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Growing Bleeding Heart

The old-fashioned bleeding heart has been a favorite flower for generations of gardeners. In fact, your mother or grandmother probably had bleeding hearts growing in their gardens. A perfect perennial for the shade. Its long arching stems of elegant, heart-shaped flowers dangle gracefully over mounds of dark, blue-green leaves. If you're considering adding this spring blooming beauty to your garden this year, here are some tips for growing them.

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How Bleeding Hearts Got Their Name

One look at bleeding hearts' flowers will tell you how these plants got their name. The pink or white-colored flowers are shaped like hearts with small drops of blood at the tips. These popular ornamental flowers have collected many common names throughout their long history. Some gardeners know them as 'Lady's locket', 'Lyre-flowers', 'Venus's car', 'Valentine flowers', 'Dutchman's breeches', or 'Naked lady-in-the-bath'. (Psst: If you turn a flower upside-down and gently pull the sides apart you'll expose the lady sitting in her bath.)

Growing Facts

Bleeding hearts are easy-to-grow and once established offer an abundance of low-maintenance color season after season.

Common name: Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis).
Hardiness: Zones 2 to 9.
Bloom time: Late spring to early summer. Flowers will stay in bloom for several weeks, but plants generally go dormant by mid-summer. Fringed-leaf varieties have longer-lasting foliage and may repeat blooming throughout the summer.

Flowers: Racemes of heart-shaped flowers in pink, white, cherry, or red; and white inner petals that appear to "bleed" from the tip.
Foliage: Dark blue-green; heavily lobed or lacy and fern-like. The foliage dies back after flowering.
Height/spread: 24-36 inches tall; 36 inches wide.

Site: Tailor made for shade gardens. Prefers partial to full shade. Will tolerate more sun as long as the soil remains moist.
Soil: Moist, fertile, and well-draining.
Planting: Potted plants can be planted anytime during the growing season. Handle the roots carefully as they are brittle and will break off easily. Unless fresh, the seeds can be difficult to germinate. Plant them in the spring after the danger of frost passes, or allow to self-seed in the fall.

Maintenance: No pruning or dead-heading required. Trim back foliage once it starts to decline.
Watering: Keep plants well watered throughout the summer, especially during dry periods.
Propagation: By seeds, cuttings, or division. Division is easiest and can be done every 2-3 years using a sharp spade. Divide plants in early spring, or as soon as the foliage dies back.
Popular cultivars: 'Alba' grows 2-3 feet tall with white flowers; 'Goldenheart' grows 2-3 feet tall with pink flowers and golden yellow foliage.

Tips for Maximizing Performance

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

Can I move my bleeding heart plant now? I'd like to plant it in a different spot.

Hardiness Zone: 6a

By Sheri Carlisle from UT

Answers

May 7, 20100 found this helpful

You should be able to. Just be sure you dig deep and wide so as not to disturb the roots any more than necessary.

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Photos

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February 24, 2011

I live next to a stream that comes down the mountain and empties into the lake across the street. We have a garden along the bank and every season is just so beautiful there.

Bleeding Hearts

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This is a picture of my bleeding hearts in my garden. A neighbor of mine let me dig them and other nice perennials up from her yard because she didn't want to deal with all of the flowers and plants in her yard.

closeup of bleeding heart flowers

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April 21, 2010

I couldn't resist showing off my lovely bleeding heart this spring - it has been loaded with blooms!

Bleeding Heart bush

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