Bleeding heart plant transplant

Although you might mistake the title of this post for an 80’s rock ballad, I’m referring to a plant with the common name of “Bleeding Heart”. The flowers do look like little dropping hearts.

I was always taught that the Latin name of this plant was Dicentra spectabilis, but the gurus who decide plant names changed its classification a few years ago and now the proper Latin name is Lamprocapnos spectabilis. I’m going to use the common name to keep this post readable.

The method I’m going to show you of creating multiple plants out of one, works not only for Bleeding Hearts but any other perennial plant that has a similar growth habit (i.e. multiple roots, not just a single tap root).

The best time to divide a plant is when it’s just starting to get going in the spring. Bleeding Heart is one of the first plants to emerge, so I was able to divide it this week. Dividing plants later in the season can work, but they have a harder time recuperating and you could lose them. The way I think of it is that in spring the plants have a lot of stored energy and they’re raring to get growing—you can whack away at them in almost any manner at this time of year and their internal drive to just GROW! will get them through.

So, the process of dividing a Bleeding Heart is to first, find an emerging Bleeding Heart plant:

Insert a trowel or shovel under it and dig it up, keeping as much of the root structure with it as possible:

Use a sharp knife to divide the plant into two or more sections. Each section should have a ‘good sized’ piece of root with it–enough to sustain life. I chose to make two small plants out of this piece but I could have divided the piece on the right again to make three, if I wanted to.

A sharp and sturdy knife is a good tool to have when dividing plants. I have a Hori Hori Knife* from Japan and find it very handy–I’ve had mine for several years, use it regularly, and it’s still very sharp. Previously, I’ve used a hand saw, an old kitchen knife (never to be used in the kitchen again), the sharp edge of a shovel, and, for one especially stubborn, large plant, an electric reciprocating saw.

But back to the Bleeding Heart. The next step is to find a pot that is the right size for the plant. Often you’ll find that pieces of woody root stick out at odd angles, or there’s just way more root than is needed to sustain the little plant. Rather than move to a much bigger pot (which takes more soil, and more space, and is heavier to lug around–a consideration if you’re potting up a lot of these for a plant sale or some such activity) you can use your secateurs to trim the roots down to a manageable size. Here are before and after images of one section of the Bleeding Heart:

Once the roots are trimmed it’s just a matter of putting the plant in the pot and filling it with potting soil:

That looks simple enough, and it is, but I didn’t realize until someone showed me that there is actually a bit of a technique to this. You need to push the soil down around the plant fairly forcefully in order to eliminate air pockets–the roots need to be in contact with soil in order for the plant to “take”. I made a short video to show you the process as it’s easier to understand if you see it actually being done:

The final step in dividing and potting plants is to water them well. Ideally, you should work with damp potting soil, as it’s difficult to get it wet again once it’s completely dried out. The soil I used for my Bleeding Heart plant was quite dry, so once I was done I submerged the entire pot in a bucket of water for a minute–this also helped to remove any remaining air pockets.

You’ll note that I didn’t replant any of the original plant back in my garden bed. That’s because I didn’t want it there (this particular plant had come up in that spot on its own), but if I did, and had only wanted to pot up a piece of it, I could have either replanted a piece right in the ground instead of in a pot, or, I could have chosen to only dig up part of the plant, leaving a chunk of the original plant in the ground.

As I mentioned, this process works for any other similar-growing plant. You could do this with hostas, solomon’s seal, black eyed susans, monarda, columbine and many more. On the blog, I’ve demonstrated the same technique for rhubarb.

*Disclosure: some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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Caring For Bleeding Heart Transplants – How To Transplant A Bleeding Heart Plant

Years ago when I was new to gardening, I planted my first perennial bed with of many of the old-time favorites, such as columbine, delphinium, bleeding heart, etc. For the most part, this flower bed was a beautiful success and helped me discover my green thumb. However, my bleeding heart plant always looked spindly, yellow and barely produced any flowers. After two years of it dragging my garden down with its shabby, sickly appearance, I finally decided to move the bleeding heart to a less noticeable spot.

