The bleeding heart plant (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) gets its common name from its puffy, heart-shaped pink flowers that dangle from long, arching stems. Beneath the heart shape is a protruding white petal that looks like a drop—hence the "bleeding" in bleeding heart. In fact, the bleeding heart flower's meaning is said to be about unrequited or rejected love, as well as love and romance in general.
Bleeding hearts are shade-loving woodland plants that bloom in the cool of spring. After flowering for several weeks, the plants often become ephemeral, disappearing for the rest of the summer if exposed to too much sun or heat. But the roots stay alive, and bleeding heart will come back every year—regrowing either in the fall or next spring.
Bleeding heart’s size ranges from around 1 to 3 feet high with a similar spread. The plant has a moderate growth rate, reaching its maximum size in around 60 days. Be mindful about where you plant it, as bleeding heart is toxic to people and pets.
Click Play to Learn How to Grow and Care for Bleeding Hearts
|Common Name||Bleeding heart, common bleeding heart, fern-leaf bleeding heart|
|Botanical Name||Lamprocapnos spectabilis (formerly Dicentra spectabilis)|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous, perennial|
|Mature Size||1–3 ft. tall, 2–3 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Partial, shade|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Flower Color||Pink, white, red|
|Hardiness Zones||3–9 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people, toxic to pets|
Bleeding Heart Care
In a typical growing season, a bleeding heart plant will produce around 20 small flowers on its stems in the spring that stay in bloom for several weeks. Its foliage usually depreciates and enters dormancy in the midsummer heat. This sensitivity to heat makes establishing new plants more challenging in warmer zones than in colder areas.
In addition, the flowers are delicate and require protection from strong winds. The best place to plant a bleeding heart is in an area that has a windbreak as well as some sun protection.
Once established, it's fairly easy to take care of a bleeding heart plant. It's not overly prone to pests and diseases. And it has a bit of drought tolerance, though it still prefers moist soil for the healthiest growth. Plus, bleeding hearts will self-seed as long as the blooms remain on the plants. So bleeding hearts can live indefinitely in your garden, yet they don't tend to spread uncontrollably.
Bleeding heart does best in partial shade but also can handle full shade. Direct sun can cause the plant to go dormant early, cutting its blooming period short.
Bleeding heart prefers humus-rich, moist, well-draining soil with lots of organic matter. A slightly acidic to neutral soil pH is best. Prior to planting, it's ideal to work a few inches of compost into the soil, especially if you don't have organically rich soil.
Bleeding heart likes a lightly moist soil. It doesn't tolerate soggy or dry soils very well. Water throughout the growing season when the top inch of soil has dried out, even during summer dormancy to keep the roots hydrated.But make sure the soil doesn't stay waterlogged, which can lead to root rot.
Temperature and Humidity
This plant's ideal temperature is between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and it has good tolerance for high humidity. As the summer heat ramps up, you'll likely see the foliage yellowing. This is a perfectly normal sign of the plant going dormant to store its energy.
Bleeding heart plants are not heavy feeders, so when to fertilize depends on the quality of your soil. If you have rich, organic soil amended every year, you likely won't have to feed at all. If you have poor soil, you can apply an all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer in the spring. Also, as a woodland plant, bleeding heart does well with a top dressing of leaf mold.
Types of Bleeding Heart
There are several bleeding heart varieties with similar growing characteristics, including:
- Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Alba': Pure white flowers
- Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Gold Heart': Pink flowers and yellow-gold foliage
- Lamprocapnos spectabilis'Valentine': Bright cherry-red blooms with white tips and burgundy stems
No major pruning is required, though you can trim back the foliage as it becomes brown and unsightly prior to dormancy. Fringed-leaf bleeding heart varieties can sometimes get a little ragged-looking and can be sheared back to their basal growth; they will re-leaf and rebloom. Refrain from deadheading (removing the spent blooms) if you want the flowers to go to seed.
Propagating Bleeding Heart
Bleeding heart is usually planted from nursery seedlings, but you can propagate bleeding heart from seeds, clump division, or stem cuttings. Propagation by cuttings is best done in spring to early summer. If you are starting from seeds in the garden, sow them in the fall. Propagation is a good way to rejuvenate older plants that tend to flower less. Here's how to propagate bleeding hearts:
Propagation by division: It is very easy to divide the root clumps of bleeding heart plants. You should divide after flowering is complete, so you don't sacrifice blooms. The fringed-leaf varieties also divide nicely early in spring as they are emerging.
