Bleeding heart vine propagation

Learn how to propagate bleeding hearts

Question: I have a bleeding heart that was given to me by my mother-in-law. My daughter would like to have a piece of the plant, but I’m not sure how to divide it since it has died back for the season. What is the best time to divide a bleeding heart and how should I go about doing it?

Answer: Old-fashioned bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, syn. Dicentra spectabilis) are lovely plants. I understand why your daughter would like to have a piece of the one that belonged to her grandmother. Thankfully there are several ways you can propagate this popular perennial.

First, bleeding hearts are easy to divide through classic crown division. For bleeding hearts, there are a few different times you can complete this process. The first is in the very early spring, when the plant is just beginning to peek through the soil. The biggest negative of this timing is that sometimes the young shoots can break off during the process, affecting its growth and flower production for the season.

Another option is to divide the plants when they start to die back in late summer. Bleeding hearts’ foliage turns yellow in July or August, signaling the start of dormancy. The main benefit of dividing the plant at this time is that it won’t matter if you accidentally break off a stem; they were soon to die back anyway. You’ll also have to work hard to make sure the plant stays well watered through the rest of the fall, even after it’s fully died back.

You can also divide the plant in the late fall, after it is completely dormant, but it can be hard to find the crown of the plant when nothing is visible above ground.

To divide the crown of the plant, dig up the entire root system, remove any excess soil and use a sharp knife to cut the plant in half, making sure each half has a portion of the crown attached. Immediately replant or pot up each division and water it in well.

While you have the plant out of the soil (or instead of digging up the entire plant to divide the crown), you can also take a few root cuttings to start new plants.

Growing new plants from root cuttings is a fun way to expand your garden, and spring and early fall are great times to do it. Root cuttings are a fast and easy way to make more plants, and you can do it with lots of different perennials and shrubs (including poppies, hollyhocks, phlox, Heliopsis, viburnums, hollies, hydrangeas and more).

To start new plants from root cuttings, you’ll need just a few things: A mother plant, a shovel, a clean sharp knife, some new plastic pots or a seeding flat, a bag of high-quality soil-less planting mix and water.

Begin the process by digging up the mother plant. Then, using a clean, sharp knife, remove several 2-inch long root sections; ideally each should be about as thick as a pencil.

To plant the root cuttings, fill a clean pot or seedling flat with the planting mix, and place the cuttings into the soil with the up end pointed up and the down end pointed down (maintaining polarity). If the cutting is planted upside down, it will not grow.

The top of the root piece should be about an inch below the soil’s surface. If you aren’t sure which end is up, lay the cuttings horizontally about an inch deep. Water the soil well and keep it constantly moist but never soggy. New shoots will emerge in a few weeks to a month or two depending on the plant species.

If you take root cuttings of your bleeding heart in the fall, you’ll need to overwinter the pots in a greenhouse or in a cool, but protected site (you can always sink the pots into the compost pile or a corner of the vegetable garden up to their top rim).

If you take root cuttings in the spring, the new bleeding heart sprouts can be planted into the garden later that season.

One final way to propagate your bleeding heart is to harvest and plant some of the seeds. Bleeding hearts often naturally reseed, with young plants popping up near the mother plant in the early spring. You can also harvest a few of the seed pods in the fall, let them dry completely, pack a few seeds into an envelope and put it in the fridge for the winter. Come spring, sow the seeds in seed-starting mix in a sunny window or under grow lights. It won’t take long for them to germinate, but remember to keep the seeds in the fridge to mimic the passage of winter and break seed dormancy. Growing new plants from seed is a fun process, but it will take several years for the plant to mature enough to bloom.

With these methods, you and your daughter will have plenty of bleeding hearts to remember your mother-in-law by.

  • Horticulturist Jessica Walliser is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.

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    Taking Cuttings From A Bleeding Heart – How To Root A Bleeding Heart Cutting

    Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is a spring-blooming perennial with lacy foliage and heart-shaped blooms on graceful, drooping stems. A tough plant that grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, bleeding heart thrives in semi-shady spots in your garden. Growing bleeding heart from cuttings is a surprisingly easy and effective method of propagating new bleeding heart plants for your own garden, or for sharing with friends. If you would enjoy having more of this gorgeous plant, read on to learn about bleeding heart cutting propagation.