To my surprise, the following spring this same sad little bleeding heart flourished in its new location and was covered with dramatic blooms and healthy lush green foliage. If you find yourself in a similar circumstance and need to move a bleeding heart plant, then read on to learn how.

How to Transplant a Bleeding Heart Plant

Sometimes we have a vision of a perfect flowerbed in our minds, but the plants have ideas of their own. The

simple act of transplanting garden plants to a better location can occasionally help them perform better. Transplanting may seem a little scary and risky when you are new to gardening, but when done properly, oftentimes the risk pays off. Had I been afraid to move my bleeding heart, it probably would have continued to suffer until it died out.

Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) in a perennial hardy in zones 3-9. It prefers a partially shaded location, where it will have some protection from the intense afternoon sun. Bleeding heart is not too particular about soil type, as long as the location is well draining. When transplanting bleeding heart, choose a site with afternoon shade and well-draining soil.

Caring For Bleeding Heart Transplants

When to transplant bleeding hearts depends on why you are transplanting it. Technically, you can move bleeding heart anytime, but it is less stressful for the plant if you do it in early spring or fall.

If the plant is suffering in its current location, cut back any stems and foliage and transplant it to a new location. Bleeding heart plants are typically divided every three to five years. If you find yourself needing to transplant a large, established bleeding heart plant, it may be wise to divide it as well.

When transplanting bleeding heart, prepare the new site first. Cultivate and loosen up the soil in the new site and add organic material if necessary. Dig a hole twice as large as the projected root ball. Dig up the bleeding heart, taking care to get as much of the root ball as you can.

Plant the bleeding heart in the pre-dug hole and water it thoroughly. Water bleeding heart transplants every day for the first week, then every other day the second week and one to three times a week after that for the first active growing season.

How to Divide Bleeding Hearts Plants

wet bleeding heart image by Michael Cornelius from

Delicate hearts arching gracefully above the frilly green foliage of bleeding hearts create cascading color in early summer. Named for the distinctive droplet of white that tips the heart, this old-fashioned flower spreads by underground roots. Propagated by root division every three to five years, bleeding heart roots easily and adapts to a new location without delaying blooming. Introduce a friend to the joy of bleeding hearts by digging up a piece of the root and passing it on.

Lift and divide bleeding hearts in the spring, when new growth appears. Although they can be divided in mid summer if necessity arises, spring is the preferred time. New plants produce blooms the same year if propagated in spring.

Dig 6 to 8 inches from the base of the plant. Use the spade or garden fork to dig around the perimeter of the plant. Slide the spade under the roots and lift the entire section free of the soil.

Remove enough soil to see the roots clearly. Handle gently as roots are brittle and break easily.

Pull roots apart with your hands. Each section should have at least one shoot of foliage.

Replant in prepared soil in an area with similar soil and lighting. Position the roots so the shoot rests at its original planting depth. Firm the soil down around the roots to remove air pockets and secure the plant.

Water thoroughly to moisten the soil to the root level and keep moist until new growth resumes. Resume normal care once the new plant is established.

The Bleeding Heart Plant Growing Tips

Home › Perennial Garden Plants › Bleeding Heart Plant

Dicentra Spectabilis and other Bleeding Heart Varieties For Spring Color In Your Shaded Garden Spots

Bleeding Heart Plant Care Tips.
The Bleeding Heart Flower is one of the most beautiful perennials for the shaded parts of your garden. Learn how to grow and transplant the Bleeding Heart perennial.

The Bleeding Heart flower (Dicentra spectabilis) is one of the most popular perennials for shade gardens. The unusual shape of their flowers really remind you of a bleeding heart.

This delicate looking perennial plant has its origins in China and Korea and was introduced to Europe in 1847.

The plants reach a height of 30 to 32 inches and produce their beautiful flowers in the spring.

Where To Grow Bleeding Heart Flowers

Dicentra plants like a lightly shaded spot in front of larger trees or shrubs.

The soil should be humus rich and not too heavy or dry. Soggy or waterlogged soil does not suit them.

