Bleeding Heart

Lamprocapnos spectabilis, bleeding heart, fallopian buds or Asian bleeding-heart, is a species of flowering plant belonging to the fumitory subfamily of the poppy family Papaveraceae, and is native to Siberia, northern China, Korea and Japan. There are many other species in the Dicentra genus called bleeding hearts, though these are primarily wildflowers that aren't commonly grown in cultivation. Bleeding hearts are commonly grown as shade-garden ornamentals and have a medium growth rate and reach their mature size in about 60 days. This plant is toxic to humans and animals



The bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis; formerly Dicentra spectabilis) got its name for its pillow-like, heart-shaped flower that dangles like a single pendulous drop. 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. The roots stay alive, and the plant will regrow in fall or the following spring. The fringed-leaf varieties of bleeding heart repeat bloom throughout the summer.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

o.5 - 3 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

1 - 3 feet


Approximate pH

6.0 - 6.5 (will tolerate up to 7.5)


Types of Bleeding Heart


Bleeding heart flowers are usually pink, white, red, or yellow and their height ranges from six inches to three feet. Their foliage is very attractive and they produce dozens of delicate, heart-shaped flowers in the spring. Below are some of their varieties.


Amore Pink



These come in a beautiful shade of pink and can get up to 14 inches in height. They can disappear if it gets warm, reappearing in the fall or the following spring. They look great as a cut flower and are attractive to hummingbirds. They also need to be frozen for a while, and you can divide them after they start blooming. The Amore Rose variety is a little darker in pink than this variety.


Aurora



An all-white flower but sometimes there can be a little pink around the edges of the bloom, it can also be called the Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart and works best in partial shade. They need to be frozen for six to eight weeks in a plastic bag in your freezer and when they bloom they are elegant-looking and eye-catching even though you need to use caution because they can cause skin irritations for some people.


Bacchanal



A type of Dicentra Formosa, these can be 12-18 inches in height and have showy pink blooms that are usually one inch in size. They can disappear when the weather gets warm and reappear in the fall or the following spring and they can be divided after they flower. The Bacchanal has won several international flower awards so they are truly special.


Burning Hearts



These are a type of Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart and contain dark pink or red flowers with a touch of light pink and/or white. You can divide them after they bloom and their flowers are approximately one inch in size. They are stunning and eye-catching.


Candy Hearts



A plethora of color is included in this bloom, from dark pink to light pink and even white, and they can easily handle transplanting if you freeze them first in a plastic bag for six to eight weeks. They, too, can cause skin irritations in some people and can disappear and reappear at different times.


Dutchman’s Breeches



Also called Dicentra cucullaria, they grow six to ten inches tall and have flowers that are white in color with yellow at the base. They contain fruit that consists of a long, thin pod and round black seeds and the seeds produce white growth, which does not need to be taken care of because it is eaten by ants. In addition to white, they can also be yellow or pink and they are known by White Hearts, Colic Weed, and Butterfly Banners, among other names.


Fire Island



Striking and attention-getting, these Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart flowers are magenta and dark red with white tips and they do a great job of attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. The Fire Island variety has blue-green leaves and is deer- and rabbit-resistant. Although they need excellent drainage, these flowers do very well in large pots, even those holding three or more gallons. You can divide them after they flower and they are a hybrid of the Dicentra peregrina and the Dicentra eximia.


Fringed Bleeding Heart



These are also known as Dicentra eximia and can be dark pink, light pink, and white in the same flower. They have pods that contain many seeds and when ripe, they turn dark brown in color. They also have white growths, which are eaten by ants, and their blooms have fringed edges. They attract bees and are both deer- and rabbit-resistant, making them low-maintenance flowers to own. If you prefer to have this flower in white, it is called Dicentra Eximia Alba.


Gold Heart



These showy pink flowers with white tips grow up to 24 inches tall and have unusual foliage colors. They are rabbit- and deer-resistant and work great if placed in pots that are three gallons or more in size. In addition, hummingbirds love them.


Ivory Hearts


As the name suggests, these flowers are all white and are striking. You can divide them after they start blooming and they too can disappear when it’s warm, although they reappear in the fall or the following spring. Just as with other Bleeding Heart flowers, these can cause skin irritations for some people so caution is advised.


King of Hearts



A type of Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart, these beautiful plants with pink flowers can grow up to 18 inches in height and have unique greyish blue-green leaves. Since the flowers are infertile, you can count on them to bloom from spring to fall without any deadheading. The bloom size is under one inch and if you remove the stalks from the flowers after they finish blooming, they can remain looking amazing for a very long time.