    How to Grow Bleeding Heart from Cuttings

    The most effective way to root a bleeding heart cutting is to take softwood cuttings – new growth that is still somewhat pliable and doesn’t snap when you bend the stems. Immediately after blooming is a perfect opportunity for taking cuttings from a bleeding heart.

    The best time for taking cuttings from a bleeding heart is early morning, when the plant is well-hydrated.

    Here are simple steps on growing bleeding heart from cuttings:

    • Select a small, sterile pot with a drainage hole in the bottom. Fill the container with a well-drained potting mixture such as peat-based potting mix and sand or perlite. Water the mixture well, then allow it to drain until it’s moist but not soggy.
    • Take 3- to 5-inch cuttings (8-13 cm.) from a healthy bleeding heart plant. Strip the leaves from the bottom half of the stem.
    • Use a pencil or similar tool to poke a planting hole in the moist potting mix. Dip the bottom of the stem in powdered rooting hormone (This step is optional, but may speed rooting) and insert the stem into the hole, then firm the potting mix gently around the stem to remove any air pockets. Note: It’s fine to plant more than one stem in a pot, but be sure the leaves don’t touch.
    • Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag to create a warm, humid, greenhouse-like environment. You may need to use plastic straws or bent wire hangers to prevent the plastic from touching the cuttings.
    • Place the pot in indirect sunlight. Avoid windowsills, as cuttings are likely to scorch in direct sunlight. Optimum temperatures for successful bleeding heart propagation is 65 to 75 F. (18-24 C.). Be sure the temperature doesn’t drop below 55 or 60 F. (13-16 C.) at night.
    • Check the cuttings daily and water gently if the potting mix is dry. (This probably won’t happen for at least a couple of weeks if the pot is in plastic.) Poke a few small ventilation holes in the plastic. Open the top of the bag slightly if moisture drips down the inside of the bag, as the cuttings may rot if conditions are too moist.
    • Remove the plastic when you notice new growth, which indicates the cutting has rooted. Rooting generally takes about 10 to 21 days or more, depending on temperature. Transplant the newly rooted bleeding heart plants into individual containers. Keep the mixture slightly moist.
    • Move the bleeding heart plants outdoors once they’re rooted well and new growth is noticeable. Be sure to harden the plants in a protected spot for a few days before moving it to their permanent homes in the garden.

    Bleeding Heart Vine

    Botanical Name: Clerodendrum thomsoniae

    Bleeding Heart Vine makes a beautiful flowering house plant. Train it on a trellis or prune it back — you can grow it any way you like.

    Clusters of gorgeous blooms decorate Clerodendrum thomsoniae.

    This tropical beauty is covered with attractive deeply veined, ovate leaves. Its glory, however, are the eye-catching red and white flowers that bloom profusely from spring through fall. Made up of snowy white calyxes, the blooms are somewhat heart-shaped. Emerging from each calyx is a bright red flower with long stamens.

    You’ll find this beautiful vine for sale at nurseries and online in spring and summer. It’s usually known as Bleeding Heart Vine and sometimes as Glorybower. Look for the botanical name Clerodendrum thomsoniae to be sure you’re getting this plant.

    As if this plant isn’t showy enough, a variegated variety exists. C. thomsoniae ‘Variegatum’ features marbled green leaves.

    Caring for Bleeding Heart Vine Year-Round

    Repot in spring only when it has outgrown its container. Bleeding heart blooms best when it is slightly pot-bound, so move it up to a pot only 1 size larger. Use a pot with drainage holes to prevent soggy soil.

    Clerodendrum thomsoniae makes a stunning flowering houseplant.

    Pruning Tip

    Always prune above a leaf node (the place where a leaf is attached to the stem). Use sharp, clean pruning shears to avoid jagged tears and disease.

    Prune vines back in spring, when bleeding heart vine is beginning new growth. Flowers grow near the tips of new stems, so you’ll get more blooms this way. You can cut the vines back by as much as half, if you want, to keep the plant at a manageable size for growing indoors.

