Bleeding Heart

Western Bleeding Heart

"This is the red, red region
Your heart must journey through
Your pains will here be legion
And joy be death for you."

-George William Russell


Pacific Bleeding Heart, aka Wild Bleeding Heart, aka Western Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa) exceeds the Eastern Bleeding Heart (D. eximia) for floweriness & dramatic impact, though both are extremely lovely shade perennials.

Bleeding HeartThis one is native of our very own Pacific Northwest's moist & shady woodland areas, but also seen alongside roads' drainage ditches in fuller sun. So it does spectacularly well in a Puget Sound gardens, since it effectively hasn't left its natural home.

It self-seeds vigorously, & produces seeds throughout its long bloom period. The third photo snapped in May shows the pink flowers turning into comparatively enormous seed-fruits. These pop open & distribute seeds some distance. Seedlings can bloom their first year. Extra seedlings can be dug up & potted to be given to friends for their gardens.

Bleeding HeartWe've had them appear so far distant from where we planted specimens that we cannot assume they weren't seeded from a neighbors' gardens or nearby meadows. Specific cultivars generally need to be cultivated by division to be true-to-form, but if seedlings revert to the wildflower, they will still be dandy garden plants.

It forms a smallish clump a foot & a half by two feet, but if permitted to do so can colonize by rhizomes as well as by self-seeding to any width desired. Not that it is invasive, as it's too easily pulled up from any spot where it is not wanted, & can never be regarded as a burden. The volunteers we've permitted in our garden have needed at least moderate babying to get started, as the young plants do not out-compete established perennials.

In our garden, the ferny blue-green leaves barely emerge in March (a month ahead of E. eximia) & are getting very lush by early April, blooming even before the leaves are at their maximum. The two photos on this page were snapped a week or two apart in April, showing the first blossoms of the year. There are leaves of a yellow hellebore intruding into the second photo.

There is considerable color variation, with most being in the pink range, but ours is the deepest possible rose-magenta. Though ours was bought as a seedling from a native plants specialist as the wild form, it is in reality so much darker colored than the wild pinks that I'm fairly certain it is the cultivated 'Bacchanal' & was not sold as such merely because of the unpredictability of seed-grown cultivars.

D. formosa does not go dormant in summer just so long as it never fully dries out. It blooms the entirety of spring; continues to bloom (if a little less extravagantly) through summer; then will have another mass of blooms in autumn before slowly dying back for winter. Granny Artemis & I have quite a number of corydalis & dicentra species throughout our gardens, & while it is difficult to choose favorites, 'Bacchanal' is certainly one of highest favor.


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