Dicentra formosa



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Dicentra formosa


Chains of pink bleeding hearts, gracefully arch above a thick carpet of lush, ferny foliage, like strings of lockets.
Dicentra formosa, Pink Bleeding Heart, really is a pretty plant.

Chains of pink lockets

The hearts begin to make their chains in late spring, and continue into summer.
They have a satisfyingly long blooming period.
Blooming will cease for the scorching heat of summer, but once the autumn rain and cool nights come, they will often start again with some more repeat blooms.
(Skip down to “Growing” section below for plant details, how / where to grow).

Essential groundcover under trees and shrubs

If you have some shady ground to cover, then Dicentra formosa Pink Bleeding Hearts is your good friend.
They just love to creep about in the shadows, and nestle themselves between the roots of trees.
The carpet of foliage is lovely – fresh green, ferny and dainty, lush and juicy looking, and thick.
They are not invasive (you should be so lucky). But if they stray into forbidden territory, they are easy to haul back.

Hardy and tenacious

And don’t let that pretty, dainty appearance fool you – Dicentra are hardy and tenacious plants.
Dicentra formosa has strong rhizomes, which allows it to persist even if the going gets tough.

Surprisingly good cut flowers

The dainty chains of lockets don’t look good candidates as cut flowers. But surprisingly they cut and last well in a vase.

Growing: Dicentra formosa

Height with flowers: Blooms at approx 30cm. And the chains of lockets are held well clear of the dense carpet of foliage below, so you can admire them easily.
Width: Forms a dense carpet to a diameter of at least 60cm. But if you leave it have its head over the years, it will just keep gently going.
They are not invasive (you should be so lucky). But if they stray into forbidden territory, they are easy to haul back.

Experts in the shade under trees and shrubs

Position: Dicentra formosa just love to creep about in the shadows, making a groundcover under trees and shrubs. 
They are very content in any sort of shade, from Partial Shade, Dappled Woodland Light, to Full Shade.
And it can be deciduous or evergreen shade.
However their juicy leaves fry if exposed to hot and strong afternoon sun.
Less flowers will come in very heavy deep shade, but the lush ground-cover foliage will still cheer up the gloomy spot.

Hardy woodlanders

Soil: As bona fide woodland plants, Dicentra formosa enjoy the leaf litter, mulch, compost or humus that naturally occurs in a woodland. So they are unlikely to succeed in sandy soil, though they rlish clay.
They are not particularly fussy about soil pH, so will adapt to soils that are either on the acid, or on the alkaline (lime) side of neutral. Anything from loam to clay is fine with them.
Water-wise: Dicentra are not particularly thirsty plants, despite that delicate ferny appearance. So normal, average garden watering is usually more than enough, once they are established. Though thy are certainly not tolerant of long drought.
Frost: Dicentra formosa are extremely frost hardy, so can cope with hard frosts to well below -20C.

Hardy & persistent groundcover

Growth: Perennial groundcover. Dicentra formosa has strong rhizomes, which allows it to persist even if the going gets tough. Normally evergreen. But even if it disappears for a while during difficult times, it usually just springs up again as soon as conditions improve.

Other benefits

Beneficial for wildlife: Bees love foraging about in the pouches, as they are rich in nectar. Plus small honey eating birds will find their way into the locket for a sip.
Low Care: Dicentra formosa are very easy care and low maintenance, once you have them snuggled in and established  under their trees and shrubs.
Deer & Rabbit resistant: Looking at that lush, juicy foliage, you would imagine that rabbits and deer would break a leg to get at them. But happily, the rampaging pests don’t like the taste of Dicentra.

Traditional Indian medicine

Origin: Dicentra formosa grows in a range of shady habitats throughout the western regions of USA. So it is quite adaptable.
Traditional Indian medicine: Some western tribes of native American First Nation people commonly used Dicentra formosa as a painkiller, and particularly for toothache. It probably does have some narcotic properties. However it is not recommended in modern medicine, as some people may have allergy to eating it.


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