In general they are easy to grow and you will surely find a spot in your garden to grow these beautiful plants.

Companion Plants For Bleeding Hearts

Ideal companions are other shade tolerant perennials like Primulas, Aquilegias, Epimediums, Ferns or Hostas.

It is not only the flowers that make these plants so valuable for your shaded garden areas. The beautifully cut foliage enhances and sets off the flowers and adds additional interest to the garden.

You can find a selection of Bleeding Heart Varieties here

Propagation Of Bleeding Heart Plants

There are several ways to propagate bleeding heart plants.

  • Seeds: you can sow the seed either in the ground or in seed trays. This is the preferred method if you require a lot of plants.
  • Cuttings: take some cuttings in the spring when the plant starts to sprout or take of side shoots after the flowers have wilted away.
  • Division: divide older, established plants while they are dormant. Replant them in the garden or grow them on in pots.

How To Transplant

Dicentra plants don’t particularly like to be disturbed and can easily stay in the same place for over a decade without being split.

If you have to transplant Bleeding Heart perennials do it when the plants are dormant. Very early spring before the plants start growing again might be the best time.

Lift up the plant and divide the rootstock into several pieces. Add plenty of well rotten garden compost to the soil and replant the roots.

Water the plants in well to settle the soil around the roots.

Bleeding Heart Varieties

Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’

A white Bleeding Heart with pure white flowers. This variety is not as vigorous as the pink one but it is very attractive in front of a dark background.

Photos: monteregina

Dicentra cucullaria

This one reaches only about 8 inches in height. The flowers are white with a yellow tip and appear from April to May. The plant dies back shortly after flowering. Dicentra cucullaria is also called ‘Dutchman’s Breeches’.
Photo: JanetandPhil

Find a selection of Bleeding Heart Varieties for sale here

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Home › Perennial Garden Plants › Bleeding Heart Plant

Ever wondered if there was a heart-shaped flower that you could give to your loved one? Well, look no further, because bleeding heart flower produces strings of up to twenty of them at a time!

Dicentra spectabilis is now known officially as Lamprocapnos spectabilis. But it’s also referred to by its original taxonomical name. I’ll be referring to it as both in this piece, as the two names are synonymous.

If that’s not confusing enough, it’s also called Cyanaeorchis spectabilis, Corydalis spectabilis, Diclytra spectabilis, and Dielytra spectabilis. But let’s keep it simple!

In common names, it’s referred to as Asian bleeding heart, lyre flower, and lady-in-a-bath. It’s popular because of its beautiful, drooping heart-shaped pink, red and white flowers.

But how do you grow it? Is there a good way to harvest seeds from the flowers? Does it like sun or shade? And how do you encourage it to produce those unusual flowers all summer long?

Want to know how to raise your own heart-shaped garden filled with love? Let me show you how!

Good Products For Growing Bleeding Hearts:

  • Safer Soap Insect Killing Soap Concentrate
  • Garden Safe Neem Oil Concentrate
  • Garden Safe Slug And Snail Bait
  • Monterey Liqui-Cop Fungicide
  • MycoStop Biofungicide

Bleeding Heart Overview

Aptly named, don’t you think? Source: Paul Appleton

Common Name(s) Bleeding heart, Asian bleeding heart, lyre flower
Scientific Name Lamprocapnos spectabilis
Family Papaveraceae
Origin Japan, northern China, Siberia, Korea
Height 1-3 feet
Light Full shade to partial shade
Water Regular watering to keep soil moist
Temperature 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit
Humidity Can tolerate humidity
Soil Rich in organic material, holds water well, drains excess, pH 6.0-6.5
Fertilizer All-purpose 15-30-15 slow-release fertilizer in spring
Propagation Root division, seed
Pests Aphids, scale, snails & slugs. Also subject to fungal diseases.

Types of Bleeding Heart Plant

There are potentially hundreds of varieties out there. Different hybrids produce different flowering patterns. Some produce spread-out hearts along a long stem, where others produce flower clusters.

