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Garden Journal

King of Hearts bleeding hearts bloom spring to fall

By Paul Barbano | Apr 10, 2013
King of Hearts blooms with arching branches of rosy pink hearts on a short, foot-tall mounding plant.

Gardens, like films, are meant to enrich our lives. The 1966 cult film “King of Hearts” tells of a small town in France near the end of World War I. The retreating German army booby traps the entire town to explode. All of the townspeople flee except the inmates of the lunatic asylum, who take over the town, much to the confusion of the Scottish soldier sent to defuse the bomb. He is quickly crowned their King of Hearts.

As their captive king, he watches the German and the British troops kill each other, so the film questions who is really insane in this world, the lunatics or the sane killing each other in war.

The garden has a new King of Hearts, a new hybrid bleeding heart (Dicentra) with pleasing, delicate, ferny, light blue-green foliage. King of Hearts blooms with arching branches of rosy pink hearts on a short, foot-tall mounding plant.

While most bleeding hearts only bloom in early spring, King of Hearts bleeding hearts blooms all season long from late spring into fall. As a bonus, the delicate foliage is decorative in its own right with fernlike gray-green color.

Although it prefers sun, it will tolerate partial shade. For best results, plant King of Hearts bleeding hearts in moist, well-drained soil.

Use it in lightly shaded borders and woodland gardens. Because of its smaller size, it is also very pleasant as a flowering potted plant.

Like all bleeding hearts, the King of Hearts is an excellent cut flower.

You will find King of Hearts as either a potted plant or bare root. Plant the potted bleeding hearts with the crown at soil level. Plant bare-root bleeding hearts slightly deeper, with the crown two inches below the soil line.

You will get the most flowers in a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade. The key to success is consistent watering.

If the soil becomes too dry, your King of Hearts may go dormant and stop blooming. The best soil is slightly acidic (pH 6.0 to 6.5), although the plants will tolerate a pH up to 7.5. Fertilize with compost or a general-purpose organic fertilizer in early spring. To keep the roots moist, apply a two-inch-thick mulch, but keep the mulch several inches away from the stems.

Bleeding hearts are sometimes attacked by slugs and snails, so just pick them off as you find them.

These ferny-looking plants do well planted alongside aquilegia, true ferns and hostas. To encourage reblooming, cut out any old flower stems and any dead leaves or yellow foliage.

After a few years, you may want to divide your plants in early spring. Replant the healthy root pieces from the outside edge of the plant.

In the fall, after a killing frost, cut the plants down to about two inches high.

After the ground is frozen, you can apply a light mulch to protect the plants from winter heaving.

You can find King of Hearts bleeding hearts at Burpee (800-888-1447) or White Flower Farm among other mail-order nurseries, or ask for it by name at your local garden center.

Plant the King of Hearts bleeding hearts, and you will enjoy flowers all season long, making your garden like a small French town, or your own asylum.

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