Dicentra formosa ‘Bacchanal’

Following on from last week’s post on Dicentra ‘Aurora’, I thought I’d write a post about another stellar Dicentra. Of all the various named cultivars of Dicentra formosa, ‘Bacchanal’ seems, to me anyway, to be one of the most reliable. The mass of formosa varieties and hybrids have a habit of doing well for a season before mysteriously disappearing at the end of the year, never to be seen again. Dicentra formosa ‘Bacchanal’, on the other hand, seems quite happy to romp away in it’s woodland-esque home in my garden, doing all the things that the best formosas do: flower prolifically over abundant foliage; spread gently; show a bit of self-reliance.


One significant feature of this plant is it’s colour: the pinky red flowers are a bolder colour than the ‘unimproved’ species. The flowers show the classic Dicentra shape that gave the genus it’s name: Di- meaning two and -centra derived from the Greek for ’spur’. The ‘formosa’ part means ‘beautiful’ or ‘well-formed’. Quite where ‘Bacchanal’ sits in the etymology is up for debate, but I would suggest it has to do with the colour of wine rather than capacity for revelry.

Dicentra formosa 'Bacchanal'
Full disclosure – the saturation has been altered on this photo, but I can’t find the original, unadulterated image!

Likes and dislikes

Dicentra formosa is a native of the far side of Northern America: from British Columbia down to California. It grows in the loamy soils of moist woodland, and does best in similar soils here in the UK (I grow it under deciduous shade in soil annually enriched with leaf mould). The species has been in cultivation in the UK in one form or another since the late 18th Century, with the varieties and cultivars available having proliferated in recent years.

All told, Dicentra formosa ‘Bacchanal’ is an excellent plant for a range of situations. That said, light shade and moisture are always appreciated. It’s strong flower colour make it a good selection from the available Dicentra formosa cultivars; it’s sturdy habit also recommends it. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s behaviour is Bacchanalic, it being much too gentle in it’s habits for that, but it’s certainly no shrinking violet either. I will have a few of these for sale later in the year, so don’t forget to subscribe to be kept up to date with any goings on!

2 thoughts on “Dicentra formosa ‘Bacchanal’”

  1. This looks a good one Andrew. How does it behave throughout the year? Presumably the leaves come about now, how much longer before it flowers, and what is the length of it flowering, and height? May I put my name down for one later in the year?

    1. Yep, the leaves are emerging as we speak, the flowers usually follow soon after in April. From then on it will flower continuously throughout the Spring and Summer, with the main flush in Spring. In a particularly hot, dry summer it will slow down a bit but for me it is usually still providing a bit of flower in August. Height: about 30cm.

      I will most certainly put one aside for you!

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