We’re focusing on the traditional types today, but most hybrids are cared for exactly the same way.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’, ‘Pantaloons’

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’. Source: Kerry D Woods

Both Alba and Pantaloons have white flowers, and they behave similarly.

Pantaloons tends to be a bit more tolerant of direct sun, where Alba prefers full or partial shade. Both varieties are among the most popular ones commercially available today.

These create a white heart-shaped flower with white or cream droplets underneath.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’, ‘Golden Bleeding Heart’

Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ has yellow-green foliage. Source: scostello22

Gold Heart’s a bit of a misnomer for this particular variety, as the flowers are all rose-pink!

The foliage is what gives this varietal its name, as it’s a vivid gold with an underlying greenish tinge. It makes a striking display in the garden, especially as it tends to be a larger variety with a mounding habit.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Valentine’

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Valentine’. Source: Karen Row

This interesting varietal has grey-green foliage that springs from vivid red stems. It produces long sprouts of crimson heart-shaped flowers with tiny white-tinged droplets.

This particular red-flowered-variety can be hard to find at times, as it’s a patented cultivar. But it is incredibly beautiful in a garden setting.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Fire Island’

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Fire Island’. Source

This cultivar has blue-green fern-like leaves and pink-red heart-shaped blossoms. The tips fade into a purply-tinged droplet.

Fire Island prefers full shade environments. It produces bright shows of color throughout the summer months.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘King of Hearts’

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘King of Hearts’. Source

Did you want hot pink hearts? King of Hearts can provide them!

This semi-dwarf variety produces vibrantly pink flowers that have a hint of white at the base.

King of Hearts likes a dappling of sun in its shade, which makes them a great choice for part-sun locations.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Burning Hearts’

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Burning Hearts’. Source

Burning Hearts is a dwarf varietal. It only grows to be around 10-12 inches tall at maximum height, and about the same width across.

It has an extended blooming cycle, producing flaming red flowers throughout the summer. This red-flowered type is perfect for container gardening.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Fringed Leaf’

Growing to a height of about 15 inches, the fringed bleeding heart leaf variety is also a dwarf cultivar.

Native to the Appalachian mountains, it has delicate, lacy leaves which look fringed. Like Burning Heart, it does extremely well in containers.

Bleeding Heart Plant Care

Overall, these plants are quite simple to care for. But there’s a few key things you should know about how to grow these plants. Let’s go into those in detail now!

Light & Temperature

They do best in partial sunlight to shade. Source: bigmike

Some varieties appreciate lots of sunlight. But most prefer shade or partial shade. Zones 3-9 are ideal for these.

If you’re in the far northern United States, it may be possible to grow bleeding hearts in full sun. I still recommend tucking them under trees or bushes for a little protection!

Growing in containers? Place the container in a location where it can’t get scorched by the afternoon sun.

While your bleeding heart flower is a perennial, the foliage and flowers may not survive frosts. The roots will continue to survive as long as they’re protected from extreme cold.

A winter mulch that’s at least 4″ deep over the root mass will provide ample warmth in cool months. As early spring approaches, thin out the mulch over the roots to allow fresh greens to spring forth.

Water & Humidity

These plants love their water, and thrive in cool, moist environments.

Provide a half inch to an inch of water weekly throughout the growing season. Using a drip irrigation system or soaker system allows for ground-level watering.

Mulch around the base of the plant to keep the soil from drying out too fast. This is a plant which tolerates acidic mulches like pine needles.


A rich organic soil is ideal. Avoid soils that will go boggy and muddy. You need good water retention, but it also needs to drain off excess water. A quality potting mix blended with compost is great!

Mildly-acidic soil is acceptable. Aim for a pH range of 6.0 to 6.5. It can survive up to 7.0, but prefers less alkaline soil.

Avoid pooling water at the base of your plants. They love the moisture, but they aren’t water-dwellers.


High phosphorous fertilizers will help the plant bloom heavily. Source: Rachel Ford James

Rich compost worked into the soil in the spring will provide good soil consistency. It also provides easily-absorbed nutrition for your plants.

