can maintain these with some regular watering and fertilisation of the soil. The foliage that dies back would be enough in the wild to compost the plant; however, you may want to add more each March to make the most of the flowering season. If you do compost, you will find that flowering extends from April through to June, adding some much-needed colour to darker, shaded borders.

Summary

If you have been searching around for a plant that is easy to grow but makes it look like you are a green-fingered marvel – here it is!  There is a reason the Royal Horticultural Society has bestowed such a prestigious award on this plant.  It is a stunning show flower that responds well to only the smallest amount of care.  You can leave it to give higgled charm to your cottage-style garden, or it can offer a splash of colour to your woodland area.  When the best advice a gardener can give you is to leave it alone and let it do its thing – you know you are onto a winner!

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