The Bleeding Heart
The beautiful bleeding heart flower. The name at first might sound morbid, but when you actually see them you understand the meaning. Dainty, fresh, and a welcome sight in the spring for any garden.
This flower, a native of Japan, is considered a perennial which means that it comes up year after year. There is no need to replant them each spring to enjoy their beauty. If you live in planting zones 3-9, you should have no trouble keeping them alive and healthy. There are usually no problems with insects or diseases.
Your plant will grow between 2 and 3 feet high. Some have been reported to get 4 feet. Around April or May, you’ll see fern-like leaves appear which arch slightly to hold the many flowers that will appear. They’ll declare themselves in pink, white, or the eye-catching red. There is even one that is fringed and gives a fancy look. The blossoms are one inch heart shaped with a “drop of blood “ dangling at the base. If you look at the blossoms closely, you might notice them resembling pants. That gives them another known name of Dutchman’s Trousers.
Plant the bleeding hearts in partial or full shade to add color as you rest. Make sure that the soil and well-drained and rich. As they grow begin to divide them around the third year and every three to four years after that. Do it in the spring before blooming for successful planting. Space the plants about two feet apart. They are great for rock gardens and woodlawn gardens. You can even have a great looking potted “garden” inside or on your patio or deck with them.
Around mid-summer the blooms will die back. So will the foliage unless it is well watered and fertilized. Use pine needles or bark as mulch. They can also reproduce themselves by going to seed. As you see others coming up, move them to other locations throughout your garden.
Hummingbirds love these blossoms as do many butterflies. Use the bleeding heart to complement the greenery underneath your trees.
It even has medicinal qualities. The essence of bleeding heart is reputed to help cure toothaches and headaches.
Like with many plants that grace our lawns, there is usually a legend or two surrounding it. The bleeding heart is no exception. Before I heard of the legend, I envisioned the heart-break that had to be involved to produce such a plant. The most renowned legend comes from Annie Fellows Johnston. It is the story of the love of an old woman for an orphan child. Through her love she pricks her finger every day. The drop of blood becomes a seed that is used to create a magical necklace that she gives the young girl when she is old enough to attend a party at the castle. Each time she dresses in her old clothes and the necklace. When she approaches the castle, she repeats a charm that transforms her into such beauty. But as the days go by, she becomes arrogant and disrespectful of the old woman who raised her. One night she forgets the charm and in her selfish arrogance breaks the necklace and the seeds scatter on the ground next to the castle wall. She marries the prince and as the days go by in bliss she forgets the giving old woman. One day she sees the most unusual flower growing by the wall. It is shaped like a heart with a drop of blood falling from it. As she admires it, the flowers remind her of the love she neglected. In shame, she tells her new husband and they bring the old woman into the castle to live and give her back all she had given the young girl. Now as you look upon the unique bleeding heart, think of sacrificial love and all that goes into it.