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Dicentra cucullaria,
Dutchman’s breeches    1731


Scott’s first-grade teacher Mrs. Trickett introduced him to these curious little woodland wildflowers that have been grown in gardens since colonial days. Decades later he planted a few in a shady spot in his garden where they’ve multiplied happily. Over finely-cut, soft green leaves, their flowers dangle like old-fashioned Dutch pantaloons, charming all who see them. Formerly Dielytra and Corydalis, 7-10”, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), nursery-grown for us in Tennessee.


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SUB TYPE   American, wildflower, native, LittleBulbs

ZONES   3a-7b(8bWC)

HEIGHT   7-10”

BLOOM SEASONS   spring

SOURCE   America, Tennessee

LIGHT   light shade

PLANTING & CARE

Handle these fragile little bulbs with care, and plant any tiny bits that break off because they’ll grow, too.

Plant ASAP when they arrive in October. Dicentra are never happy in storage.

Choose a site in light to half shade. Well-drained soil is essential, and if it’s also humus-rich, moist but not soggy in spring, and never bone-dry, that’s ideal. In the wild they seem to prefer rich soil on slopes under deciduous trees, but in gardens they’re quite adaptable.

Plant about 1” deep and 6-12” apart. You may want to protect with plastic netting, chicken-wire, etc., for a few weeks after planting, usually the only time animals bother these animal-resistant bulbs. Water well.

Do not apply thick or bark mulch. A light layer of shredded leaves is fine, but thick or heavy mulch can be too much for small bulbs such as these and their growth will suffer – if they emerge at all.

Keep soil moist in spring until blooms fade. Allow seed pods to form and mature. Soon the foliage will yellow and then wither away as these spring ephemerals go dormant for the summer. This is normal.

Over time these bulbs will multiply underground, and in the right spot they’ll spread by seeds, too, which are dispersed by ants.