Lamprocapnos - Dutchman’s Breeches - Lyre Plant
Dicentra spectabilis is a hardy, but herbaceous perennial with cut leaved, pale green foliage on arching stems which are host to the pink, red and white flowers which give it is very descriptive common name of the Bleeding Heart Plant.
The pendant flowers neatly open up in drooping hearts along the tips of the stems which are clothed in attractive but non invasive foliage
I never cease to be amazed that such a seemingly fragile plant can be so hardy. Dicentra spectabilis, or the endearing, aptly named Bleeding Heart Plant, shrugs off the woes of winter, emerges from its below-ground resting place, and is happy to vie for position with the fading Daffodils, and anything else which is eager to grab a slice of spring and early summer.
After flowering has ceased, the foliage quickly fades and dies to allow the plant to rest and recuperate below ground for the summer months, ready to emerge and restart its delightful display – regardless of late frosts, rain or even a slight covering of snow.
The dieback is normal – essential – but can be helped with the trimming off of the faded flowers to allow a few new shoots to materialize. This gives added vigour and helps the plant build up reserves in its fleshy root system throughout the heat of summer.
(No need to email me in panic – worrying about it’s seeming loss from your garden. It is what happens and the summer dormancy of Bleeding Heart is an essential part of its life cycle.)
The Bleeding Heart Dicentra, is best planted in open ground in association with other non invasive low growing plants, or it can be grown in container for an late spring/early summer spectacular!
It is not too fussed about soil types but prefers a moist rather than dry soil. If in a dry area, then be certain to water the area where it is resting underground through dry summer months. Otherwise a wide range of garden soils is acceptable – acid through to mildly alkaline.
Full sun or dappled shade is ideal for its family origins were in moist semi woodland situations. It associates well with naturalised Daffodil plantings. It benefits from a light summer mulch to keep the soil moist and somewhat cool.
Allow it to die down naturally after flowering and don’t try to keep it ‘alive’. It needs to sleep, and it does that underground. Whereas most herbaceous perennials are happy to hide away during the winter, and put in an appearance during the summer, Dicentra is the reverse.
As with many plants if modern times, the botanists have now decided that it should be a Lamprocapnos and not a Dicentra. You can be assured that those who sell it will hang on the ‘known – established’ name of Dicentra. In any event “Bleeding Heart Plant” is here to stay. (So, common names are useful!)
Hungry slugs may like an early feast, though rarely do too much damage.
Dicentra is normally healthy – its early dieback giving unnecessary cause for concern.
The Dicentra group (there are others) generally have fleshy roots, which can be used in early winter for root cuttings potted up individually and kept cool, until spring when they will emerge as young plants.
Division – if done carefully – is also a way to increase stock, and should be carried out in early spring – before growth starts.