- First, gather your supplies. If the plant is in the ground, you will need a shovel or trowel. Other items you'll need include a sterilized, sharp knife and a flat surface. If you're transplanting into a container, you'll need a pot and potting mix.
- Dig a circle around the crown of the roots, and pull up the root ball. The roots grow horizontally. Do not worry when cutting through the roots.
- Examine the root crown; look for pink buds of growth. Cut through the root ball, leaving at least one bud per sectioned area (two to three buds per section is better).
- Replant the original root ball in its original spot. Plant the new section or sections in new spots or in potting mix enriched with compost or leaf mold. Water thoroughly to moisten the soil, but do not leave it too wet or soggy.
Propagation by cuttings: Bleeding heart can also be started by cuttings rooted in a growing medium. It can take one to three weeks before rooting occurs.
- Use sterilized pruners to take a 3- to 5-inch cutting from a healthy bleeding heart plant. You'll also need to gather a container, soilless potting mix, and a plastic bag. Optionally, you can use a rooting hormone for improving rooting success.
- Take off the leaves from the bottom half of the stem cutting. Fill the container with the potting mix, and poke a hole in the center of the soil. Dip the cut end of the cutting into rooting hormone, and put it into the hole. Firm the soil around the stem.
- Water the soil to the point that it's moist but not soggy. Put a clear plastic bag around the cutting, not touching the plant. If condensation appears on the inside of the bag, poke a hole in the plastic for some ventilation.
- Place the plant in indirect light. A bright windowsill will be too sunny and scorch the plant. Make sure the soil remains moist but not soggy.
- Once you notice new growth, the plant has successfully rooted. Remove the plastic bag.
- Move the bleeding heart plant outdoors once it's rooted well and new growth is more abundant. Harden off the plant in a protected spot for a few days before moving it to its permanent spot outdoors.
How to Grow Bleeding Heart From Seed
To start seeds indoors, place the seeds in a pot of soil. Put the pot in a plastic bag, and place it in the freezer for six to eight weeks. Remove the pot, and gradually reintroduce the plant to light and warmer conditions. The change in temperature and exposure to sunlight will allow the seeds to germinate and sprout.
Bleeding hearts also tend to self-seed in the garden, though not invasively. The tiny seedlings can be carefully dug up and transplanted.
Potting and Repotting Bleeding Heart
Bleeding heart plants do well as container plants, but conditions need to be right. When potting, opt for a large container—at least a 12-inch pot with drainage holes. Unglazed clay is a good material to allow excess moisture to evaporate through its walls. Use a quality, well-draining potting mix.
Bleeding heart can live for four to five years in a large container before becoming root-bound and needing to be repotted. Either divide your plant, or move up to a container that will fit its root ball with a couple inches to spare between it and the container walls. Gently ease the plant out of its old container, and place it at the same depth in the new one. Fill around it with potting mix, and water well.
Bleeding heart will naturally die back during the winter season. But the roots should survive the cold weather, even if the plant appears dead above ground. As the plant depreciates prior to winter, you can cut the stems down to 1 or 2 inches from ground level. Keep watering the soil up until the first frost. At the start of winter, you can protect the roots and help them retain moisture by adding a 2-inch layer of mulch on top of the plant stems. Remove the mulch as the ground thaws in the spring.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
The plant's most significant pest problems are aphids, scale, slugs, and snails. The easiest and least invasive treatment for aphids and scale is using an insecticidal soap or neem oil. Slugs and snails are best remedied by physically picking them off and disposing of them in a bucket of soapy water. They are easiest to find at night and in the early morning.
Furthermore, bleeding heart is prone to fungal diseases, including powdery mildew and leaf spot. In most cases, you can treat the plant with a fungicide. But if the plant has turned black and foul-smelling, it's rotting and can infect other nearby plants. So it's best to pull up the plant. If it was in a container, sterilize the entire container and throw out the soil. If the disease occurred in your garden, treat the planting spot with a fungicide.
How to Get Bleeding Heart to Bloom
Bleeding heart is usually a spring-blooming plant and will continue to flower into the summer until it gets too hot. However, note that this plant takes some time to establish and might not flower in its first growing season. Plants that are cramped and need to be divided also might not flower or flower less than what's typical.
To trigger the plant to bloom again in the season, you can stimulate new growth by cutting the plant down to 1 inch above ground level. Also, ensure that the plant stays out of the direct sunlight, which can hinder blooming.
