Basic information about Dicentra/Lamprocapnos. Includes Origin, Growing & Cultivation, Common Pests & Diseases, Interesting Facts & Uses, and Garden Design Tips.
The common bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis, being the most commonly grown species and its hybrids, was recently reclassified into Lamprocapnos due to differences in its leaf structure and display, making it Lamprocapnos spectabilis.
Less commonly grown but still lovely Dicentra eximia and Dicentra formosa are still classified as Dicentra, since their leaf structure meets the criteria for that genus.
The botanical name, Dicentra, is taken from the Greek words ‘dis’ (twice) and ‘kentron’ (spur), referring to the bisymmetric flower structure.
The botanical name, Lamprocapnos, comes from the Greek words ‘lampros’ (shining or bright) and ‘kapnos’ (smoke), referring possibly to the clouds of blossoms.
This plant has a few common names; most frequently variations of Bleeding Heart (referring to the shape of the flowers), sometimes ‘lady-in-a-bath’ (after the flower shape, if turned upside down and pulled apart) and some particular species are Dutchman’s Breeches.
While many Dicentra species are native to North America, Lamprocapnos and others are native to Asia and Europe.
Growing and Cultivation
Dicentra and Lamprocapnos prefer partial shade and rich, neutral to alkaline, well-drained soil. They do not like ‘wet feet’ or puddly, heavy soil, but cannot be allowed to dry out, either. A moderate, regular water application once a week is ideal, unless rainfall is present. This plant is sensitive to chemical applications and should be fed lightly, but an application of fertilizer or compost at planting is recommended. Many varieties die back or go dormant in the heat of midsummer; they can be cut back to keep the garden tidy after yellowing/browning (but not before). Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’, being a hybrid between D. eximia and D. formosa, frequently avoids this dieback and stays green (and blooming) continuously throughout the summer. These plants do not like to be disturbed, so take cuttings and divisions carefully in spring if desired. It is a slow grower and can be slow to emerge in spring.
Common Pests and Diseases
These plants are not particularly susceptible to pests or diseases, but can develop powdery mildew (wet-looking black or brown blotches on leaves, sometimes with fuzzy gray. This is commonly related to an excess of water or poor drainage. Amend heavy or poorly-drained soils with perlite, bark, coarse sand, or other materials. Occasionally slugs may show up to snack on foliage; they can be stopped with available traps/baits or barrier methods.
This plant is both deer and rabbit resistant – they prefer not to eat it.
Interesting Facts and Uses
Dicentra/Lamprocapnos spectabilis was awarded the UK Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 1993. Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’ also received the Award of Garden Merit in 1999.
Garden Design Tips
Frequently seen in the middle or front of a border, can also be used on margins of woodlands. Their ferny foliage and delicate flowers complement hosta, Pulmonaria, Tiarella, Tricyrtis (Toad Lily), bluebells and ferns. Since most die back, arranging a later-blooming or later-unfurling foliage plant to overlap their spot is recommended.
To purchase Dicentra/Lamprocapnos varieties, please visit our Shade Companion Plants Page.