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Dicentra formosa

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About Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa) Dicentra formosa, the western bleeding heart or Pacific bleeding heart, is a flowering plant in Poppy family, generally found in moist wooded areas from California to British Columbia. It is a perennial that grows from a horizontal rootstock (tuber). The plant can approach half a meter in height. The flower has four petals between one and two centimeters long in shades of purple to pink to nearly white. The outer two petals curve and pouch, forming a rough heart shape.

Leaves are finely divided and fernlike, growing from the base of the plant. Flowers are pink, red, or white and heart-shaped and bloom in clusters at the top of leafless, fleshy stems above the leaves from mid-spring to autumn, with peak flowering in spring. The four petals are attached at the base. The two outer petals form a pouch at the base and curve outwards at the tips. The two inner petals are perpendicular to the outer petals and connected at the tip. There are two tiny, pointed sepals behind the petals. Seeds are borne in plump, pointed pods. The plant self-seeds readily. It frequently goes dormant for the summer after flowering, emerging and flowering again in autumn.

There are two subspecies: Dicentra formosa subsp. formosa, with leaves glaucous beneath and never glaucous above, flowers purple pink to pink or white, which grows on the western slope of Sierra Nevada, Coast Ranges to central California, Cascades, extreme southwestern British Columbia, and Dicentra formosa subsp. oregona (often spelled oregana), a rare plant with leaves glaucous above and beneath, flowers cream or pale yellow, which grows in a small area of northwestern California and southwestern Oregon

Plant in moist areas. In warmer areas in its range, this plant prefers shade. In cooler areas in its range, it prefers more sun.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
0.7 - 1.6 ft (0.21 - 0.49 m)

Max. Width
3 ft (0.9 m)


Growth Rate

Winter Deciduous

Flower Color
Purple, Pink, Red, White

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Moist places, typically forest or woodland

Sun, Part Shade, Shade

Elevation ?
-2' - 10346'

Annual Precip. ?
13.1" - 153.3"

Summer Precip. ?
0.23" - 5.95"

Coldest Month ?
27.4° F - 52.0° F

Hottest Month ?
46.1° F - 79.3° F

Humidity ?
0.01 vpd - 24.95 vpd

Soil Description
Prefers rich, well drained soil

Soil PH
5.0 - 8.0


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 5° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 4*, 5*, 6, 7*, 8, 9, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Landscaping Information
Water Requirement ?
Low, Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Deep Organic

Propagation ?
Divisions of the rootstock.  For propagating by seed: 3 mos. stratification.

Common uses
Deer Resistant, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Oregon Bleeding Heart

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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