I also like to use slow-release organic fertilizers which are high in phosphorous. The added phosphorous will stimulate flower production, giving you a brilliant show!

Aim for a 15-30-15 slow-release granular fertilizer in the spring. Work it in at the base of the plant so it can provide long-term feeding.

If you can’t find a good 15-30-15, use a balanced fertilizer and add some bone meal to the soil. There’s many types, but I prefer fish bone meal as it breaks down consistently.

Propagation By Division

You can easily grow these from seed or propagate via root division.

Two times of year are optimal for dividing your plant. You can wait for the flower to die back in the fall and go dormant. Alternately, wait for the spring and the first new shoots to appear before dividing.

Provide extra watering for your plants for at least two days before beginning. This makes sure the plant’s roots are easy to separate.

If dividing in the fall, loosen the soil around the plant and scoop out enough to expose the side of the roots. You can use a spray bottle to rinse off excess soil to see the roots better.

Pick a segment that’s 2-3″ long with at least two “eyes” or growth nodes. Use a utility knife and cleanly cut that from the rest of the plant. Fill back in the soil around the in-ground segment.

Rinse off the root cutting, and prepare a pot with three parts coarse sand to one part peat. Be sure it’s well-mixed! Lay the root segment lengthwise in the pot and cover with 1″ of coarse sand.

Water your potted segment when 1/2″ of the sand feels dry, and keep an eye on it. Keep it in a shady place out of the wind.

Within 4-6 weeks, there should be some top growth. Repot it into regular potting soil at that time, and in the spring or the following fall, plant it out in a bed.

Spring separation is easy. Again, water for a few days in advance. Gently loosen the soil and remove the entire plant once it starts to show signs of growth. Dust off or spray off the roots to get a good look.

With your fingers, tease apart 6″ root segments. You should be able to do this without cutting. If the roots are very tangled, use a sterile utility knife only as needed.

You can then take these segments and plant directly into prepared beds. Be sure you’ve already worked compost and fertilizer into the soil before planting.

Propagation From Seed

Some not-quite-ready bleeding heart seeds. Pods should be completely dry to harvest. Source: Erutuon

If you’re propagating from seed, it’s easiest to plant the seeds right after harvesting them. Seeds need a period of 40 degree weather for at least six weeks to propagate. They’ll get that directly in their beds.

Want to wait until the spring? Place your seeds in a plastic bag with some moistened growing medium and put them in the freezer for six weeks. Once six weeks has passed, remove from the freezer and keep them in 55-60 degree temps until planting time.

It takes about a month for seeds to germinate in the spring. Once they do start to germinate, you should be able to gently separate plants from the growing medium. Place them in pots and allow them to get a little larger before planting out.

In fall when the plant dies back, you should see seed pods amongst the fading flowers. If you want to collect your own seeds, leave them in place until they completely dry out. The pods should be brown, with black seeds inside.

I find it easiest to tie a paper bag over the seed pods while they’re drying. This ensures that if the pods split open, you don’t lose the seeds in the soil. The paper allows the pods to continue to cure until the seeds are ready.


A closeup of the leaves of ‘Gold Heart’, a pale yellow-green foliage variety. Source: proteinbiochemist

Want to keep your plant large? No problem. If you’re growing in a container, you want enough space for the roots to continue growing. Repotting may occasionally be necessary.

Select a container that’s 1-2″ wider than your existing pot. Prepare your preferred potting blend in advance.

With care, remove your plant from its old pot. You can dust soil off the roots to check their size and confirm there’s no rot issues. Place the plant into its new soil at the same height it was planted before.

Fill in the soil around the plant and water to moisten the soil completely. Then return your plant to its normal location!


As the heat of the summer wears on, the flowers tend to yellow. This is just a sign it’s past its normal flowering season, so don’t panic!

Once it’s completely yellowed or browned, that’s when it’s best to prune the plant. If you’re going to save seeds, you’ll need to wait until the seed pods have dried first.

Aggressive pruning is best for these plants. Cut the foliage off 1-2″ above the ground once it’s completely yellowed or browned. If there’s any green foliage left, wait to prune it until later in the season.


