Colors of bleeding hearts

Bleeding Heart Color Change – Do Bleeding Heart Flowers Change Color

Old-fashioned favorites, bleeding hearts, Dicentra spectabilis, appear in the early spring, popping up alongside early blooming bulbs. Known for their lovely heart-shaped blooms, the most common color of which is pink, they may also be pink and white, red, or solid white. On occasion, the gardener may find, for example, that a previously pink bleeding heart flower is changing color. Is that possible? Do bleeding heart flowers change color and, if so, why?

Do Bleeding Hearts Change Color?

An herbaceous perennial, bleeding hearts pop up early in the spring and then being rather ephemeral, die fairly quickly back until the following year. Generally speaking, they will bloom again the same color they did the successive year, but not always because, yes, bleeding hearts can change color.

Why are Bleeding Heart Flowers Changing Color?

There are a few reasons for a bleeding heart color change. Just to get it out of the way, the first reason may be, are you sure you planted a pink bleeding heart? If the plant is blooming for the first time, it is possible that it has been mislabeled or if you received it from a friend, he or she may have thought it was pink but it’s white instead.

Okay, now that the obvious is out of the way, what are some other reasons for a bleeding heart color change? Well, if the plant has been allowed to reproduce via seed, the cause may be a rare mutation or it may be due to a recessive gene that has been suppressed for generations and is now being expressed.

The latter is less likely while the more probable cause is that the plants that grew from the seeds of the parent did not grow true to the parent plant. This is a fairly common occurrence, especially amongst hybrids, and happens throughout nature in both plants and animals. There may, indeed, be a recessive gene being expressed which is generating an interesting new trait, bleeding heart flowers changing color.

Lastly, although this is just a thought, there is a possibility that the bleeding heart is changing bloom color due to the soil pH. This might be possible if the bleeding heart has been moved to a different location in the garden. Sensitivity to pH with regards to color variation is common amongst hydrangeas; perhaps bleeding hearts have a similar proclivity.

What Do Bleeding Hearts Look Like When They First Come Up in the Spring?

Reader question… “Last summer I planted bleeding heart roots in one end of my patio garden. I need to clean away the dead leaves and debris but I’m nervous about accidentally pulling the plants up. I can see something is growing in there but I don’t recognize anything there that looks like the plants did last summer. Could you describe what bleeding hearts look like when they first come up in the spring?” –Cayle

Look for fat “shoots” growing under or through the leaves. In the fall when the temperature of the soil drops, small buds or “eyes” form on the crown of each bleeding heart root. Each eye will become a thick shoot with several growing points. These growing points will become the individual stalks.

The shoots tipped with red are from the old-fashioned bleeding hearts with red/pink flowers… the shoots tipped with green are from bleeding hearts with white flowers.

Nature supplies my bleeding heart plants with a thick covering of leaves each fall so their first growth is under the leaves and is always white.

The shoots color up quickly once they are exposed to the sun.

I cut my bleeding hearts back each fall, but I leave several inches of each old stalk to mark where it was growing and I wait to remove them until the new shoots are large enough to serve as their own marker. The old shoots can then be broken off easily without disturbing the new growth.

The thick shoots grow and open to reveal several thinner stalks. The number and size of the original shoots and the thinner stalks that follow will depend on the age and size of the bleeding heart.

Older established plants will have many shoots and flowering stalks, and recently planted roots will produce only a few smaller shoots and fewer and smaller stalks. The bleeding hearts shown here are both about two years old.

Written by Shirley Filed Under: My Country Gardens, Reader Questions

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