Dutchmans Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) is a plant that blooms very early in the year from March through to May.
As a matter of fact the flowers disappear, the stems and leaves also die back, after the seeds ripen later in spring… just as other flowers begin to appear in the garden.
The plant has a beautiful white flower that is tipped with pink or yellow, and it has lovely fern like leaves.
Both flowers and leaves vanish just as spring begins to smile on the garden and wake up all the other flowers, an ideal plant for early spring.
Some gardeners may not like this, but most will see the value of a flower that appears early in the season and makes the garden beautiful where it would otherwise be bare while you wait for the spring to arrive in full.
It is interesting to know where this plant’s common name, ‘Dutchman’s Breeches’, comes from. It was the name because the flowers resemble those fascinating wide trousers that were worn in Europe by men in the Middle Ages. Of course, the ‘trousers’ hang upside down on the stalk, but the resemblance is genuinely obvious.
Dutchman’s Breeches plant has a poison that can affect cattle. Do not plant within reach of any cows, such as near a fence where cattle can reach over and eat it.
Soil for Dutchmans Breeches
Remember that this plant grows in forests, in valleys, and along streams, and what it needs to survive is shade and moisture.
Try to replicate the conditions of a forest, where the ground never really dries up, and the soil is made fertile from fallen and decaying leaves.
Grow in medium leaf fertile soil, moist and well drained, and provide a shading range from partial to full shade.
Remember to keep them well watered.
Description of Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
Dutchmans Breeches do not have any leaf bearing stems. Instead, the leaves rise straight from the base, and are finely divided.
The racemes are waxy and white, and sometimes touched with pink. The flowers are very pretty, tipped with yellow and shaped rather like trousers.
These flowers are generally white in colour, and grow either in a cluster or set in a row.
The arching leafy stems look very graceful, and the flower stems, which are leafless, rise above these. Both the leaves and flower stems grow upwards from a scaled rootstock.
The plant grows about one foot tall, the flowers can be almost an inch long and slightly wider.
This plant belongs to the same family as the Bleeding Heart Flower.
The flowers have four petals, which are arranged in pairs, and spread out with spurs at the base of the flower. The fruits are rather long and bare several seeds.
Dutchmans Breeches Problems
This is a very hardy plant and generally has no issues if cared for well by a conscientious gardener.
The plant can sometimes show some vulnerability to infestations by aphids. It is also sensitive to environmental conditions, but most specially to over watering or drought.
If you create marshy conditions its roots will rot and, as mentioned above, if you do not water it enough it will tend to die off even earlier than it normally would.
Dutchmans Breeches is good under some trees on your property, or in some place where you want to simulate a wild natural look. Avoid using for borders because the plant disappears early and will leave the borders of your flower beds bare.
Dutchmans Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) is an early bloomer, March through May.
It’s a delightful flower standing 8 to 10 inches tall, white flowers with yellow or pink at the lower tips.
In addition to the flower are the fern like leaves that are worthy of any shade garden.
Leaves and flowers will disappear as late spring arrives. Why have such short lived flowers? Well, it’s one of the first to bloom and bring some colour and growth to your garden while you are waiting for the much anticipated growing season.
This is a flower for shade gardening, no doubt about it. It grows in moist, humus rich soil in a woodland setting where there are plenty of leaves and other decaying organic matter. So that is what is needed to keep these shade flowers happy.
Propagate by division, seeds take a long time to sprout, sometimes even a couple of years. You can purchase them in late Winter or early Spring.
Keep them moist; give them humus rich soil, composted leaves and other decaying organic matter.
They will seem to hasten the arrival of Spring time and are a plant that is well worth nurturing. Enjoy.