Bleeding Heart Blooming Early in March

A few years ago, a friend offered to give me the root of her bleeding heart plant she called Fred. This was in the fall but unfortunately it was some time before I could drive to her home. By the time I picked up Fred, the root was dry and hard.

I soaked poor Fred in a tub of water for a day. It was so desiccated, I did not think it would make it through the winter. But I planted Fred in an area that had good soil and morning sun and afternoon shade. In the spring I was pleasantly surprised by a tuft of foliage peeking through the soil. Fred was alive!

Every year since then Fred has produced beautiful fern-like leaves and nodding racemes of pendulous blossoms. Each blossom looks like an earring or a puffy locket on a chain. The blossom is comprised of two outer rose-colored petals and the two inner white petals. If you turn the flower upside down and pull the rose petals apart you will see the lady in a bath. Lady-in-a-bath is another common name for this beautiful plant.

Bleeding heart is an herbaceous perennial that prefers moist soil, high in organic matter (think woodsy). Some shade is best, can be morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled light. With such delicate foliage, you would think that rabbits would decimate bleeding hearts but both rabbits and deer do not seem interested. By June the leaves turn yellow and ratty and eventually the plant goes dormant as summer heats up. In order to prevent a gap in the garden, other herbaceous perennials such as hardy geraniums or hostas can fill in the gap during the summer or annuals can be planted in its place.

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