The Q&A Archives: Dutchman's breeches won't flower

Question: I moved some Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) from the wild into my garden four years ago. Each year the foliage comes up, but no flowers. What's the problem? Ruth MacDonald Sturgis, SD

Answer: They may not be getting the right light or soil conditions, says Ainie Busse, owner of Busse Gardens, growers of more than 10 types of Dicentra in Cokato, Minnesota. If Dutchman's breeches receive too much sun or are growing in soil that dries out quickly and is low in organic matter, they may survive but not flower, she explains. Your wild Dutchman's breeches should be planted in an area of your garden that gets part to full shade and has plenty of compost and peat moss mixed into the soil. Plant them no more than one inch deep. To create shade, plant shrubs or a small tree nearby. A dogwood or almost any kind of viburnum is a good choice. If the plants still don't flower the next spring, add a small handful of lime to the growing area, Busse suggests. Species forms of Dicentra, such as Dutchman's breeches, have a shorter flowering period and die back quicker in summer than the hybrid forms, says Busse. You'll have better success with them, or any wildflower species, if you buy transplants from nurseries that start the plants from seed - and you won't be depleting the wild population, she adds.

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