Langtrees



This is a variation of the bleeding heart plant that is white in color, but there are some pink fringes around the edges. They will naturalize and although showy and eye-catching, the flowers can sometimes irritate the skin on certain people so handling them with caution is recommended.


Luxuriant



These dark pink, showy flowers have won international flower awards and they can easily be divided after flowering. Also called the Pink Fringed Bleeding Heart, they grow best in partial shade and can sometimes cause skin irritations in some people so caution is always advised when handling them.


Pacific Bleeding Heart



Also known as Dicentra Formosa, Wild Bleeding Heart, or Western Bleeding Heart, these flowers are usually pink and purple in color so they are quite eye-catching. They prefer partial shade and the seeds need to experience freezing temperatures for a while in order for the plant to look its best later on. It’s best to start this plant indoors and you can divide them after they start to flower if you wish to plant them in additional spots.


Pearl Drops



A Pacific Bleeding Heart variety, these flowers are white and elegant-looking, always naturalize, and can be divided after their flowering period is complete. They can disappear and reappear at different times and they sometimes cause skin irritations in some people.


Red Fountain



With powdery blue-grey leaves and brightly colored dark-pink or red blooms, they are deer-resistant and grow well in large pots, including those that are three or more gallons in size. They do need excellent drainage; otherwise, they are low-maintenance and easy to grow, not to mention eye-catching.


Silversmith


A form of Dicentra Formosa, these silvery-white blooms grow best in partial shade and can disappear when it gets too warm, reappearing in the fall or the following spring. They naturalize, can cause skin irritations in some people, which can be avoided with a little extra care, and can be divided after they are finished blooming.


Snowdrift



A variety of Dicentra eximia, these beautiful white flowers are under one inch in size and have unusual, showy foliage. They are very fragrant flowers and are perfect when used as cut flowers or groundcovers. The Snowdrift has seeds that need warm moisture to germinate, usually 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a cold moist period in 25- to 40-degree temperatures, and next by a cool moist period in 40- to 50-degree temperatures. They can easily handle being transplanted but they should only be divided while the leaves are dormant. Bumblebees pollinate them and they bloom in every season except the winter.


Stuart Boothman



These showy flowers that are mostly dark pink in color have seeds that need a freezing period and they can disappear and reappear at various times throughout the year. They can easily handle transplanting and they should be divided after they flower.


Valentine



A Lamprocapnos spectabilis variety that is also known by the name Hordival, these striking flowers are bright red in color and highlighted in white. They grow up to 30 inches in height and bloom in late spring or early summer. In addition, the flowers tolerate dry shade well, have blooms under one inch in size, and are deer-resistant. They attract hummingbirds and they can be divided after they flower.


White Gold



Also known as the Golden Bleeding Heart, they are mostly white in color and can grow as tall as 30 inches in height. They can have golden leaves; in fact, their foliage is one of the things that makes them so unique. In addition, the White Gold variety attracts hummingbirds and blooms in the Spring. A truly unique flower, they are easy to transplant and divide as well.


Yubae


A form of Dicentra peregrina, the flowers are dark pink or red and highlighted in white. They should be frozen for six to eight weeks before planting but they are easy to divide and grow well in partial shade. Just as other Bleeding Hearts, they can cause skin irritations in some people so you should always use caution when handling them.


Planting Bleeding Hearts


When to plant:


Plants can be divided or transplanted in the spring or in the fall (after foliage dies back). Plant seeds in the fall; they'll germinate in the spring after a needed chilling period over winter.


Where to plant:


In warmer southern zones, bleeding heart plants should be planted in a shady, cool location. Farther north, they can be located in an area where they will get partial or even full sun if the weather is cool enough. Although they like damp soil, they shouldn’t be planted in an area that can get waterlogged.


How to plant:


Work compost into the soil before planting to provide a humus-rich base. If transplanting bleeding hearts from bare root stock or divided plants, place them with the roots fanned out and pointing down. The ‘eyes’ (where new foliage will grow) should be about an inch below the soil level. If planted too deeply, they may rot or not flower. Water well so the soil will settle in around the roots.


Plant seeds one-half inch deep and keep the soil moist until the first frost. Bleeding hearts will readily self-sow if seed pods are left on the plant and allowed to open.


Spacing:


To allow for their mature size, space them 2 to 2.5 feet apart.


Growing Bleeding Hearts


How to Grow Bleeding Hearts 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 6 to 8 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.


