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Bleeding Heart

Dicentra formosa

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Papaveraceae (Poppy)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
50 centimetres tall
Gardens, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, wasteland, waterside, woodland.

Pink, 4 petals
2-spurred pinkish-purple, heart-shaped, pendant flowers (up to 2.5cm long) on a leafless stem. Flowers are in clusters of 5 to 15. Flowers have 2 sepals and 6 stamens in groups of 2's.
An elongated capsule.
Finely divided, alternate, greyish-green, fern-like leaves. A deciduous perennial.
Other Names:
Pacific Bleeding Heart, Wild Bleeding Heart, Common Bleeding Heart, Western Bleeding Heart.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Dicentra formosa, also known as Pacific bleeding heart or Western bleeding heart, is a perennial flowering plant that is native to the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It is a member of the Fumariaceae family and is known for its heart-shaped flowers that are often pink or white. The plant has fern-like leaves and grows to be about 1-2 feet tall. D. formosa is a popular garden plant and is often used in woodland gardens or as an understory planting. It is a hardy plant that is easy to grow and is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, but it prefers moist, well-drained soils and partial shade. The plant is attractive to pollinators and is a popular nectar source for bees, butterflies, and other insects. It is important to note that D. formosa is toxic and should not be ingested. Ingesting the plant can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors.


Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa) is a beautiful and delicate flowering plant that is native to the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The plant is named for its unique and charming heart-shaped blooms that hang from long, arching stems.

The flowers of the Bleeding Heart plant come in shades of pink, red, and white and they bloom from spring to early summer. The leaves of the plant are light green and fern-like, adding to the plant's delicate and whimsical appearance.

The Bleeding Heart plant is a hardy perennial that grows best in partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. It is an ideal plant for a woodland garden, a shaded border, or as an accent plant in a mixed perennial bed.

One of the great things about Bleeding Heart plants is that they are easy to care for and can be propagated by division in the spring. The plant is also deer and rabbit resistant, making it a great choice for gardeners who have these creatures in their area.

In addition to its beauty and ease of care, Bleeding Heart has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including heart problems and nervous disorders. However, it is important to note that the plant is toxic if ingested in large quantities and should be used with caution.

Bleeding Heart plants are also attractive to pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, making them an important addition to any garden with a focus on supporting wildlife. The plants are also low maintenance, and can thrive for many years with minimal care.

When planting Bleeding Heart, it is important to choose a spot that provides the right growing conditions. The plant prefers partial shade, so a spot that receives dappled sunlight throughout the day is ideal. It also needs moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. If the soil in your garden is heavy and poorly drained, consider amending it with compost or other organic matter to improve its structure and fertility.

Once established, Bleeding Heart is a low maintenance plant that requires very little attention. Watering should be regular and consistent, especially during periods of drought. Fertilizing is not necessary, but adding a layer of compost or other organic matter around the plant in the spring will help to keep it healthy and vigorous.

The plant may need to be staked if it becomes too tall, or if the stems become too heavy with blooms. This is easily done by inserting a stake next to the plant and tying the stem to the stake with a soft cloth.

It's also important to cut back the plant after it finishes blooming. This will encourage the plant to produce fresh, healthy foliage and will help to keep it looking its best.

In addition to its ornamental value, Bleeding Heart also has a place in folklore and legends. In Victorian times, it was a popular gift between lovers and was said to symbolize love and the heart. The plant's scientific name, Dicentra formosa, translates to "two-spurred" and refers to the two spurs on the back of each flower.

In Japanese folklore, Bleeding Heart is associated with a tragic love story between two lovers who were separated by death. The story says that the flowers of the Bleeding Heart plant represent the tears of the woman who was left behind, and the plant is still considered to be a symbol of unrequited love and heartache in Japan today.

Another interesting fact about Bleeding Heart is that it is a popular plant for use in shade gardens. The plant's delicate foliage and elegant blooms make it an ideal choice for a shaded area, and its hardy nature means that it can thrive in less-than-ideal growing conditions. It is also a great choice for naturalizing in wooded areas or along streams, as it will self-seed and spread over time to create a lush, green understory.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that there are many different varieties of Bleeding Heart available, each with its own unique blooms and foliage. Some popular varieties include 'Luxuriant', 'Alba', and 'Gold Heart'. So whether you're looking to add a touch of grace and elegance to your garden, or you simply appreciate the plant's beauty and cultural significance, Bleeding Heart is definitely a plant worth considering.

In conclusion, Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa) is a charming and beautiful flowering plant that has a place in folklore, legends, and the heart of gardeners everywhere. With its easy care, unique blooms, and versatile growing requirements, it's a must-have for any garden that seeks to evoke a sense of beauty and timeless grace.


Bleeding Heart filmed at Skelwith Bridge, Cumbria on 17th April 2023.


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