Question: I have a wonderful stand of bleeding hearts in my front garden that come up after the tulips and daffodils have bloomed, but by late June and July the foliage looks terrible. Any suggestions for under plantings or follow-on plantings? The garden faces west and gets about half-day sun.
Answer: Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) can be frustrating as they move from their charming spring bloom back to dormancy. Once the leaves have yellowed, you can cut them back.
Classic companions include hostas and ferns. Their foliage is usually picking up speed just as the bleeding heart finishes blooming and begins to decline. (If the afternoon sun reaching your garden is strong and hot, the ferns may burn.)
Brunnera macrophylla makes a good partner as well. The cultivar ‘Jack Frost’ is very popular. This plant has green and white spotted foliage and blue spring flowers. It blooms about the same time as bleeding heart, but its foliage remains attractive all summer.
Astilbes bloom in early to midsummer, with large plumes of bright flowers held upright. These may be just the trick for screening your bleeding hearts’ demise. Bear in mind that astilbes require regular watering.
Heucheras, heucherellas and foamflowers (Tiarella spp.) can all provide interest and distraction with their colorful leaves, and they’ll do well in part shade.
You might also try planting Dicentra ‘King of Hearts’ or ‘Luxuriant’—bleeding heart hybrids that bloom all summer in cool regions and offer a rebloom after a short midsummer rest in warmer climates. In all areas, its foliage looks decent all summer long. Cultivars of the eastern-US native fernleaf bleeding heart (D. eximia), such as ‘Burning Hearts’ also provide longer bloom and green foliage through the summer if you deadhead the spent flowers and do not allow the plants to dry out. The same can be said for native Pacific bleeding heart (D. formosa).
Shown: Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’, a chartreuse-leaved cultivar, in late spring, with emerging hostas and Japanese painted fern. Spotted leaves of lungwort (Pulmoaria cv.), another good companion choice, appear to the right of the fern.
Public domain image. Source.
Looking for more information on foliage plants? Check out Horticulture’s Smart Gardening Techniques and 101 Plants for Problem Places
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