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Dutchmans Breeches

Dutchmans Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) is another well-liked bleeding heart plant. It is native to North America.

It is an herbaceous perennial plant that prefers to grow in the shade. The plant is about 10 centimeters (4 inches) to 25 centimeters (10 inches) tall.

The arching flowers hang from a leafless stem that arises from the leaves. There are two to ten flowers on each stem. The flowers look like a pair of breeches hung upside down to dry, hence the common name of the plant.

The rosette of basal leaves has three primary leaflets and three secondary leaflets on each primary leaflet. The leaves are very finely cut and have a ferny appearance.

Dicentra cucullaria is a very elegant spring ephemeral that blooms from early spring to mid- or late-spring. The flowers are white in color with some traces of yellow. Actually, the flower consists of two white outer petals and two pale yellow inner petals that shine through. The outer petals fuse and form two spurs.

The spurs contain nectar that attracts various insects that have a proboscis (tongue) that is long enough to reach the much-desired nectar. These insects are mainly bumblebees but also Mason bees, Anthophorid bees, Miner bees, the Giant Bee Fly (Bombylius major) and butterflies.

In the wild these plants prefer to grow in rich moist organic woods and on wind sheltered, rocky hillsides in the mountains where there are sometimes found in great abundance. They also grow along ravines and streams.

Dicentra cucullaria is an easy to grow garden plant. It grows best in part shade to full shade locations. Average soil is fine. Keep the soil moist but not wet.

It is a very nice early groundcover plant especially under shrubs and between other shade perennials like ferns and hostas! It has a very dense blue-green foliage and the flowers appear as soon as some foliage is growing. The plant will die back eventually, faster in rather sunny locations than in full shade places. But it will grow back spring after spring presenting its attractive, dense foliage and delicate white flowers.

Propagation: By seed or by division of tubers in fall or spring. The seeds need a period of 2 to 3 month of moist chilling before germination.

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