Bleeding Hearts
A Shade Garden Favorite

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding hearts are one of my favorite perennial flowers.  Their beautiful shape, color, and position on the plant adds a lot of character to a gently lit garden.

The flowers are light pink to deep pink and heart shaped. These delicate flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds.  It is fun to watch the hummingbirds hoover below the flowers while looking up to access the nectar. These flowers are naturally photogenic and can make beautiful fine art photos.

I am not sure of the lifespan of Bleeding Hearts. It would appear between 5 and 8 years. If they are well taken care of they live longer. After about three years they can become large, about 3 ft in diameter. You can trim be back in the summer all the way to the ground and they will return the following year. 

Bleeding Hearts Flower Characteristics

Bleeding Heart Flower Stems

The lower tip of the flower is white and gives the appearance of a drop forming.  A delicate petal often covers the opposite sides of the white "tear drop" giving the appearance that the heart is bleeding. They are strikingly beautiful.

The flowers have their own stem separate from the leaves. The stems can be cut and used in flower arrangements. There is actually a white flower species that is very pretty as well. However, I don't think they are quite as popular as the deep pink.

The plants may not flower if there is too much shade. I have some planted in partial shade and another that receives full morning light until about 2:00pm, but is shaded the rest of the day. Both do well and flower. The plant in the sun is a third larger, but the shade garden plant puts out more flowers.

The leaves are pale green with three or more lobes. They can grow to three or four inches long and are a lighter color underneath.

Early Dormancy

One of the interesting things about bleeding hearts is that they move into dormancy quite early. As soon as summer hits  they will start towards dormancy. In regions with cool weather through much of the year, the plants may bloom longer.  In most areas, not much after the flowers dissappear and the air temperatures remain in the 80's, the leaves will start to turn yellow as the nutrients return to the roots. As soon as it is dormant you can cut the stems back to the soil.

Why early dormancy may be a good thing? You can cut the plants back and being careful with the roots, you can plant other blooming annuals near the base of the bleeding heart to fill the space. Then the garden can have the benefit of additional blooms for the rest of the year.

Blooming Hearts with Azaleas

Bleeding hearts can become quite large within a few years. They can be several feet across. If you find they have outgrown their space, you can divide them.

The recommended time to divide them is in the spring, but many divide them in the fall with success. Water the soil well, then simply take a sharp shovel or spade and carefully push the shovel into the soil and through the roots.

Keep in mind that if you decide to divide them in the spring, the plants will not look good for the rest of the year. However, the following year they will come back strong. It is best to divide them in half or thirds to make sure they have enough roots.

Bleeding Heart Facts

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 - 9

Bloom Time: Spring through Early Summer. Some varieties will bloom later into the year.

Able to Divide? Yes. Use a spade to divide the root ball in two or three equal parts.

Produces seed? Yes. If you want to propagate the plants, collect the seed pods on the stems where the flowers were attached. You have to look closely to see pods and not all plants have them for whatever reason. Let the pods dry and collect the seeds inside. The plant self-seeds and you can also harvest the new plants at the base of the mother plant.

Plant the seeds in the fall outside. They need cold temperatures before the seeds will germinate.

Soil Types: Prefers well-drained soil. Plenty of organic material around the base is great.

Fertilizer: If you have rich organic soil you may not need any fertilizer. Organic fertilizer is a good choice if you need it. I have gotten a second bloom when using Bountiful Harvest Biostimulant.

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