Yellowed leaves in the spring? Wilting plants? Here are the most common problems you’ll face and how to combat them.

Growing Problems

A bleeding heart plant begins to yellow once the summer heat ramps up. This is perfectly normal, as it’s a sign that it’s storing away energy for the winter.

But what if it yellows in the spring? There’s a few potential issues that could be the culprit.

Watering issues are usually to blame. While these plants love moist soil, standing water causes problems. The soil should drain well to prevent standing water. Limp, yellowed leaves may look like a sign of dryness but are often from overwatering.

Underwatering can be a problem too! This tends to cause a complete wilting of the stems and leaves, not just yellowing. Be sure the soil remains evenly moist.

Too much light can also become a problem. If your plant is in direct light for too much of the day, it can develop sunburn and turn yellow or brown. The plant is preserving its energy already, storing it away for the winter.

If your plant’s receiving too much light, move it to a more shaded area when you notice the yellowing. Trees or bushes can provide dappled light to filter to the plant and prevent direct sun.

Soil that’s too alkaline can also spur yellowing. Aim for a pH range of 6.0-6.5. You can use a digital pH meter to check, or send a soil sample to your local agricultural extension. Adding sulfur to the soil will increase soil alkalinity.


This white bleeding heart is the cultivar ‘Alba’. Source: wallygrom

The dreaded, deadly aphid is so common they’re called plant lice. Sometimes they’re carried in by ant farmers who’re caring for them for their honeydew. Other times, they appear on their own from who knows where! But they’re dangerous sucking pests who spread disease.

Yellowing or twisting leaves, or leaves which drop off, are signs of aphid infestation. You’ll be able to easily tell as the aphids will be on the underside of the leaves. Use an insecticidal soap spray or neem oil to wipe them out.

Slimy slugs and snails will snack on the foliage of your plants. These are a bit more difficult to combat as they often appear at night. By the time you get up in the morning, leaves already have been munched.

Lure snails and slugs away with a good organic snail bait. This is often more appetizing to the pests than the plant itself. Once they’ve consumed the bait, they’ll become poisoned and die.

Finally, while it’s less common, scale can appear. These small insects look like bumps on the stems of the plant. Like aphids, these feed on the plants by sucking the juice out of them. And also like aphids, they can cause leaf drop and twisting or yellowing.

Because they hang on stubbornly, scale can be hard to combat. It will fall victim to insecticidal soaps. Neem oil can be used to keep scale insects at bay.


A closeup of the ‘droplet’ at the base of the bleeding heart flower. Source: Le No

Fungal infections are the most likely diseases to strike. These fungal diseases can appear on the plant’s leaves, or can strike directly at the roots.

Powdery mildew on leaves can be whitish, greyish, or even faintly pink in color. It looks like a dust, but it’s actually a fungal infection. Spraying all plant surfaces with neem oil will quickly clear it up.

Brown or black dots on the leaves can signal that you have a fungal leaf spot problem. The most common is alternaria leaf spot, but there’s other fungi that cause spotting too. This will gradually destroy the leaves and prevent photosynthesis.

Treatment of fungal leaf spots is usually done with a copper based fungicidal spray. It may take more than one treatment before you wipe out the spotting.

The gray mold known as botrytis cinerea is another problem. Plants will turn mushy or soggy, and there may be masses of gray or silvery spores visible. While copper fungicides may work, I’ve found prevention is better than curing! Keep plants dry to prevent fungal development.

Finally, there’s a triad of fungal problems that are soilborne.

Verticillium wilt is a fungal problem that strikes at the plant’s leaves and stems. Fusarium can cause damping off in seedlings and root rot. Pythium causes roots to rot and turn to mush.

All three of these fungal diseases have no real cure. Affected plants should be removed and destroyed. For prevention, use a product like MycoStop that protects roots from fungal disease. Healthy plants have a better chance of avoiding diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions

The heart shape makes Dicentra spectabilis stunning! Source: Ruth_W

Q: Is bleeding heart a native plant?

A: Well, that really depends on where you are!