How to Get Bleeding Hearts to Bloom


Bleeding hearts are usually spring-blooming plants and will continue to flower into the summer until it gets too hot for them. Hot temps trigger the plant to die off and enter dormancy. If you don't notice any flowering, note that this plant takes some time to establish and may not flower in its first growing season. If it's not flowering, the plant may still be too young or need to be divided.


To trigger the plant to bloom again in the season, you can stimulate new growth by cutting the plant down to one inch of the ground surface. It may get the plant growing again. You can give the plant fertilizer every six weeks. This plant enjoys rich, moist soil but not too wet that it's boggy. Ensure the plant stays out of the direct sunlight; the flowers do not tolerate the sun much.


Bleeding Heart Care


In a typical growing season, a bleeding heart plant produces about 20 small flowers on its stems in spring. Its foliage usually enters dormancy in the midsummer heat, and 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.


Bleeding hearts usually bloom about the same time as pulmonaria, brunnera, and hellebores, and they all contribute to a beautiful woodland cottage effect. Bleeding hearts will stay in bloom for several weeks, but the foliage tends to go downhill after flowering. These plants will also self-seed if not deadheaded. If your bleeding hearts go dormant and disappear, plan to have late-emerging plants to fill in space vacated by bleeding hearts. Coral bells, ferns, foam flowers, hosta, and monkshood are good companions.


Bleeding heart is relatively trouble-free, although common garden problems such as aphids and powdery mildew are occasional issues. The leaves are susceptible to leaf spots, and the easiest solution is to shear back the affected foliage. Although bleeding hearts like moist soil, they cannot tolerate heavy, wet soil and may get root rot if left with wet feet too long.


Light


Bleeding hearts do best in partial shade. Since it is such an early bloomer, planting near a deciduous tree is a good spot. The plant will be up and growing before the tree leaves out, and when the bleeding heart needs protection from the summer sun, the tree will provide it.


Soil


Bleeding heart prefers humus-rich, moist soil, with lots of organic matter, but it is not too particular about soil pH. It prefers slightly acidic soil but will do fine in neutral soils. Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, over the existing soil. Work it in to improve aeration and create a loose soil that allows the roots to grow. It prefers a well-draining soil that will not let the roots get soggy and rot.


Water


Keep plants well-watered throughout the summer, especially in warmer weather. They require about 1 inch of water per week, either through rainfall or manual watering. If they are planted right next to a thirsty tree or bush, water them again that week with another inch. If your plants disappear until the fall or next spring, mark the spot, so you do not accidentally dig in the area while your plants are dormant. Also, even if the site is bare, continue to water the area to keep the bleeding heart's roots hydrated. Bleeding heart is a little more drought-tolerant than the other species, but it is still best to treat them all as woodland plants and provide a moist (but not too wet) environment.


Temperature and Humidity


A bleeding heart plant begins to yellow once the summer heat ramps up. This yellowing is perfectly normal and is a sign that it is storing its energy for the winter. Its ideal temperature is 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and it has a good tolerance for high humidity.


Fertilizer


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 will not have to feed at all. Bleeding hearts are woodland plants and do exceptionally well with a top dressing of leaf mold.


Pruning and Propagating Bleeding Heart


Pruning


No pruning or deadheading is required since this plant may bloom again later in the season. Leave the flowers if you want them to go to seed. Trim back the foliage when it starts to brown and turn ugly. Fringed-leaf varieties can also get a little ragged-looking and can be sheared back to their basal growth; they will re-leaf and rebloom.


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 do not sacrifice bloom. The fringed-leaf varieties divide nicely early in spring as they are emerging.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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).

  4. Replant the root ball in potting mix enriched with compost or leaf mold, or decomposing leaves. Water thoroughly, 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 10 days to three weeks before rooting occurs.

  1. You will need sterilized pruners to take a 3- to 5-inch cutting from a healthy bleeding heart plant. You'll also need a container, an enriched, well-draining potting soil, and a plastic bag. Optionally, you can use a rooting hormone for improving rooting success.

  2. Take off the leaves from the bottom half of the stem. Fill the container with the potting soil, poke a hole in the soil in the center of the container using a finger. Dip the cut end of the cutting into rooting hormone and put it into the hole. Firmly put the potting mix gently around the stem.

  3. Water the soil to the point 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.

  4. Place the plant in indirect light. A bright windowsill will be too sunny and scorch the plant.

  5. Once you notice new growth, the plant has successfully rooted. Remove the plastic bag.

  6. Move the bleeding heart plant outdoors once it's rooted well and new growth is more abundant. Harden off the plants in a protected spot for a few days before moving them to their permanent spot outdoors.


