This favorite, old-fashioned shade perennial with delicate flowers resembles hearts with a drop of blood at the base. Flowers appear in early spring and dangle along arching stems.

Prefers moist, well-drained soil in a shady spot, protected from direct afternoon sun. Benefits from a top dressing of compost every year to keep its roots cool and to help soil retain moisture. Leaves are deeply cut and are fern-like in appearance; different varieties offer flowers in red, white or pink.

Dicentra formosa is the more drought tolerant species, native to the Pacific Northwest, but plants can go dormant during hot, dry parts of summer. Mature plants grow up to 30 inches tall. Deer resistant, most parts of the plant are poisonous.


Common name: Bleeding heart

Scientific name: Dicentra spectabilis (Lamprocapnos spectabilis); D. formosa

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Height: 1-3 feet

Width: 6-18 inches

Blooms: Early spring

Where to plant: Partial shade, shade

Water requirement: Medium

Preparing the soil: Compost enriched, well drained

Hardy: Zone 3 (up to 9,000 feet)