Some dicentra species are indigenous to the northwestern United States. Lamprocapnos spectabilis is not. It can be found wild in Japan, northern China, Siberia, and Korea.

Bleeding heart plants found in the United States may be cultivated here. These plants began as imports, but are popular enough to merit local cultivation.

Q: Trying to collect seeds, but paper bags aren’t working. Help?

A: Bleeding heart seed pods need to completely dry on the plant. As those pods open up the minute they fully dry, this is a common issue!

Your best bet is to get some form of containment overtop the pods before they can open. Paper bags breathe well, but old nylon stockings or cloth bags can also catch the tiny black seeds.

Avoid plastic bags, as they prevent the pods from completely drying out and popping open.

Q: Are there yellow, lavender, or blue bleeding heart flowers?

A: There’s a lot of people claiming to sell bleeding heart plants in unusual colors. But many of them are fake.

Right now, the only colors of bleeding heart flowers are red, pink, or white. Both yellow and lavender are within the realm of possibility, but aren’t available yet. It’ll take years of careful cultivation and breeding to produce those.

People claiming to have blue, black, or purple bleeding heart flowers don’t, as they don’t exist. These are unfortunately scam artists, and you should avoid purchasing those seeds.

Q: Are there any good companion plants for bleeding heart plant?

A: Good companion plants should fit a few criteria. They need to look good even after the bleeding hearts have yellowed in the summer. They’re also going to need to be shade-lovers, and they must tolerate moist soil.

Hostas are probably the most popular choice, but many ferns will also work. I’m particularly fond of bird’s nest ferns. Brunneras can also look great with their blue flowers and white-dappled leaves.

Q: What’s the meaning behind the name?

A: Like so many other plants, these flowers are ascribed certain meanings. There’s quite a few variations out there!

The majority of these meanings centers around love, given the flower’s shape. To some, they signify a deep and abiding love, or one which even continues after death. Others see unconditional love in their heart shaped flowers.

Yet other stories are more wistful. In the Eastern cultures where these flowers grow wild, they may signify spurned or lost love. They can also signify being overly sensitive or reactive to the world around you.

Their colors follow traditional flower meaning lines. White is linked to purity, while pink or red tend to be identified as love.

So, is your heart full of love for these fascinating flowers yet? Mine is, and I may have to plant a few next spring! These would produce some great color spots in the shadier parts of my yard. Are there any questions that I missed answering? Let me know in the comments.

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:

Kevin Espiritu
Lorin Nielsen
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Shade-loving bleeding hearts start the season

This time of year I look forward to enjoying one of my most favorite spring flowering perennials, bleeding heart. It’s the name given to a variety of perennials which have protruding inner petals, more obvious in some species than others, which many times appear to form a drop of blood at the bottom of each heart-shaped flower.

Most bleeding hearts are species within the genus Dicentra, which comes from the Greek words dis, meaning twice, and kentron, meaning spur in reference to the two-spurred flowers. Dicentra is a genus of 20 or more species of annual and perennial herbaceous flowering plants which are native to moist woodland areas in Asia and North America.

Deer-resistant bleeding hearts do best in a shady border, woodland wildflower garden, shady rock garden or naturalized area. Planting either as a specimen or in small massings or groups is ideal. Foliage can be quite attractive when flowers are not in bloom. Because foliage dies down throughout the summer, bleeding heart is an ideal companion plant to other shade-loving perennials such as columbine, ferns, hosta, foam flower, perennial geranium, coral bells, wood poppy, woodland phlox, and lungwort, which can fill in as foliage dies down.

