What Is Dicentra, Or Bleeding Heart Flower, And How To Grow It?

bleeding heart flower

bleeding heart flower

Updated on 2/20/2024
Emma DowneyBy Emma Downey
Gardening Expert
Learn More about Emma Downey

We've put together a list of helpful pointers that can help you cultivate bleeding hearts with these helpful pointers from our gardening experts on planting, caring for, propagating, and troubleshooting bleeding heart flower.

Hardy perennial plants such as bleeding hearts are beneficial hardy plants that bloom primarily in the springtime. In most climate zones, they can survive the winter, are straightforward to grow, and add a lot of color to the garden without being too overpowering. The plant's flowers are easily recognizable and take on the shape of cute lockets that are shaped like hearts and are easily identifiable.

Bleeding hearts, which are also known as Dicentra, are one of the most common and popular types of plants that can be grown. The most common wildflowers in North America include those that are small, tolerant of shade, and native to the region. It is common for these plants to have delicate foliage that is silvery green or blue-green, while the flowers themselves can come in many colors, including white, pink, and red. A group of cultivars related to each other thrives in a more direct light situation.

yellow flowers

yellow flowers

 

In the third group, a relatively small percentage of trees are taller, more elegant, and have more dramatic foliage. It should also be noted that, in between these two groups of climbing varieties, there is a fourth group with yellow flowers, which is seldom seen. No doubt, bleeding hearts would make a great addition to any showy flower bed ideas you may have in mind. Eventually, they grow into slowly spreading mounds that make excellent companion plants for shaded patio beds and shrubberies in shady areas.

It is possible to grow bleeding hearts in shaded areas of your garden so that you can bring weeks of color to those areas of your garden. Although bleeding hearts are prone to withering after flowering, they make an excellent ground cover in shady areas as they tend to wither and die back after flowering. In particular, this is true in regions that experience hot summers throughout the year, and it is usual for neighboring plants to encroach on the space occupied during summer.

Mail order and online shopping offer a more excellent selection of bleeding hearts than big box nurseries and garden centers. It is also possible to divide these plants after a couple of years and replant the divisions to cover a larger area after separating them. With the help of some delightful dicentra that is sure to find a place in your heart, we will show you how to give your garden a dash of romance with the help of some delightful dicentra to dress it up.

What Kinds Of Bleeding Heart Are There?

What Kinds Of Bleeding Heart Are There

What Kinds Of Bleeding Heart Are There

 

Four significant types of bleeding hearts are most common in North America: The majority are native North American wildflowers that thrive in shady conditions and have foliage that is attractively divided and perfectly complements the colors of their blooms, which are typically either red, pink, or white.

  • Some bleeding hearts maintain compact form, forming clumps that gradually spread outwards as the season progresses. Indeed, some species spread more rapidly than others, creating a ground cover that effectively keeps weeds at bay without becoming invasive. Dicentra eximia, also known as the fringed bleeding heart, is a subspecies of Dicentra Formosa, native to western North America, and Dicentra eximia, native to eastern North America, which is a subspecies of Dicentra Formosa. In most cases, they are available as either bare-rooted plants or as potted plants that have already begun to flower. Among the most well-known varieties are 'Luxuriant' and 'Langtrees.'
  • In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of people who share a similar appearance but prefer to spend more time outside in the sunshine. One can use these ideas in conjunction with bright pergola ideas or as part of ideas for thoughtful south-facing gardens that have extended access to sunlight. You can choose from two variants: 'King of Hearts' and 'Fire Island.

King of Hearts

King of Hearts

King of Hearts

 

Fire Island

Fire Island

Fire Island

 

  • A further significant but smaller group contains varieties that produce taller plants with a mass of long, elegantly arching stems from which large red, pink, or white lockets sway. It is important to note that this group of varieties is less common, but it is still essential. As you can see, these are the traditional bleeding hearts, and you will also notice that some of them also have bright yellow foliage. It is essential to recognize that Dicentra spectabilis and 'Alba' are popular varieties of this plant, and plants from this family are increasingly referred to as Lamprocapnos.
  • The fourth group of bleeding hearts trail behind their supporters and have tendrils that cling to them. It is worth noting that they both have the same shape lockets, but theirs are yellow. There is a good chance that Dicentra scandens will be found in this area. Increasingly, the term 'Dactylicapnos' is being used to refer to plants that belong to this genus of plants.

Where Should I Plan The Bleeding Heart Cultures?

Where Should I Plan The Bleeding Heart Cultures?

Where Should I Plan The Bleeding Heart Cultures?

 

It is recommended to plant native bleeding hearts, as well as the wide varieties of this plant, in partial shade to get optimum results. It is possible to grow them in the sun if the summers are not particularly hot where you live; so long as you water them regularly, you should not have any concerns about them drying out. Some newer varieties can withstand more sun in the summer months.

The bleeding hearts thrive in soils rich in humus, but because their roots are relatively shallow, they can thrive even in poor soil if only the top layers of the earth are improved. The best soil for your garden is slightly acidic; if you need help determining the soil type, our guide can assist you. It is ideal for the pH level of the ground to be between 6.0 and 6.5, but most varieties can tolerate a broader range of pH levels.