    Raise the humidity if the relative humidity near the plant drops below 50%. You can place the pot on a tray of wet pebbles. Or use a cool-mist room humidifier. Raising the humidity also helps to prevent spider mites from invading. Watch for these pests, especially in winter when indoor air tends to get dry.

    Give it a winter rest. This tropical vine is an evergreen perennial, but it may stop flowering in the fall and winter months and growth slows down. Unlike the popular shade-loving Bleeding Heart Plant, this vining plant won’t overwinter in the garden, unless you live in a tropical climate. Give it warmth, humidity and bright, indirect sunlight year-round. Water sparingly during this rest and stop fertilizing till spring when you see new growth on the plant.

    Bleeding Heart Vine Care Tips

    Photo credit: United States Botanic Garden

    Origin: Tropical West Africa

    Height: Up to 6 ft (1.8 m) if not pruned back

    Light: Bright indirect light. Bleeding heart is a prolific bloomer when it gets enough sunlight. It blooms heavily in spring and summer. If it doesn’t bloom much, move it to where it will get more light from a south- or west-facing window.

    Water: Keep soil evenly moist spring through fall, while bleeding heart vine is growing and flowering. Water sparingly in winter, but do not let it dry out completely.

    Humidity: Aim to maintain 60% humidity — or higher — around the plant year-round. This is easier than it seems; set the plant on a pebble tray or use a cool-mist room humidifier. It’s a good idea to use a humidity gauge rather than guess — air can become extremely dry indoors during the winter months.

    Temperature: Average to warm (65-85°F/18-29°C) year-round

    Soil: Good-quality potting mix

    Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks in spring and summer with a high-phosphorus water-soluble fertilizer.

    Propagation: Easy to propagate from stem cuttings. Take 3 in (8 cm) stem tip cuttings in spring and root in equal parts all-purpose potting mix and perlite.

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    Bleeding Heart Vine

    Clerodendrum thomsoniae

    The delicate beauty of bleeding heart vine belies its fast growth habit. It’s one of the best fast growing vines for covering an arbor, trellis, pergola or that chain link fence.

    It’s a versatile plant because it will thrive and blossom almost anywhere in a landscape – from full sun to partial shade.

    This vine blooms on and off all year – more in milder weather – with frilly clusters of snowy white heart-shaped flowers.

    At first glance, it appears that each little blossom is tipped with a touch of scarlet. The white part is actually a flower “bract” from which a red flower emerges.

    Leaves are a soft dark green and contrast beautifully against the white. The foliage tends to stay darker, fuller and more lush in part shade. In full sun the leaf color fades to a medium green and growth is less dense, though you’ll get more profuse flowering.

    Bleeding heart is a “twiner” so be prepared to give it room to climb and grow without anything too near it that could be overtaken.

    Though it’s fast, this is not a vine that goes crazy-rampant like some others, but anything that sends out tendrils is looking for something to grow on, so give it a trellis or fence or other support to keep it in check.

    There is a lesser-used red-flowering variety, with blooms that fade to pink and then purple.

    The white bleeding heart flower bracts fade to a pinkish-lavender after the tiny red flower drops off, adding more color to the show.

    Plant specs & spacing

    These vines grow fast (though less so in shadier spots) and can take full sun to part shade.

    They do best in Zone 10 in an area sheltered from wind.
    If growing several along a fence, plant them 3 feet apart. Keep these vines at least 4 or 5 feet from the nearest shrub or tree.

    Plant care

    Amend the soil by adding top soil or organic peat moss to the hole when you plant.

    You can also add composted cow manure to the mix to enrich the soil around the vine’s rootball.

    Bleeding heart vine usually needs a hard pruning to keep it full and bushy and an ideal size.

    Cut back hard in early spring and again if needed in early fall. You can do minor shape trimming anytime.

    Water on a regular basis but don’t keep the area overly wet.

    Fertilize 3 times a year – in spring, summer and autumn – with a good granular fertilizer. Supplement feedings with bone meal and/or liquid fertilizer to promote heavier bloom.

    A.K.A. (also known as): Glory Bower Vine
    GOOD SNOWBIRD PLANT? YES
    LANDSCAPE USES: fence, arbor, pergola, trellis, wall lattice

    Other vines you might like: White Mandevilla, Rangoon Creeper

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