How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Bleeding Heart Flowers
The old-fashioned bleeding heart has long been a favorite perennial of the shady flower garden. It was once called the finest hardy plant of the 19th century. Here’s how to plant and grow bleeding heart flowers in your garden!
About Bleeding Heart
Soon after being named the finest hardy plant, it was considered to be as “common as a wallpaper pattern.” All that is history. Today, it is back in favor because it is easy to grow and nothing surpasses its fascinating form: Graceful arching, 3-foot stems adorned with dangling pink, red, or white flower hearts. The hearts appear to be dripping (hence its most common name). The plant is also known as lady’s locket, lady’s heart, and lyre flower.
Plant bleeding heart in part sun or light shade. It is hardy in Zones 2 to 9. It can thrive in full sun in northern regions, if given adequate moisture.
Bleeding heart requires fertile and well-draining, yet moderately moist soil, with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH. Before planting, add compost or aged manure to the soil to improve fertility.
Water to soak the soil after planting.
Soak the soil around the plant until moist.
Spread mulch around the plant to keep moisture in and weeds out.
Bleeding heart blooms in spring and finishes its growing cycle when warm weather sets in. The flowers fade and the leaves die back. The plant goes dormant in late spring or early summer.
Keep soil moist, but not soggy. Water if rainfall is less that 1 inch per week. The plant tolerates drought and is fire resistant.
When the plant goes dormant, cut back the leaves and stems when they begin to yellow and wither away.
Bleeding heart does not like being moved. It will thrive for years without being divided or replanted.
If transplanting is necessary, do it as soon as the first leaves poke out of the soil in early spring.
Propagate by division in early spring, just before growth starts or by root cuttings in autumn. Bleeding heart also self-sows prodigiously.
Plant shade-loving annuals like begonias or impatiens in the garden space where the bleeding heart grew.
Plant shade-loving perennials that bloom in mid- to late summer to fill the space as bleeding heart goes dormant. Hosta and coral bells are examples.
There are over 20 species of Dicentra. Many new hybrids have been developed to increase heat tolerance and vigor.
Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ has lovely chartreuse foliage.
D. spectabilis ‘Alba’ has white flowers.
D. spectabilis ‘Valentine’ has cherry-red blooms with white tips on burgundy stems.
D. eximia ‘Zestful’ is a fringed (fern-leaf) bleeding heart that is native to North America and grows only 12-18 inches tall with medium-pink flowers. It has a longer bloom period then the D. spectabilis varieties.
D. x ‘King of Hearts’ is a small, fern-leaf bleeding heart with rose-red flowers.
D. eximia ‘Aurora’ is a small, fern-leaf bleeding heart with white blooms.
Entire stems of bleeding heart can be uses as cut flowers. Vase life is up to 2 weeks. The bleeding heart is perfect as a pressed flower. Pick flowers early in the morning after the dew has dried. Put the flowers between paper and place between the pages of a thick book. After a couple of weeks you’ll have perfect flat, papery hearts.
Wit and Wisdom
Bleeding heart is resistant to deer and rabbits.
Dicentra spectabilis is native to northeastern China, Japan, and Korea.