Common Problems With Bleeding Heart
Bleeding heart plants don't tend to be problematic when the growing conditions are right. Most of their common issues stem from inadequate watering or pest and disease problems.
Powdery Patches on Foliage
Spots of black, gray, white, or pink powder on bleeding heart leaves indicate powdery mildew, a treatable disease when caught immediately. A fungicide will remove the problem. To prevent powdery mildew from occurring, make sure plants are watered on the soil (not on the foliage) and that the plants have plenty of aeration and are not too crowded.
Brown or Black Spots on the Leaves
If bleeding heart develops small brown or black spots on the leaves that grow larger with a yellow ring or halo with the center of the ring beginning to rot out, then the plant likely has fungal leaf spot. Treatment with a fungicide or baking soda solution can neutralize the fungus if caught early enough. As the disease progresses, the leaves drop and the plant will die.
Bleeding heart naturally turns yellow and dies as the temperature increases. If that is the case, there is no reason to do anything. The plant is entering dormancy, which is its normal growth cycle.
However, yellowing leaves can also occur if the plant is getting too much water, the soil is too alkaline, or the plant is getting too much sun. Adjust those conditions as necessary.
Also, check the plant for an infestation of aphids. Aphids suck the sap out of plants, depriving them of nutrients, which can cause yellowing leaves. Yellowing can also be a sign of a fungal disease emerging. Verticillium or fusarium are severe fungal infections that start with yellowing. If your plant has this disease, it is not salvageable and should be destroyed before it spreads to other plants.
Browning, Blackening, or Rapid Wilting of the Plant
Diseases like verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, botrytis, and root rot will cause a plant to fail quickly. Initial signs will be wilting, leading to all over browning or the plant beginning to rot. In the case of botrytis, it will appear like a gray mold is overtaking the plant. In most cases, if your plant is infected with these fungal issues and has begun browning or blackening, the plant is too far gone. You can attempt to resurrect it with a fungicide, but it's not going to work in most cases. Remove all of the soil, discard it, and sterilize the container before using it again. Burn or seal the plant in a plastic bag before discarding it.
Are bleeding hearts easy to care for?
If conditions are suitable—mild temperatures, rich and moist soil, and sufficient shade—bleeding heart will likely thrive and be easy to care for. It also will likely self-seed to propagate itself in your garden.
What's the difference between bleeding heart bush and bleeding heart vine?
Bleeding heart bush is the same as common bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis), a perennial plant native to Asia. Bleeding heart vine (Clerodendrum thomsoniae), also known as tropical bleeding heart, is a different species that hails from Africa and differs in looks, growing conditions, and hardiness.
Can you grow bleeding hearts indoors?(Video) The Bleeding-Heart Vine Care | Clerodendrum Thomsoniae
If you recreate their ideal growing conditions, bleeding heart plants can grow indoors. It's key to protect bleeding heart from cold drafts and heating vents indoors, as temperature extremes can cause the plant to struggle and potentially not flower.
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Lamprocapnos spectabilis. NC State Extension.
Bleeding Hearts. Pet Poison Helpline.
Where is the best place to plant a bleeding heart? ›
Bleeding heart grows best in light shade, although it will tolerate full sun in moist and cool climates. In most locations plants prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. They also need well-drained soil and will rot if the soil remains too soggy.How do you take care of a bleeding heart plant? ›
Bleeding heart likes a lightly moist soil. It doesn't tolerate soggy or dry soils very well. Water throughout the growing season when the top inch of soil has dried out, even during summer dormancy to keep the roots hydrated. But make sure the soil doesn't stay waterlogged, which can lead to root rot.Do bleeding hearts come back every year? ›
Common bleeding heart plants (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly Dicentra spectabilis) die back after flowering, but don't worry — they'll return again the following spring. Dicentra eximia varieties, also called fringed bleeding hearts, bloom for a longer time and don't go dormant.Should you cut back bleeding heart after it blooms? ›
A: Yes, you can certainly cut back a bleeding heart as soon as it yellows, but I must admit, this is a little early for that to be happening. Usually they last until the heat of July sets in. Whenever it gets unsightly, feel free to clean it up. Cutting it back won't harm next year's growth or flowering.Do bleeding hearts do well in pots? ›
Bleeding hearts are an attractive container plant. Use them to take advantage of the cool wet spring. Bleeding hearts will perform well when you need an extra dash of color before summer blossoms appear.What month do you plant bleeding hearts? ›
Bleeding Hearts should be planted in early spring after the danger of frost has passed and while they're still resting in dormancy. Dormant bare-root plants are super easy to handle and tend to settle in quickly. You can expect strong roots to form in the fall, with sprouts and flowers emerging in the spring.How do you get more flowers on bleeding heart plant? ›
If your bleeding heart isn't blooming, it might need division or it might simply be too young. Divide the roots in early spring or in fall after the foliage has died back. Heavy soil and overly moist locations can also cause diminished flowering.How do you keep a bleeding heart blooming? ›
Care for bleeding heart includes keeping the soil consistently moist by regular watering. The bleeding heart plant likes to be planted in organic soil in a shady or part shade area. Work compost into the area before planting the bleeding heart plant in fall or spring.How many times does a bleeding heart bloom? ›
They bloom in mid-to-late spring to early summer, and die back over the hotter months, reappearing in all their splendor next season. Bleeding hearts will thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9, bloom times may vary.Do you cut back bleeding hearts for winter? ›
Cut Back the Plants
The first step to preparing bleeding hearts for chilly weather is to cut them back in the late summer or fall, or whenever the leaves have turned from yellow to brown, and are good and dead. Mind you, the plant itself isn't dead, it's just gone dormant.
