- Wild Bleeding Heart
- Wildflowers of the United States
- Dicentra Species, Fringed Bleeding Heart, Wild Bleeding Heart, Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart
- Fringed Bleeding Heart
- Wild Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)
Wild Bleeding Heart
This is the wild, pink-flowered native with finely cut foliage and a bushy, mounding habit. Also called Fringed Bleeding Heart, this beautiful wildflower sometimes makes even a more spectacular show than the taller Pink Bleeding Heart, since it is more compact, and can literally cover itself with flowers if well-grown. Perfect for the front of the shady border.
Great color in the shade, The Bleeding Hearts. The genus Dicentra, commonly called Bleeding Heart, gives us some of the most treasured plants in America, providing dependable color in moist shade as companions with Hostas and Ferns. There are basically two major types:
1. Most popular and world-famous, is D. spectabilis, a species native to Japan. It is the larger of the two (to about 3 feet,) and has the famous little heart-shaped flowers arrayed along arching stems, a lot like a string of pearls. The large bleeding hearts bloom only in spring, and in some areas, disappear altogether by midsummer, much like Trilliums and Daffodils.
2. The second type, the Fernleaf Bleeding Hearts, are hybrids of North American native wildflowers. They are smaller with finely cut blue-green foliage and similar flowers. However, with the Fernleafs, the flowers are more bunched at the top of the stems, more like a dangling bouquet. And best of all, these plants continue to bloom not only in spring, but all summer into fall.
Our native Dicentras are all wonderful wildflowers of woodland shade, from the eastern Dutchmans Breeches and Fringed Bleeding Heart to the Northwests Pacific Bleeding Heart.
These magnificent plants have long been a herald of spring in Zones 2 to 9, a huge area of the US. They are quite easy to grow, as long as woodland conditions are provided. That means some shade, plenty of moisture with good drainage, and rich soil. Once your clumps have become large, you can easily divide the rhizomes after flowering.
Bag of 1
Wild Bleeding Heart
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Half Sun / Half Shade, Full Shade
Late spring to early summer
Plant so that the top of the root is 1″ below the soil line.
Green fern-like foliage. Foliage goes dormant mid-summer.
Loamy Soil, Moist/Wet Soil
Average, Moist / Wet, Well Draining
Deer Resistant, Rabbit Resistant, Native, Extended Bloom Time (more than 4 weeks), Good Rockgarden Or Alpine Plant, Plants For Small Spaces
Northeast, Southeast, Midwest
Spring / Summer, Fall
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested.
Wildflowers of the United States
Dicentra eximia – Wild Bleeding Heart, Eastern Bleeding Heart, Turkey Corn. Dicentra is a genus of about 20 species, of which 7 to 11 are found in North America, depending on which authorities you follow (and whether you include the highly cultivated Dicentra spectabilis species – which may now be classified as Lamprocapnos spectabilis.) Dicentra eximia is one of 3 or 4 species found in the eastern United States (Dicentra formosa may occasionally be found in the wild as a garden escapee, but those populations are unlikely to persist.)
While many publications refer to Dicentra eximia by the common name Turkey Corn, in my experience Ive always heard it referred to as Bleeding Heart. Since the range of this lovely plant is on cliffs, rock outcrops, and rocky slopes of the Appalachian Mountains from New York south to South Carolina and Georgia, it is possible that it is called Turkey Corn in the northern part of its range. There are reports of disjunct populations in Illinois and Michigan, as well as outside of the Appalachians in other more eastern states. These are likely to be garden escapees rather than native or long-established naturalized populations since Dicentra eximia is a widely cultivated plant.
Synonyms: Fumaria eximia, Bicuculla eximia
GA, IL, MA, MD, MI, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, TN, VA, VT, WV, GS
Dicentra Species, Fringed Bleeding Heart, Wild Bleeding Heart, Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart
Alpines and Rock Gardens
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Sun to Partial Shade
Grown for foliage
12-18 in. (30-45 cm)
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
12-15 in. (30-38 cm)
15-18 in. (38-45 cm)
USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 °C (-40 °F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 °C (-35 °F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
Where to Grow:
Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone
Can be grown as an annual
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Unknown – Tell us
Late Spring/Early Summer
Unknown – Tell us
Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
By dividing the rootball
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:
Mount Prospect, Illinois
Pacific Junction, Iowa
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
Grand Blanc, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Madison Heights, Michigan
Royal Oak, Michigan
Olive Branch, Mississippi
Hudson, New Hampshire
Princeton Junction, New Jersey
Ballston Lake, New York
Jefferson, New York
Queensbury, New York
Southold, New York
Cary, North Carolina
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Port Matilda, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Belton, South Carolina
Greenville, South Carolina
Fort Worth, Texas
Essex Junction, Vermont
Fringed Bleeding Heart
Photo by Paul Drobot
Pat Roberts, Master Gardener Volunteer
Common Name: Zestful Fringed Bleeding Heart
Botanical Name: Dicentra eximia ‘Zestful’
Location: Perennial Garden
Size: 12-18 inches high and 12-18 inches wide
Bloom Time: May-July
Bloom Color: Medium pink
Light Requirements: Partial shade to partial sun
Moisture and Soil Requirements: Grow in average, medium, well-drained soil. Plant prefers moist, humusy soil. Intolerant of wet soils in winter and dry soils in summers.