Harvesting


Entire stems of bleeding heart can be uses as cut flowers. Vase life is up to 2 weeks. The bleeding heart is perfect as a pressed flower. Pick flowers early in the morning after the dew has dried. Put the flowers between paper and place between the pages of a thick book. After a couple of weeks you’ll have perfect flat, papery hearts.


Potting and Repotting Bleeding Hearts


Bleeding hearts live well as container plants, but conditions need to be right. When potting it, opt for a large container, at least a 12-inch pot. They can become a substantial plant, growing more than 3 feet tall. A bleeding heart can grow for four to five years in a large container before being divided and repotted. Make sure you use well-draining, enriched potting soil. The type of pot you use doesn't matter—ceramic or plastic are fine—only make sure it has ample drainage holes so roots do not sit in soggy soil.


To repot it, get a container with at least 2 to 3 inches of extra growing room around the root ball and below. Put at least 2 inches of new soil at the bottom of the pot. Center the root ball and put soil all around its circumference. Water thoroughly and keep the plant in a shady or partially lit spot.


Overwintering


Bleeding hearts naturally die back during the winter season. The rhizome or root ball will survive the cold winter even if the plant appears dead above ground. You can cut the stems down to one or two inches from the surface level. Keep watering the soil up until the first frost. At the start of the winter season, you can protect the roots and help them retain moisture by adding a two-inch layer of mulch on top of the plant stems. Remove the mulch as the frosty season ends.

Pests and 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 to remedy by physically picking them off and disposing of them in a bucket of soapy water, and they are easiest to find at night and in the early morning.


In terms of disease, bleeding hearts are prone to diseases common to shady plants, such as fungal infections like soggy soil that leads to root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf spot. In most cases, you can treat the plant with a fungicide by following the instructions on the packaging. If the plant has turned black and foul-smelling, it's rotting and can infect other nearby plants. It's best to pull up the plant. If the plant is in a container, sterilize the entire container and throw out the soil. If the rot occurred in your yard or garden, treat the planting spot with a fungicide.


To prevent future fungus issues, irrigate your plant's soil (not the plant itself). Excessive moisture on the plant's foliage in shady spots may encourage fungal growth.


Common Problems With Bleeding Hearts


Bleeding hearts grow well in shady spots. However, shade-loving plants are often prone to problems with excessive moisture and fungal disease. Most of the issues your plant will experience are likely due to watering, insect activity, or fungus.


Powdery Patches on Its Foliage


Spots of black, gray, white, or pink powder on its leaves indicate powdery mildew, a treatable disease when treated immediately. Its growth gets stunted and looks gnarled, curled, and unsightly. A fungicide will remove the problem. To prevent this from occurring, make sure plants are watered on the soil (not on the foliage) and make sure the plants have plenty of aeration and are not too crowded.


Brown or Black Spots on the Leaves


If the bleeding heart plant 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 may neutralize the fungus if caught early enough. As the disease progresses, the leaves drop and the plant will die.


Yellowing Leaves


Bleeding hearts naturally turns yellow and dies as the temperature turns hot. 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 can also occur if the plant is getting too much water, the soil is too alkaline, or if the plant is getting too much sun. Adjust those conditions.


Also, check the plant to see if it has an infestation of aphids. Aphids suck the sap out of plants, depriving the plants of their nutrients, leading to leaf drop and can cause plant death. 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 of these cases. Remove all of the soil, discard it, and sterilize the container before using the pot again. Burn or seal the plant in a plastic bag before discarding it.


Uses


Culinary Uses


Unfortunately, the bleeding-heart flower does not lend itself to the art of cooking. It is very toxic to humans, as well as animals. Although large quantities are needed to pose a risk to humans, anyone with a dog should be wary to let their curious canine companion venture anywhere near this flower. Larger dogs are known to get sick easily from it, and small dogs can get liver damage very quickly from ingesting it. Symptoms in humans include nausea, vomiting, and convulsions.


Medicinal Uses


In traditional circles, the roots of the plant have been used in herbal medicine as a mild stimulant, as well as a relaxant. The plant was sometimes used as a diuretic. Native Americans used it to treat coughs, dizziness, a few skin disorders, and insect bites. There are even reports of it being used as a kind of topical analgesic to numb teeth, useful for toothaches, as well as to help with hair loss. Due to its potentially toxic nature, this plant is advised to be used with extreme caution.

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