Sometimes, a plant’s name says it all and bleeding hearts really do look like their name. With rows of delicate flowers that look like hearts that are dripping, this plant holds a special place with a lot of gardeners. Learn when to plant bleeding hearts and how to care for them.
When to plant bleeding hearts: Bleeding hearts have long been a mainstay in a perennial garden. Their gentle flowers and long, swaying branches add a touch of whimsy to any yard. These woodland flowers prefer partial to full shade. They also like soil that is well-draining but has a moist feel to it. As a perennial, bleeding hearts will blossom in mid to late spring and then will show their blooms for quite a few weeks. Once the hotter summer temperatures hit, the leaves will turn yellow and start to die back. Over winter, the plant will hibernate and store important nutrients in its root system. However, when warmer temperatures appear in the spring, the plant will once again bloom. Most people start with seedlings which can be planted in early spring, once the threat of frost is over. If you want to try seeds, you can plant them in the fall. It’s best to start seeds indoors and then transfer them before the first fall frost date. While bleeding hearts look beautiful, they are toxic. Don’t let pets or children play with them, and if you need to prune or dig them up, always wear gloves, just to be safe.
Planting Bleeding Hearts in Different Climates
During the winter, bleeding hearts become dormant. A tropical climate is usually still warm during the summer, so bleeding hearts probably won’t do well.
Bleeding hearts prefer soil that is moist and a dry climate won’t be able to provide this.
A temperate climate is perfect for bleeding hearts. They are woodland flowers and like shade and continuously moist growing conditions.
A continental climate can support the growth of bleeding hearts. Be sure to add a good layer of leaf mold over winter to add some protection from the colder temperatures.
Even though bleeding hearts like shade and cooler temperatures, a polar climate may be too severe for bleeding hearts. But, if you live in a not too extreme polar climate, you can try growing them.
Choosing Bleeding Hearts Seeds
The blooms of this variety have a subtle pink color to them with an extra layer of white petals. They will bloom from late spring until late summer and the plant is smaller than others, coming in around 15 inches in height.
While the foliage of this plant looks like a fern, the flowers really pop with their dark red colors. If you want to attract hummingbirds to your garden, this is an excellent choice.
This variety has blooms that are pink and white in color and the foliage is a golden-green color. They can become 2 feet in height and will attract hummingbirds.
King of Hearts
Featuring blooms that are a deep pink color, this is a bold variety. It is smaller than other plants and will grow between 10 and 15 inches wide.
How to Plant Bleeding Hearts Seeds
Seeds vs seedlings
While you can plant bleeding hearts from seeds, most gardeners go the easier route and purchase seedlings from their local nurseries. There is always a good selection of bleeding hearts as it is a popular choice.
If you do go with seeds, you can plant them in the fall. They will take hold over winter and then pop up in the spring.
If you can, start your seeds indoors in early September. This will give them a head start and you can then transplant them in mid to late October.
As for seedlings, planting in the spring is best. You can get them into the ground in mid-spring, right when the threat of frost is over.
One of the reasons bleeding hearts continue to be a fan favorite is that they are easy to care for plants that like shade. They will instantly bring a pop of color to any shade garden.
Plant your bleeding hearts in either full or partial shade. However, if you live in a more northern area, you can get away with planting in full sun.
Bleeding hearts like soil that is rich in nutrients, so prepare the soil well before planting. Add plenty of compost to the area and mix everything together.
Your soil should be neutral in pH level although the plant can tolerate slightly acidic soil.
Make sure the soil can drain well. If need be, add in sand or extra organic material so that the roots of your bleeding heart don’t become too soggy.
How to Water Bleeding Hearts
During the summer, your bleeding hearts will need plenty of water. Aim for at least 1 inch of water each week, and if it doesn’t rain you will need to add more water.
Sometimes in the fall, your bleeding hearts can lose all of their foliage. If this happens, simply mark the area and continue to add water to the soil so that the root structure gets enough nutrients.
Bleeding hearts are considered a woodland plant so they prefer that sort of natural habitat. This includes a shady, slightly moist area.
How to Grow Bleeding Hearts
As long as you start with solid soil with your bleeding hearts, you won’t have to worry too much about fertilizer. They are not heavy feeders, so they won’t take too many nutrients out of the soil.
You can add extra organic matter such as compost around your bleeding heart plants once a year. This should be enough for its growth.
You can also add a layer of leaves in the fall as this will mimic the woodland atmosphere it is used to.
Even though bleeding hearts are perennial, you don’t really need to bother with pruning them. After they finish flowering, you can clean the branches up a bit; however, the plant may bloom later in the season so you don’t want to cut the plant back too early.
As a perennial, bleeding hearts are used to colder temperatures in the winter. They should be able to undergo this process naturally.
In the middle of summer, you may see your bleeding hearts start to turn yellow. This is a natural sign that the plant is starting to become dormant.
In the fall, the foliage may start to fall off and if the plant is looking a bit frazzled, you can cut it back, leaving an inch or two of foliage above the ground.
Add leaf mulch to the ground to help insulate the roots and then remove it once spring hits. As the temperatures start to warm up in April, your bleeding hearts will start to blossom.
Can you grow bleeding hearts in a container?
You can indeed grow bleeding hearts in a container but you will have to prepare it well. This plant can grow quite large so it’s best to start out with a fairly large pot, about 12 inches wide.
If you have a large enough pot, you can keep it there for up to five years, which will cut down on your gardening efforts.
Always use potting soil that drains well. Furthermore, there should be a hole in the bottom of the container to allow water to seep through.
When it is time to repot your bleeding heart plant, you can then find a container that is at least 3 inches wider. Add new potting soil and then transfer the root ball of the bleeding hearts into the new container.
Finally, add new potting soil and water them well to allow the roots to spread out.
How long do bleeding hearts take to grow?
Most gardeners will start their bleeding hearts from seedlings and these will be ready to blossom soon after planting if they aren’t already in bloom.
Bleeding hearts are a perennial plant, which means they will continue to grow back each year. In a few years, they will reach maturity and this can be up to 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide, depending on the variety.
Are bleeding hearts poisonous?
When planting your bleeding hearts or doing any pruning, you will want to wear gloves because all parts of the plant are poisonous. Touching the plant can cause mild skin irritation but ingesting it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even difficulty breathing.
Animals are pretty smart and will usually stay away from the plant but if you are worried, it is best to put a fence around the plant. The same goes if you have small, curious children.
One positive about the fact that bleeding hearts are toxic is that deer are naturally repelled from them.
Bleeding hearts are an excellent, shade-loving perennial plant. They grow hardier each year and their lovely flowers will stretch out on their long branches. Plant seedlings in the spring and have a pop of color in late spring to early summer.