Should bleeding hearts be cut back in the fall? ›
Cutting back bleeding heart plants should only be done after the foliage naturally fades, which should happen in early to midsummer as temperatures begin to rise. Cut all of the foliage down to a few inches (8 cm.) above the ground at this point.How many years do bleeding hearts last? ›
If winter doesn't arrive too early you should be able to enjoy a second flowering towards the end of fall. Cut the stems back when flowering is over. Lift bleeding hearts and replant them every 3 to 4 years.What happens when you touch a bleeding heart flower? ›
All parts of the bleeding heart plant are toxic, both when eaten and when touched. A touch causes skin irritation. Eating the plant induces vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and breathing difficulty.Do bleeding hearts spread? ›
Bleeding Heart grows well in zones two through nine. They require partial shade, well-drained, damp, but rich soil. The plants will grow two to four feet tall and will spread one to two feet. They are non-aggressive, although some will self-seed in very moist areas.What to do with bleeding hearts after they bloom? ›
Dig up and divide bleeding hearts every three to four years, after you cut back the dead foliage in midsummer. Don't be alarmed if your bleeding heart seems to disappear in the heat of the summer. This is natural and it regrows from the roots in spring.How often should bleeding hearts be watered? ›
2. Nurture the soil. These flowers prefer moist soil, so you should water bleeding hearts about once a week.How often do bleeding hearts need to be watered? ›
Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts and the cultivar 'Gold heart' will grow about two feet high and up to 30 inches wide. Staking: None needed. Watering: Water your Bleeding Hearts weekly throughout their first season; this will help your new plants establish themselves in your garden.Why do my bleeding hearts keep dying? ›
Overwatering is a common cause of plant leaves fading and yellowing. The bleeding heart enjoys moist soil but cannot tolerate a boggy area. If soil is not well draining, the plant's roots are immersed in too much water and fungal diseases and damping off can ensue.Do bleeding hearts need a trellis? ›
Does bleeding heart vine need a trellis or support to grow? This plant is a climber and can be trained to go up a trellis, fence, or pergola if you want it to vine out to its full 15 feet in length. However, you can keep it pruned to be a shrub or mound.How tall do bleeding hearts get? ›
Bleeding Heart is a Great Deer-Resistant Plant
Depending on the variety, they can grow six inches to three feet tall in part sun to shade. They are typically spring bloomers and like rich, moist soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH.
