Oddball Cousins of Bleeding Hearts

Fine Gardening – Issue 205
Oddball Cousins of Bleeding Hearts

If you still have space for more dazzling options, check out these bleeding heart cousins. They are not all readily available in nurseries or by mail order, but they are certainly worth the space in the garden if you come across them.

‘Athens Yellow’

1. The climbing bleeding heart, of which ‘Athens Yellow’ (Dactylicapnos scandens ‘Athens Yellow’, syn. Dicentra scandens ‘Athens Yellow’, Zones 7–10) is the most com­monly encountered, offers striking yellow flowers in summer. Although technically not a true bleeding heart, this plant features narrow, heart-shaped blooms on long stems (up to 20 feet long in one season) that climb via branched tendrils located at the end of attrac­tive, ferny leaves. While this Asian native grows well in good garden soil in a sheltered location, it is perennial only in warmer climates.

Dutchman’s breeches

2. The eastern North American native Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria and cvs., Zones 3–7) is a commonly encountered spring woodland wildflower with charismatic white, tooth-shaped flowers. But be warned—in a shady garden this 12-inch-tall-and-wide species can smother newly emerging plants as it aggressively carpets the ground from early to midspring.

squirrel corn

3. Another woodland charmer is white-flowering squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis, Zones 4–8). Also an eastern U.S. native, this 12-inch-tall-and-wide species pops up in early spring, flowers, and then disappears. However, it does so without the risk of suffocating other garden plants.

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