Hardiness: Zones 3-9
Insect problems: None serious, although watch for aphids.
Diseases: None serious
Maintenance notes: Very low-maintenance. After flowers fade, cut back to basal growth for fall rebloom. Naturalizes by self-seeding. Not as long-blooming as ‘Luxuriant’, but may be more reliable when trying to establish.
Uses: The partially-shaded border, woodland garden, wildflower garden, or naturalized area are good places for this plant. Its long bloom period allows it to stand out in a semi-shaded garden.
Tags: selection Categories: Flower Selection
Wild Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)
Hardy, herbaceous North American perennial
Description: Clusters of deep rose-pink blossoms form on long stems in spring and sporadically through summer and fall; fine textured, fern-like pale green foliage remains until frost
Habit: Grows 10 to 16 inches high and wide
Culture: Prefers part shade and moist, organically rich, well-drained garden loam, but is adaptable to various conditions
Hardiness: Cold hardy to USDA Zone 3
Origin: North America
This attractive wildflower is native to the mountainous regions of Eastern North America from New York to Georgia. It was being cultivated by Annapolis, Maryland artisan William Faris in 1793 and recommended for the flower garden in 1859 by Boston seedsman and garden writer Joseph Breck, author of The Flower Garden or Breck’s Book of Flowers, 1851. At the turn of the 20th century, British garden writer William Robinson noted that the Dicentra eximia “combines a fern-like grace with the flowering qualities of a good hardy perennial”. He considered the species useful in rock gardens, mixed flower borders or for naturalizing by woodland walks.
Arrives in a 1 quart pot.
Dicentra is one of those romantic perennials of the woodland garden. This selection of fern-leaf Bleeding heart is valued for its compact habit and long season of bloom. Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’ forms a vigorous clump of green leaves, topped by clusters of delicate, dangling heart shaped pale pink flowers. It is excellent for edging, or to weave through the woodland garden. This plant is a reliable performer. Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’ goes summer dormant so is a good companion for later season perennials such as hostas or a number shade loving grasses. It looks good with Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, blue bostas, Actaea, Beesia, Hakonechloa, and Ophiopogon.
Plant Type: perennial
Foliage Type: deciduous
Plant Height: 1 ft. 0 in. (0.30 meters)
Plant Width/Spread: 1 ft. 6 in. (0.46 meters)
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9
Flower Color: pink
Sun/Light Exposure: light, open, or dappled shade
Water Requirements: regular watering
Wildlife Associations: bees
Colors & Combos
Great Color Contrasts: black, gold, blue
Great Color Partners: pink, purple, cream
Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’K. Van Bourgondien / 800-437-7501
Dicentra ‘Bacchanal’by George Papadelis
Fern-leaf bleeding heart boasts versatility, durability, and beauty. It differs from its cousin, old-fashioned bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis), in many ways. Old-fashioned bleeding heart can grow up to 4 feet tall and equally wide. The common form produces the classic white “heart” shaped flowers that “bleed” rosy red “drips” on either side of each flower. The blossoms emerge in spring and gracefully cascade from arching stems. Flowers last 6 or more weeks, but the plants usually go dormant by summer. They are therefore best planted in the rear of the border behind summer bloomers. In contrast, fern-leaf bleeding heart rarely grows over 15 inches, will bloom almost all summer long without going dormant, has handsome cut-leaf foliage, and has smaller “non-bleeding” flowers. These are available in a range of leaf and flower colors that provide gardeners with many choices for their shadier spots.