It is recommended to plant a single plant of each variety in a more miniature garden, gradually spreading out to cover the rest of the space over time. It is best to produce them in groups of three or five if there is enough space for more than one. You should remember that the plants may perish during the summer if you live in an area that experiences sweltering summers yearly. It is essential to plant perennials nearby, such as hostas or runners, so that perennials can use the space with foliage. Likely, these plants will eventually take over the area.

plants will eventually take over the area.

plants will eventually take over the area.

 

Climbing bleeding hearts thrive in rich soil that is neither too dry nor too wet; however, they prefer to have a mature shrub or garden fence that they can cling to support their growth. Similarly, if you combine these ideas with those for screening or trellises that are adequately supported, they will thrive.

It is noteworthy that Centerra spectacles and their varieties can tolerate more sun, have much deeper root systems and enjoy growing conditions that are both rich and well-drained, which are conducive to their success. These bleeding hearts will wither and die in the summertime due to the heat.

When Is The Ideal Time To Sow Bloody Heart Seeds?

When Is The Ideal Time To Sow Bloody Heart Seeds?

When Is The Ideal Time To Sow Bloody Heart Seeds?

 

A significant benefit of learning how to cultivate bleeding hearts is discovering how simple it is to plant and establish the plants. When the soil does not freeze solid, you can grow bleeding hearts that you have purchased in containers when it is not too cold. Fall is the best time to do this, as it allows the plants to settle in before winter. When spring flowering begins, the plants will have already established themselves, allowing them to bloom successfully throughout the spring.

When it comes to planting dicentra, spring is the best time. You can plant bleeding hearts while they grow and flourish,
as long as they are well watered. Your bleeding hearts will adjust more quickly to their new environment if you know the optimal time to water the plants.

Some bleeding hearts, particularly those of the species Dicentra spectabilis, can be purchased as bare-root plants via mail order (this means they come dormant, with little soil around the roots). Planting these thick, white, and stringy roots in the fall is recommended for optimal results. As an alternative to growing them during the winter, they can also be developed in spring once the ground has thawed completely. Zones 7 and 8 can be planted anytime, as long as the ground isn't frozen.

How Do I Plant Bleeding Hearts?

Plant Bleeding Hearts

Plant Bleeding Hearts

 

Before planting any bleeding hearts, amending the soil with compost or manure is recommended. The day before planting, bleeding hearts grown in containers benefit from being doused with liquid fertilizer. Compost is a great way to start improving the soil in preparation for planting native bleeding hearts, which all prefer a humus-rich environment (getting to grips with composting will enable you to create your own). Because roots are only a few centimeters deep, deep preparation is not necessary.

Then all you need to do is follow these easy steps:

 before planting your bleeding hearts

before planting your bleeding hearts

 

  1. Plant bleeding heart plants in pots, so their crowns are level with the soil.
  2. Plants with bare roots that are less than one inch (2.5 centimeters) in height should be set into the soil at a depth of one inch (2.5 centimeters), Whereas you should plant larger plants 2 inches (5 cm) deep.
  3. After planting, ensure the soil is moist and add some liquid fertilizer. In the first season of a plant's life, you should take special care to ensure that it does not become dry unless it has already begun to wither away in preparation for the summer.

How Do I Care For Bleeding Hearts?

How Do I Care For Bleeding Hearts?

How Do I Care For Bleeding Hearts?

 

If you want your bleeding hearts to have the most stunning appearance, you must keep your Dicentra from drying out during the first spring and early summer. If you live in a hot climate, the plants of native bleeding hearts may go dormant during the summer. A second blooming period may occur if your area receives a lot of rain in the fall. When the plants appear worn out and dry, you should prune them back using your best pair of secateurs. You should then add the slow top growth to your garden compost heap.

When you mulch the roots with weed-free garden compost or bagged soil amendment, you will find that the roots remain cool and moist for longer. You should apply the treatment in the fall to interplant your bleeding hearts in spring (our guide to planting bulbs can assist you with this). Before the bulbs emerge from the ground, You should spread the mulch. Irrigation might be required if the spring is devoid of moisture.

How Do I Make More Bleeding Hearts?

How Do I Make More Bleeding Hearts?

How Do I Make More Bleeding Hearts?

 

Bleeding hearts produce a few seeds after flowering, except for vining types, which fall around the existing plants. There is a possibility that some will become viable, grow into self-sown seedlings, and mature into flowering plants over time. You can dig these up as soon as they begin to sprout in the spring and replant them elsewhere if that is where you would rather see them grow, or you can transplant seedlings and give them to your friends. However, there is a possibility that they will not be completely identical to the varieties from which they originated.

When the soil is free of frost in the late winter and spring, bleeding hearts can be dug up and divided at any time of the year. You can do this. Because the roots are delicate, you should pull them apart carefully and replant the pieces that come from the outside of the plants that have the most robust growth. It would be best if you threw away the change from the plants' middle. Grow your new bleeding hearts in proximity to the best evergreen perennials and the best foliage plants so they can be shown off to their full potential.

