Bleeding heart vine care

Bleeding heart vine, Clerodendrum thomsoniae, in bloom.

Bleeding heart vine is a twining evergreen from tropical west Africa with some confusion about its identity. Other common names include glory bower, bagflower, bleeding glory bower, tropical bleeding heart, and glory tree. Scientifically it is Clerodendrum thomsoniae, but is sometimes spelled as C. thompsoniae even in very reputable publications. And according to the International Plant Names Index this species is in the mint family (Lamiaceae), but some other references, such as the USDA Plants Database, place it in the verbena family (Verbenaceae). It was traditionally placed in that family, but despite being reassigned to the Lamiaceae, not everyone has adopted that change. One thing that is certain is that it is not related to the common bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis). The common name comes from the flowers which look like a drop of red blood exuding from the heart-shaped calyx.

Flower of Clerodendrum thomsoniae.

Regardless of its true identity, this is a spectacular plant when in flower. The small, slightly flat flowers have inflated, balloon-like white calyxes from which emerge brilliant crimson or dark red corollas with prominent stamens and style (the elongated part of the pistil) that extend way beyond the petals. The flowers are borne in terminal clusters (cymes) of 8-20 together. The flowers last several months, although the red corolla is short lived. As they age, the flowers turn from white to pale pink or lavender, then eventually become tan as they dry up. It will bloom most of the year given sufficient light and warmth, but is most prolific in summer. If pollinated, the flowers will produce fruits. The green fruits ripen to a red to black color before splitting open to reveal four black seeds against a fleshy, bright orange interior.

Bleeding heart vine has attractive, dark green leaves.

Even though it is vine or liana, it is also a somewhat bushy climber. The glossy, dark green, oval leaves are 5-7″ long with smooth edges and pointed on the end. In its native habitat it can grow 10-15 feet tall, but as a container plant will remain much smaller. Provide some type of support, such as a trellis, if you want to let it ramble as a vine. It can also be kept pruned or pinched back into a shrub-like form (or be left to mound up on itself). It works well in a hanging basket. It is a vigorous grower when provided with sufficient water and fertilizer.

Clerodendrum thomsoniae is easily grown in containers

This plant needs direct sun in order to bloom well; a sunny window may be sufficient if you don’t move the container outdoors for the season. Water and fertilize regularly when actively growing. Use a rich, but well-drained potting medium and keep moist but not wet. Since C. thomsoniae blooms on new growth, it is best to cut the plant back after blooming. Thin out old overcrowded shoots and any other far-reaching growth to keep the vine in bounds – don’t be afraid to prune severely. Bleeding heart vine has few pests, but mealybugs and spider mites can occasionally be problems.

Although it is root hardy to zone 9, it really is a tropical plant and does need protection from freezing. If grown outdoors, move inside when temperatures fall below 45ºF. When temperatures are cool enough (even indoors), the plant will shed its leaves. New leaves will resprout from the roots or what looks like dead wood in spring. If it does go dormant in the winter, withhold water until the new growth starts (water just enough to keep the soil from drying out and don’t fertilize).

The old flowers turn a pink or lavender color.

Bleeding heart vine is easy to propagate by cuttings or serpentine layering. Semi-ripe tip cuttings taken in late spring or late summer can be rooted in water or moist sand or other medium. Roots should appear in about 2 weeks. Seeds can also be planted in spring.

There are only a few cultivars of this species. The variety ‘Delectum’ has very large clusters of flowers of a lighter shade of red. A variegated form (‘Variegata’) has cream margins on the leaves.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

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There are over 400 species of clerodendrums, including climbers, shrubs, herbaceous plants and trees, and they are mostly from warm climates. Many, like the Bleeding Heart Vine, have very showy flowers.

Plant details

Common name: Bleeding Heart Vine

Botanic name: Clerodendrum thomsoniae
Description: Evergreen twiner native to Western Tropical Africa, reaching to about 3m (10′) in height. It has glossy, dark green oval leaves, and deep crimson petals emerging from hanging clusters of white, heart-shaped calyces.

Best climate: Brisbane, the tropics and warm microclimates in Perth and Sydney. It is frost tender. If plants are damaged by frost, burnt tips and leaves should be left on the plant until spring and then cut away to make way for vigorous new growth.


non-invasive climber for a fence, pergola or trellis indoor plant for brightly lit conservatory or sunroom bold, eye-catching flowers provide colour for much of the year

Good points:

long flowering
attractive evergreen foliage
striking crimson and white flowers


Cold sensitive, so only suitable as a garden plant in the warmer areas of Australia.