Are bleeding hearts hard to grow? ›
Bleeding hearts are hardy, tough plants. Grow bleeding hearts in part shade in cool, moist, fertile soil. They can last for many years in the garden and can be divided in early spring when they first pop out of the ground. Bleeding heart flowers last for a few weeks depending on how quickly it gets warm.Are coffee grounds good for bleeding hearts? ›
Acid-loving plants such as Azaleas, Bleeding Hearts, Holly, Hydrangeas, Magnolia, Dogwood plants and roses will thrive off of soil fertilized with coffee. Mix your grinds with dead grasses, leaves or dry straw to neutralize some of the acidity.What time of year do bleeding hearts flower? ›
Generally flowering in April and May, bleeding heart associates well with pulmonarias, aquilegias, hostas and navelwort. Avoid moving or disturbing them where possible, as they have brittle, far-reaching roots that are prone to breaking.Do bleeding heart plants multiply? ›
Bleeding heart can spread naturally by rhizomes or self-seeding. You can also propagate it by root cuttings and division.What's the best fertilizer for bleeding hearts? ›
Bleeding hearts naturally die back as the weather warms and when fall sets in. For healthy plants, cut the stems back to within an inch of the ground after the blooms slow down to possibly force a second bloom. Feed the plant regularly with ¼ cup of a 5-10-5 fertilizer every six weeks.Will bleeding heart bloom in full shade? ›
The flowers fade, the leaves die back, and the plant goes dormant in late spring or early summer. Bleeding Hearts are woodland plants so they enjoy the partial shade of spring-flowering trees such as dogwoods and serviceberries. They won't flower in deep shade.How fast do bleeding hearts spread? ›
Common bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) is a spring-blooming herbaceous perennial that forms arching stems from rhizomatous roots. The plant is a fast grower that typically reaches 2 to 3 feet tall within around 60 days.What is unusual about the bleeding heart plant? ›
There are over 20 species of Dicentra - most of which go by the common name “Dutchman's Britches.” Bleeding heart is an outlier from most other species and is remarkably uniform in its characteristics. It apparently cannot be crossed with the other species so no hybrids are available.Can bleeding hearts tolerate frost? ›
Bleeding heart plants are perennials. Their roots will survive cold winter temperatures, but their foliage and flowers might not. This isn't usually too much of a problem, as the plants bloom in the spring and early summer, fading and dying back naturally in high summertime.Why are the leaves on my bleeding heart turning yellow? ›
Bleeding hearts are sensitive to overwatering, which oftentimes causes the leaves to turn yellow. Water only twice a week during the summer, and then gradually reduce water toward the end of summer. Throughout winter, water your bleeding heart vine only about twice a month.
Are bleeding hearts rare? ›
While the common bleeding heart is essentially a late spring bloomer, the dwarf species and hybrids bloom all season long, a feature rare among garden flowers. Read on to learn more about these wonderful exotic flowers.Can a bleeding heart be rooted in water? ›
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.Is bleeding heart an orchid? ›
Lamprocapnos spectabilis, bleeding heart, fallopian buds or Asian bleeding-heart, is a species of flowering plant belonging to the fumitory subfamily (fumarioideae) of the poppy family Papaveraceae, and is native to Siberia, northern China, Korea, and Japan.Is bleeding heart a vine or a bush? ›
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.What happens if bleeding hearts get too much sun? ›
Bleeding hearts are shade-loving woodland plants that bloom in the cool of spring. Although they stay in bloom for several weeks, the plants often become ephemeral, disappearing for the rest of the summer if exposed to too much sun or heat.What can you plant next to a bleeding heart? ›
Companion Planting and Design
Plant bleeding hearts also in a shade garden, plant near ferns, coral bells, hosta, and astilbe. Grow bleeding hearts near spreading perennials, such as lungwort, that will fill in the area once it dies back or plant shade loving annuals, such as begonias, in that spot.
The flowers fade, the leaves die back, and the plant goes dormant in late spring or early summer. Bleeding Hearts are woodland plants so they enjoy the partial shade of spring-flowering trees such as dogwoods and serviceberries. They won't flower in deep shade.How long does a bleeding heart plant last? ›
It blooms on arching stems for 6-8 weeks in mid- to late spring, and looks heavenly planted among the more traditional pink variety.How often should you water a bleeding heart? ›
2. Nurture the soil. These flowers prefer moist soil, so you should water bleeding hearts about once a week. Before planting them, throw some mulch (organic matter) into your garden to facilitate a healthy soil pH for your bleeding heart plants.How big will a bleeding heart get? ›
Growth habit: Fringed Bleeding Hearts, Fern-leaf Bleeding Hearts, the cultivar 'Valentine' and Dutchman's Breeches all grow about twelve inches high and up to 18 inches wide. Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts and the cultivar 'Gold heart' will grow about two feet high and up to 30 inches wide.
Can you touch bleeding hearts? ›
All parts of the bleeding heart plant are toxic, both when eaten and when touched. A touch causes skin irritation. Eating the plant induces vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and breathing difficulty.What is unusual about the bleeding heart? ›
There are over 20 species of Dicentra - most of which go by the common name “Dutchman's Britches.” Bleeding heart is an outlier from most other species and is remarkably uniform in its characteristics. It apparently cannot be crossed with the other species so no hybrids are available.