It is best to let the plants of old-fashioned bleeding hearts mature into specimen-size clumps before harvesting them. If you still want to try dividing them, you should do so in the early spring when you dig them up. Please use a dull bread knife or kitchen knife to cut the woody crowns into smaller pieces and then replant them as soon as possible.

What Problems Are There Growing Bleeding Hearts?

What Problems Are There Growing Bleeding Hearts?

What Problems Are There Growing Bleeding Hearts?

 

While you want to stay on top of potential bleeding heart problems, there aren't many issues to worry about. This is good news if you want to keep track of the potential issues with your bleeding hearts. Just make sure to keep an eye out for the following and react appropriately:

  1. Slugs and snails can be a nuisance, but if you know how to get rid of slugs in an inventive and natural way, you can eliminate them from your garden. If they continue to be a problem, you should steer clear of bark mulches because they like hiding in them.
  2. It is essential not to apply mulch directly on top of the plant crowns because this can lead to rot. Inadequate drainage can also be a problem, and waterlogged soil is highly harmful to plants. Be wary of situations that involve waterlogging. Ideally, the soil should be damp, but it should also be able to drain well.
  3. Insects are not typically a problem, but old-fashioned bleeding hearts may be susceptible to attack by aphids. You can use an organic pest spray on these plants, but they are hardy enough to withstand a low level of infestation.
Insects are not typically a problem,

Insects are not typically a problem,

 

Do not be alarmed if it seems as though your Dicentra is passing away in the fall; it is most likely just going through its natural cycle. The stems and leaves fall off on their own during the autumn season, and they can perish more quickly in environments with hot summers.

There is no need to be concerned if the leaves on your bleeding hearts turn yellow. It has been bred to produce yellow leaves in two different varieties: 'Gold Heart,' which bears red flowers, and 'White Gold,' which takes white flowers. Other varieties' leaves that turn yellow are either thirsty and need to be watered or are simply withering away naturally.

Can Bleeding Hearts Survive Frost?

BLEEDING HEARTS in snow

BLEEDING HEARTS in snow

 

Most bleeding heart plants can withstand temperatures as low as zone 4 and sometimes even zone 3. Only in regions that experience winters that are among the coldest on record is there a possibility that You can damage the crown or roots.

If you can protect your plants from frost, it will make it less likely that they will suffer damage from cold snaps. If the plants have begun to put out new growth, but there is still a chance of frost, you can protect them by covering them with fleece or an old sheet.

New spring growth on varieties of Dicentra spectabilis is very tender and juicy; however, it is susceptible to being killed by even a light frost in the spring. However, new shoots quickly emerge from the plant's crown, and the damage will no longer be visible within a few weeks. Native and ground-covering varieties have a lower risk of being damaged by spring frost; even if they are, they quickly recover from the effects of the ice.

Are Bleeding Hearts Toxic?

Are Bleeding Hearts Toxic?

Are Bleeding Hearts Toxic?

 

Dicentra plants contain poisonous chemicals to humans and animals in all of their parts. However, even though excessive consumption of this plant can cause seizures or liver problems in humans, it is not a tasty plant to consume. It would be best if you ate large amounts before issues occurred.
It is essential to remember that the sap may cause skin irritation in some people; in this case, wearing your most reliable gardening gloves should help protect your skin.

Dogs, and especially horses, are more likely to be affected. You should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible if you have any reason to believe that your animals have consumed bleeding hearts. To our great good fortune, Bleeding hearts have some resistance to deer.

Although Dicentra may be consumed by deer on occasion when no other food is available, in most cases, they are ignored by these animals. In particular, it seems that deer won't eat the old-fashioned bleeding heart called Dicentra spectabilis.

How To Keep Bleeding Hearts Blooming

How To Keep Bleeding Hearts Blooming

How To Keep Bleeding Hearts Blooming

 

The majority of bleeding hearts bloom naturally during the spring, and as a result, flowering typically slows down during the summer. Assuring that the plants' roots retain moisture throughout the spring is the most critical thing you can do to encourage blooming, so ensure that you water your plants as and when they require it. The application of mulch during the fall season is another beneficial technique, as it helps the soil retain its moisture.

Only the vining types with yellow flowers bloom later in the season by nature; however, more recent varieties such as 'King of Hearts' have been developed to bloom for a more extended period than older ones. Therefore, make room in your garden for more than one bleeding heart type to extend the flowering season and increase the time you enjoy your bleeding hearts.

Where To Buy Bleeding Hearts

Where To Buy Bleeding Hearts

Where To Buy Bleeding Hearts

 

As for growing bleeding hearts, you can start with seeds, plugs, potted plants, or bare root options to cultivate bleeding heart flower. The following are some of our recommendations for your area's most reputable retail establishments. There is a vast selection of these plants available for purchase online and at garden centers, and they can be adapted to grow in either full sun or partial shade. If you are looking for options that come in bare root form, you will need to plant them as soon as possible. Using the quick links we have provided below, you can start immediately by clicking on one of the quick links.