Fern-leaf bleeding heart is a North American native that can actually be divided into two very similar species. The western species, Dicentra formosa (western bleeding heart), occurs naturally from northern California to British Columbia while our eastern species, Dicentra eximia (fern-leaf or fringed bleeding heart), is found from New York to Georgia. Breeders in America and Europe have used these to develop several interesting varieties with flowers that range from white to pink to lavender to deep red. ‘Luxuriant’ is the most readily available variety and has cherry red flowers above 12- to 15-inch blue-green foliage. For an excellent white, try ‘Snowdrift’ or ‘Snowflakes’; both have blue-green leaves and grow 10 to 14 inches tall. For one of the deepest reds and almost silver-blue leaves, look for ‘Bacchanal’ at only 8 to 10 inches tall. Most of the newer varieties have beautiful foliage that is worth considering for any semi-shady site.
Fern-leaf bleeding hearts form slow-spreading clumps that require no maintenance all season long. They can tolerate the coldest of winters and are not too particular about soil type as long as it isn’t too heavy. They do, however, thrive in moist, fertile soil. Plants will tolerate full sun, but prefer a semi-shaded site. Too much shade, however, will discourage flowering, which typically lasts from spring until fall. Avoid positioning this plant where competition from tree roots will occur since the lack of water and nutrients can make bleeding hearts only last for a few years. To maintain the healthiest, longest-blooming plants, divide the crown every 3 or 4 years in early spring or late summer. When planting new divisions, take advantage of this opportunity to amend your soil with organic matter such as compost, manure, or aged pine bark. Once established, this disease- and insect-resistant plant will effortlessly flower for years without requiring staking, deadheading, or pruning.
The relatively small size of fern-leaf bleeding heart makes it ideal for the front of the shady garden. It can also be used nestled between boulders in your rock garden or planted among trillium and Jack-in-the-pulpits in your woodland garden. Its tidy, bluish foliage and long season of bloom combine to make it useful as an edging plant too. The blue-green ferny leaves are contrasted beautifully by the bold purple-red leaves of coral bells (Heuchera) or by the large gold leaves of Hosta ‘Daybreak.’ Plant fern-leaf bleeding heart with an ornamental grass for shade such as golden hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’). Its fine, wispy gold leaves against the ferny blue-green leaves of the bleeding heart would provide a long-lasting combination of different colors and textures.
George Papadelis is the owner of Telly’s Greenhouse in Troy, MI.
Dicentra eximia ‘Snowdrift’Walters Gardens
Dicentra ‘King of Hearts’
At a glance: Fern-leaf Bleeding Heart
Botanical name: Dicentra eximia (dy-SEN-truh eks-IM-ee-uh)
Plant type: Perennial
Plant size: 10 to 15 inches tall and wide
Habit: Clump-forming mound
Hardiness: Zone 3
Flower color: Pink, deep pink, cherry red, deep red, white
Flower size: 1 inch long, narrow heart-shaped
Bloom period: Spring to fall
Leaf color: Blue-green, gray-green
Leaf size: 4-12 inches long, fern-like
Light: Partial shade
Soil: Well-drained, fertile, moist
Uses: Front of the shade border; rock garden
Companion plants: Hostas (smaller, gold- and blue-leaved varieties), purple-leaved coral bells (Heucheras)
Remarks: Grown in the proper conditions, may self-seed in the garden. Divide every 3 to 4 years. Avoid dry soil areas in the summer.
- Dutchman’s breeches plant (Dicentra cucullaria) bears white flowers on leafless stems that truly do remind one of the pairs of pants hung out to dry on a clothesline. The fern-like foliage dies back in summer, but the plant lives on, underground, in a state of dormancy.
- Squirrel corn (D. canadensis), like Dutchman’s breeches, has white flowers, but the flowers assume a shape more like those on Dicentra eximia and D. spectabilis than those on D. cucullaria. It, too, has leaves that remind you of ferns and that disappear in the heat of the summer; both are suited to zones 3 to 7.
- Pacific bleeding heart (D. formosa) has pink flowers and leaves that are bluish-green and shaped like ferns. The Latin word, formosa, translates to “beautiful.” It can be grown in zones 4 to 8. Native to the West Coast of North America, it is the West’s version of the fringed bleeding heart.
- For something quite different in the same genus, try D. scandens. It is a large vine (10 feet tall) with yellow flowers. But it is not as tolerant of the cold as are other types of Dicentra: It is hardy only in zones 7 to 9.
- Some types of false bleeding heart (Corydalis spp.) have fern-like leaves, including C. cheilanthifolia, its cultivar, Manchu, and C. lutea (all have yellow flowers and grow in zones 3 to 6). Since C. lutea is by far the most popular Corydalis, it is the type that you are most likely to find in garden centers. C. lutea Alba bears white blooms. If you can find it for sale, of even greater interest will be C. flexuosa China Blue (zones 5 to 7), so called because it produces blue flowers.