Growing conditions

Bleeding hearts prefer light shade or morning sun and afternoon shade. A moist but well-drained soil rich in organic matter is ideal. If you want to push growth, a light application of balanced or slow-release fertilizer can be applied when new growth appears. Compost makes a great mulch for bleeding hearts and is another way of providing enough nutrients. Water well during periods of drought as plants prefer evenly moist soil. Plants can be divided if desired in spring as you see new growth.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis

One species I have the most passion for, spectabilis, has been reclassified into its very own genus, Lamprocapnos. Bleeding heart or Asian bleeding-heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) is still widely referenced under its old name Dicentra spectabilis but is now listed as a synonym. It is valued in gardens for its heart-shaped pink and white flowers. This species of bleeding heart has been a common old garden favorite for many years. It features graceful, soft green foliage and 1-inch-long, rose pink, nodding, heart-shaped flowers with protruding white inner petals borne on one side of and hanging in a row from long, arching stems above the foliage in early to mid-spring. This plant typically grows 2-3 feet tall. Foliage usually dies down around mid-summer. The first specimens were introduced to England from Asia in the 1840s by the Scottish botanist and plant hunter Robert Fortune. Several cultivars are available including:

‘Alba’ which has all-white flowers and has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

‘Gold Heart’ is quite showy in the shady garden with its bright yellow-gold foliage with pink and white flowers.

‘Valentine’ produces clusters of heart-shaped deep red flowers from arching red stems over a long bloom season.

Dicentra hybrids

Fringed bleeding heart is a native wildflower of the eastern United States that typically occurs on forest floors, rocky woods and ledges in the Appalachian mountains. Features deeply-cut, fern-like, grayish-green foliage which persists throughout the growing season and pink to purplish red, nodding, heart-shaped flowers carried above the foliage on long, leafless, leaning stems.

Fern-leaf bleeding heart is a North American native that can actually be divided into two very similar species. The western species, Dicentra formosa (western bleeding heart), occurs naturally from northern California to British Columbia while our eastern species, Dicentra eximia (fern-leaf or fringed bleeding heart), is found from New York to Georgia. Breeders in America and Europe have used these to develop several interesting varieties with flowers that range from white to pink to lavender to deep red. A number of cultivars have been produced in recent years which are hybrid crosses between D. peregrine (native to alpine areas of China and eastern Siberia) and D. eximea (native to woodland areas of eastern North America) in which the goal was to produce a Dicentra with a compact and robust habit, long flowering period, blue-gray foliage and quality flower colors.

Following are great hybrids to include in your garden:

‘King of Hearts’ is a compact bleeding heart hybrid cultivar resulting from a cross of the Japanese species D. peregrina with two American species D. formosa subsp. oregana and D. eximia. It typically produces a foliage mound 6 to 8 inches tall and 14 inches wide of deeply-cut, fern-like, bluish-green leaves that persists throughout the growing season. Nodding, heart-shaped, rich carmine-rose flowers are carried above the foliage to 10 to 15 inches tall on long, leafless, erect to slightly leaning stems. Primary bloom is in April into May, with flowering slowing down considerably or stopping in the heat of the summer, but with a possible rebloom occurring when the weather cools in late summer to early fall. Given adequate moisture, the foliage remains attractive in summer, and may produce an attractive ground cover effect.

‘Burning Hearts’ features fern-like foliage that is blue-green in color. Deep reddish to purplish hearts are long lasting.

‘Luxuriant’ has cherry red flowers above 12- to 15-inch blue-green foliage.

‘Snowdrift’ or ‘Snowflakes’ and ‘Alba’ all have blue-green leaves and grow 10 to 14 inches tall with solid white blooms.

‘Bacchanal’ has one of the deepest red flowers and almost silver-blue leaves. It grows only 8 to 10 inches tall.

Dicentra scandens

Climbing yellow bleeding heart vine is a rare selection and one unique vine. It blooms with yellow flowers all season long and is quite attractive to hummingbirds. ‘Athens Yellow’ is an Allan Armitage selection which is valued for its incredibly floriferous nature. It is non-invasive.

Spring plant sale

What: Great selections of bleeding heart perennial along with so many other great garden treasures

When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 9. A preview sale will be held on Friday, April 8, from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. for all UT employees, Gardens volunteers and Friends of the UT Gardens. Friends will also receive a 10 percent discount on all purchases. Become a Friend at the sale and receive the member discount on plants.

Where: UT Gardens. Walk the Gardens to get design inspiration; experts will be on hand at the plant sale to offer gardening advice

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