How to Grow Bleeding Hearts
It's no wonder how the bleeding heart got its name. The pillow-like flower is heart-shaped with a single dangling pendulous drop
Formerly known as Dicentra spectablilis, it is a Chinese plant which flowers in late spring to early summer.
They are super-easy to grow and add a stunning addition to any garden that will leave your visitors in awe about their uniquely shaped flowers.
When are Where to Plant
Dicentra roots are are best planted in spring when risk of frosts have passed. Seeds should be propagated in autumn and overwintered in a greenhouse or cold frame. Choose a site that has well drained soil, heavy clay soils should be amended with the addition of organic materials to allow the soil to breathe and drain properly.
Site your bleeding hearts where they will receive light to moderate shade as these plants do not like full sun. Bleeding hearts are shipped 'bareroot'. This just means that the soil has been washed from the roots, so you won't risk introducing any soil-borne diseases into your garden, and the plants are lighter and cleaner to ship.
Dormant bareroot plants are easy to handle and settle in quickly. Tuck your bleeding heart plants into the ground with the roots pointing downwards and the "eyes" or growing points about an inch below soil level. Fan the roots out a little so they can access soil nutrients from a wider area. They will need about 2ft (60cm) to allow room for their full growth.
After planting water them in well to settle the soil around the roots. Roots can struggle to grow through air pockets in the soil. Since it is such an early bloomer, planting near a deciduous tree is a great 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.
What to Expect
In a typical growing season, a bleeding heart plant produces about 20 small flowers on each of its stems in spring. Its foliage usually enters dormancy in the midsummer heat. The flowers are delicate and should be protected from strong winds.
the foliage can be cut back when it starts to look tired and tattered. The plant may send up a fresh batch of leaves or it may just go dormant until the next spring. Plan ahead so nearby plants such as ferns or hostas can fill in the gap.
Caring for your Bleeding Hearts
After planting, mulching the area around your roots will help to prevent weeds from growing. This will also help to keep the soil moist and will eventually break down providing nutrients for future growth.
Dicentra are hardy perennials that will flower for years to come. They do not like much being moved once established but if you do have to then dig out a larger root ball than you think you might need. This is always best in spring before the shoots start to show.
New bleeding hearts can be started from seed, root division or cuttings.
- Seed Propagation - Bleeding hearts can be grown from seed quite easily, they will need at least six weeks of cold before they will germinate though. Sow them as soon as possible after harvesting and allow them to overwinter in the soil. Alternatively, force the seeds in a refrigerator for six weeks and propagate the seedlings indoors until spring when you can plant them out.
- Root Division - The best time to divide a bleeding heart is when it’s just starting to get going in the spring. First, find an emerging plant that is poking its head above the soil. Lift as much of the whole root ball as possible and using a sharp knife (and more importantly, clean!), divide the young plant into two or more sections. Each section should have a good sized piece of root with it; enough to sustain life. Trim some roots if there are too many and plant them in a suitably sized pot. Push soil down around the plant fairly forcefully in order to eliminate air pockets - the roots need to be in contact with soil in order for the plant to take. Keep the soil moist during growth and you will soon see new growth in a few weeks.
- Cutting - Bleeding hearts grow and bloom most vigorously in late spring and early summer and will enter dormancy when hot weather sets in. Blooming and dormancy both direct a plant's energy away from root production, so cuttings taken during either time are unlikely to root. The best time to start bleeding heart cuttings is after the flowers fade in early summer but before hot weather sets in and forces the plant into dormancy. Cuttings can also be started in early spring after leaves emerge but before the flower buds form.
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