How to Grow Dicentra spectabilis and Lamprocapnos spectabilis Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Bleeding hearts, Dutchman's breeches, Chinaman's breeches, Lyre flower, Seal flower, and Lady-in-a-bath

Although Dicentra spectabilis is still the oft-used scientific name for the Bleeding heart plant, it has been reclassified as Lamprocapnos spectabilis.

Bleeding heart is a hardy herbaceous perennial native to China, Japan, Korea, and Siberia.

It has long been a popular plant with gardeners due to its arching racemes of graceful heart-shaped flowers that it displays in the spring.

Dicentra spectabilis by Larsjuh

Nowadays, the Dicentra genus has just eight members, with spectabilis moved to become the only member of the Lamprocapnos genus. As a member of the 770 species strong Papaveraceae family it is closely related to species such as Papaver (Poppy) , Argemone, Glaucium, Corydalis (Fumitory), Eschscholzia, and Meconopsis.

In the garden, Dicentra spectabilis is a great plant to grow in shady and woodland areas. Though usually grown as border plants, they can be grown in mass through a loose ground cover, beneath shrubs, or in containers.
They are fairly rabbit and deer resistant, and they make an attractive cut flower.

In addition to the wild-type, which has pink outer and white inner-flowers and green leaves, cultivars with completely white flowers ‘alba’, cherry red flowers ‘Valentine’, and yellow leaves ‘Golden heart’ are also available.

Bleeding Hearts

Dicentra spectabilis Description

Bleeding hearts plants reach heights of 29 to 40 inches (75 — 100 cm), and have a spread of around 20 inches (50 cm).

It typically takes two to five years for plants to attain their full height. Dicentra spectabilis are compact, clump forming, carrying short lasting mid-green compound leaves, these are three lobed.

Bleeding Heart Plant
Bleeding Heart Plant by Chris Parfitt, CC

Plants bloom in the spring with approximately twenty, one inch long (2.5 cm), flowers attached to arching racemes.

These are bi-colored. Deep pink petals on the outside, with white inner petals. The plant gets its name ‘Bleeding heart; from the shape of its nodding flowers: the outer petals are heart shaped, while the inner white petals appear as a drop (or tear) below it.

Dicentra spectabilis Alba
Dicentra spectabilis Alba cultivar by Leonora Enking

Once blooming has completed, usually by early summer, the plant will quickly die back to its roots.

Growing Dicentra

Dicentra spectabilis Growing and Care Guide

  • Grows well in zones 2/3 to 9.
  • Usually grown in shady areas, though will perform well in sunny areas if the soil is kept moist.
  • Soil should be moist, with adequate drainage (will not tolerate wet soils in the winter). Performs best in fertile humus rich soils, which are light to medium, with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

  • Although Dicentra spectabilis is a great plant for beginners to grow, it is not the easiest plant to grow from seed due to erratic seed germination. This usually takes from one month to one year at 55 to 60°F (13 to 16°C). Sow seeds from the end of autumn to the start of winter, and lightly cover.
  • It is much easier to grow from roots. Plant at a depth of 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) ans space at 12 to 20 inches (30 to 50 cm).
  • Propagate from root cuttings in the spring. Although divisions can be taken in early spring or once leaves have died back in the summer you should be aware that the roots are very brittle.

  • Water consistently (medium) in the summer to prevent soil drying out.
  • Provide a much in the autumn, and a light fertilizer at end of winter.
  • As the plant dies back once it has completed flowering it is best to grow alongside other plants to avoid bare patches in the garden.

  • The plant contains toxins that make it a deer and rabbit resistant plants.
  • Touching toxic leaves may cause skin irritations. Will cause stomachache if digested.
  • Dicentra spectabilis is pretty tolerant to pests though it is known to attract Aphids, slugs and snails.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Dicentra spectabilis plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Platystemon plants.