Clerodendrums grown in the garden like a well-drained soil, rich in organic material. They will tolerate full sun with adequate moisture but prefer partial shade. They need protection from strong winds, hot sun and frost. Indoor plants need a warm, bright spot with plenty of water in the growing season. To maintain humidity around the plant, stand the pot on a tray of moist pebbles and mist frequently. If a more compact plant is wanted, pinch out the growing tips in winter. If the plant has repeated pest problems such as scale, mealy bug or two-spotted mite, it is probably not getting enough light or is moisture stressed.

Getting started:

Bleeding Heart Vine is available from nurseries and garden centres. Plants in 200mm (8″) pots cost $16-$20. It can also be propagated from cuttings in early summer.

Clerodendrum Bleeding Heart Care: How To Grow Bleeding Heart Vines

Also known as glorybower or tropical bleeding heart, Clerodendrum bleeding heart (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) is a sub-tropical vine that wraps its tendrils around a trellis or other support. Gardeners appreciate the plant for its shiny green foliage and dazzling crimson and white blooms.

Bleeding Heart Information

Clerodendrum bleeding heart is native to western Africa. It is not related to the Dicentra bleeding heart, a perennial with dainty pink or lavender and white blooms.

Although some types of Clerodendrum are extremely invasive, Clerodendrum bleeding heart is a well-behaved, non-aggressive plant that reaches lengths of about 15 feet (4.5 m.) at maturity. You can train Clerodendrum bleeding heart vines to twine around a trellis or other support, or you can let the vines sprawl freely over the ground.

Growing Clerodendrum Bleeding Heart

Clerodendrum bleeding heart is suitable for growing in USDA zones 9 and above and is damaged in temperatures below 45 degrees F (7 C). However, it often regrows from the roots in spring. In cooler climates, it is commonly grown as a houseplant.

Clerodendrum bleeding heart performs best in partial shade or dappled sunlight, but it may tolerate full sunlight with plenty of moisture. The plant prefers rich, fertile, well-drained soil.

Clerodendrum Bleeding Heart Care

Water the plant frequently during dry weather; the plant requires consistently moist, but not soggy soil.

Clerodendrum bleeding heart needs frequent fertilization to supply the nutrients required to produce blooms. Feed the plant a slow-release fertilizer every two months during the blooming season, or use a water-soluble fertilizer every month.

Although Clerodendrum bleeding heart is relatively pest-resistant, it is susceptible to damage by mealybugs and spider mites. Insecticidal soap spray is generally sufficient to keep the pests in check. Reapply the spray every seven to 10 days, or until the insects are eliminated.

Bleeding Heart Vine Pruning

Prune Clerodendrum bleeding heart vine by removing wayward growth and winter damage before new growth appears in spring. Otherwise, you can trim the plant lightly as needed throughout the growing season.

Clerodendrum thomsoniae
Family: Lamiaceae (Formerly:Verbenaceae)
Bleeding heart, Glory bower, Clerodendron
Origin: Tropical and Central Africa

Attractive bushy, tropical looking twining vine. Glossy dark green leaves are from 5 to 7 inches long (18 cm). Spectacular, dramatic flowers are slightly flat, they have white sepals on either side of bright crimson petals. The appearance may be liken to a line of dangling hearts, each emerging from the other. This plant is often seen in pots where it will abide in a continual state of flowering. Often, fruits develop. Green at first, they blacken as they ripen. Then, they split open from the top to the bottom to present a bright orange fleshy lining that contains four black seeds. Blooms mostly from April to October-November in natural conditions of tropical climate. The plant drops some leaves (not all of them) in winter, and has some flowers (not much) even during the winter time. As long as you provide lots of light to it, it’ll bloom most of the time.

Similar plants:

  • Clerodendrum bungei (Cashmere (Cashmir) bouquet, Glory Bower, Clerodendron)
  • Clerodendrum calamitosum (White Butterfly Bush)
  • Clerodendrum heterophyllum, Clerodendrum aculeatum (Tree of little stars, Escambron, Tamourette)
  • Clerodendrum incisum, Clerodendrum macrosiphon, Rotheca incisa, Rotheca incisafolia (Musical Note, Morning Kiss, Clerodendron, Witches Tongue)
  • Clerodendrum inerme, Volkameria inermis (Wild Jasmine, Sorcerers Bush, Seaside clerodendrum, Clerodendron)
  • Clerodendrum mastacanthum, Rotheca mastacantha, Rotheca mastacanthus, Rotheca macrodonta (Pink Butterfly Bush)
  • Clerodendrum minahassae (Fountain Clerodendrum, Clerodendron, Tube Flower)
  • Clerodendrum paniculatum (Pagoda Flower, Orange Tower Flower, Clerodendron)
  • Clerodendrum philippinum, Clerodendrum fragrans pleniflorum, Clerodendrum chinense, Volkameria fragrans (Chinese Glory Bower, Cashmere bouquet, Scent Malli, False Pikake, Glory Tree, Clerodendron)
  • Clerodendrum quadriloculare (Winter Starburst, Fireworks, Clerodendron)

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