Dicentra spectabilis, more commonly known as "Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart", is one of the most strikingly beautiful spring blooming perennials.
Beginning in April, Dicentra spectabilis is covered with deep pink and white heart-shaped flowers that dangle from gracefully arching branches and if kept evenly moist, it can continue to bloom from 4 to 6 weeks. It forms a beautiful, airy mounded clump up to 36" tall and 36" wide.
A striking Dicentra spectabilis cultivar that really stands out in the shade garden is 'Gold Heart' which has vivid golden foliage with the same deep pink heart-shaped flowers as the species. Very cool!
There is also a white old-fashioned bleeding heart named Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ that is striking in a lightly shaded garden.
If you prefer a smaller, more compact bleeding heart that blooms through most of the season, try one of the everblooming varieties. These will bloom fairly continuously especially if the spent flower stems are removed. Dicentra 'Luxuriant' is a nice everbloomer with fern-like green foliage and deep pink flowers that bloom from May through September. 'King of Hearts' is another everblooming variety with bold cherry pink flowers that contrast nicely with its fringed blue-green foliage.
Dicentra flourishes in humus-rich, evenly moist soil. In warmer climates, they do best when planted in an area that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. In more northern zones, they prefer more sun but it is still important to keep the soil moist.
During the heat of summer, Dicentra spectabilis begins a dormant period. At this time, the foliage will begin to turn yellow and die back. This is normal for these plants and they can be cut back to the ground at this time. Be sure to plant some summer and fall blooming perennials around them to fill the void after they are cut back. The everblooming varieties do not generally go dormant.
All species of Dicentra are great in combination with spring-blooming bulbs, Epimedium, Heuchera, and Polemonium in a light shade border or with ferns, hosta, and Polygonatum in a woodland garden.