Great color in the shade, The Bleeding Hearts. The genus Dicentra, commonly called Bleeding Heart, gives us some of the most treasured plants in America, providing dependable color in moist shade as companions with Hostas and Ferns. There are basically two major types:
1. Most popular and world-famous, is D. spectabilis, a species native to Japan. It is the larger of the two (to about 3 feet,) and has the famous little heart-shaped flowers arrayed along arching stems, a lot like a string of pearls. The large bleeding hearts bloom only in spring, and in some areas, disappear altogether by midsummer, much like Trilliums and Daffodils.
2. The second type, the Fernleaf Bleeding Hearts, are hybrids of North American native wildflowers. They are smaller with finely cut blue-green foliage and similar flowers. However, with the fernleafs, the flowers are more bunched at the top of the stems, more like a dangling bouquet. And best of all, these plants continue to bloom not only in spring, but all summer into fall.
Our native Dicentras are all wonderful wildflowers of woodland shade, from the eastern Dutchmans Breeches and Fringed Bleeding Heart to the Northwests Pacific Bleeding Heart.
These magnificent plants have long been a herald of spring in Zones 2 to 9, a huge area of the US. They are quite easy to grow, as long as woodland conditions are provided. That means some shade, plenty of moisture with good drainage, and rich soil. Once your clumps have become large, you can easily divide the rhizomes after flowering.