Definitions

lyre-flower

Dicentra spectabilis

Dicentra spectabilis also known as Venus's car, bleeding heart, Dutchman's trousers, or lyre flower, is a perennial herbaceous plant native to eastern Asia from Siberia south to Japan. This species of bleeding heart can grow to 24"-36" tall and has ternately compound leaves (leaflets that come in threes). The flowers are pendulous, shaped much like hearts, produced in a raceme bearing 3-15 individual flowers, each one 1-2" long, with pink outer petals and white inner petals. The flowering season is from early spring to mid summer. The common name of this plant, bleeding heart, comes from the heart-shaped flowers which have a longer inner petal that extends below the 'heart'.

Cultivation and uses

It is a popular ornamental plant for flower gardens in temperate climates, and is also used in floristry as a cut flower. It can be a full sun plant if in a cool area but in a warm climate, prefers semi-shaded areas. It needs to be kept moist and prefers neutral to alkaline soil with good drainage although these plants can tolerate heavy clay soil as well.

It is prone to aphids, slugs and snails, which cause damage to its leaves. Propagation is by sowing the seeds when fresh. It can also be divided, preferably in the late fall or early spring. However, contact with the plant can cause skin irritation because the entire plant is toxic, so should be handled with gloves and long sleeves.

Several cultivars have been selected, including 'Alba', with pure white flowers, and 'Goldheart', a relatively new cultivar developed at Hadspen Garden in England and introduced in 1997 with fuchsia-coloured flowers that drop from the stem in a row, and yellow foliage that turns lime green by mid summer.

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