The Bleeding Heart Plant, Dicentra spectablis is also known as Lamprocapnos spectabilis.
It has delightful, heart-shaped shade flowers measuring about an inch in size, displayed in rows of stems which proudly arch above verdant and inviting fern-like foliage.
Bleeding Heart is classified as one tough plant according to the USDA (United States Agricultural Department), so you won’t have to worry much about missing this colorful shade plant’s feeding time every now and then.
Do not confuse with the bleeding-heart vine (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) which comes from a different family.
The Bleeding Heart’s bloom time comes in the summer and its flowering time is quite short.
The plant produces pretty, iconic flowers from late spring to early summer, and could lie entirely dormant during the other seasons.
You may see the Bleeding Heart “die out” during mid-summer, miraculously coming back to life during springtime!
Traditionally, its flowers are painted white and pink; there are a few varieties that deviate from the original hue. It also resembles the flowers of dicentra formosa, also known as the pacific bleeding-heart plants.
The “Alba”, or Lamprocapnos ‘Alba’ produces only white blooms, while the “Gold Heart”, or Lamprocapnos ‘Gold Heart’ produces rose-colored flowers atop a golden foliage.
Both plants are also considered hardy via USDA standards, so it’s simply a matter of preference on which colored blooms you prefer.
Bleeding Heart Care
The Bleeding Heart plants love partial or deep shade and a consistently wet soil.
You may prepare a mix of humus-rich, moist soil consisting of peat moss and compost in an appropriately-sized pot to accommodate the Bleeding Heart.
The soil and pot should have good draining properties before potting the plant. The “Dicentra spectabilis” may live in a pot with soil that is slightly alkaline.
If you have a traditional garden, plant the Bleeding Heart 2 feet apart from each other starting in the early spring season.
Mix the compost well with the soil before planting. Mulch it occasionally, during fall and more during spring time using, leaf mold or compost.
They are a hardy bunch, the Bleeding Heart can survive direct sunlight in the winter as long as they are adequately moistened.
During summer, keep them well-shaded and away from the summer sun’s rays. You may also keep it away from strong winds and winter frosts as dictated by the seasons.
Regular fertilization is one requirement that’s needed by the Bleeding Heart plant during its growth period.
As the soft, fern-like foliage emerges, owners may put in time-release plant food or added compost around the soil to encourage its growth.
The better the preparation, the more beautiful the heart-shaped flowers and the longer these blooms last!
You may include general-purpose fertilizer during spring to provide the essential nutrients for your Bleeding Heart’s growth. Add it in when you start to see shoots emerging from the Bleeding Heart plant.
It’s a herbaceous perennial, so don’t be surprised if your plant dies to the ground in the midst of the summer season. Simply remove the dead foliage, and allow further resting until the time to bloom comes again.
Should you wish for a suitable plant companion to replace the quick flowering plants blooming season of the Bleeding Heart plants, here are some suggestions.
Add some similar shade-loving plants which may remain green throughout the growth seasons, or put in some plants or ferns that complement the Bleeding Heart plant.
Hostas are low-growing perennials that are a perfect compliment for Bleeding Hearts. They come in a wide variety of different leaf shades and patterns, and are almost as hardy as the Bleeding Heart as rated by the USDA zones.
The Alaskan fern, Soft Shield Fern or the Polystichum setiferum, is also good companions for Bleeding Hearts, and they rate high in the hardy zones as well.
Bleeding Heart Maintenance and Propagation
What’s the cost of having beautiful, heart-shaped flowers decorating your house and brightening up the rooms? Not so much, it seems.
A bit of shade, ensuring the soil has all the necessary nutrients and protection from the harsh elements is all you need to keep in mind when caring for the Bleeding Heart plant.
The Bleeding Heart is much like other herbaceous perennials in that it grows from underground roots in many seasons, but its specific life cycle is much more unique with other perennials.
Others die back after the growth season, which is usually during early winter or late fall.
The Bleeding Heart plant dies right in the middle of summer after it produces its beautiful flowers.
After the flowers are gone, it lies dormant and returns to growing again in early spring or late in the winter, reaching maturity after around 2 to 5 years.
Its rhizomatous roots form new shoots during the late winter or early in spring as the climate allows. The roots are rhizomatous, fleshy and quite thick. It stores nutrients that get passed on from one season to another.
The soft, leafy foliage grows in a mounding shape around 2 to 3 feet tall. The beautiful heart-shaped flowers emerge from the verdant foliage during mid-spring.
Each stalk holds a number of lovely flowers which line up in a row. The weight of the flower cluster causes the stalks to arch, lending more aesthetic appeal to the viewer.
Bleeding Hearts or lamprocapnos spectabilis can last for years and grow so much that it can cause overcrowding, especially when grown as potted soil plants. You’ll need to separate and divide plants every 3 to 4 years as part of the propagation process.
Wait until late autumn or winter to divide the clumps. Dig up the Bleeding Heart’s roots carefully, remove the dried ones and plant them into similar type soil and shaded parts of your house.
Remember, the Bleeding Heart has quite a large network of thick roots, and you should take extra precaution in not damaging the brittle roots and the root ball while in transit.
There’s also the planting of the Bleeding Heart’s seeds as another way to propagate. Seed should be planted as soon as they come off the mother plant. Prepare an adequately sized pot with moist, well-drained soil, then freeze it for about six weeks.
After that, you can put them in a room temperature of anywhere between 55 to 60 degrees until it germinates, which should take about 50 days maximum.
Note: The bleeding heart plant was formally called Dicentra spectabilis and the name was changed to Lamprocapnos spectabilis in 2010.
Dicentra gold heart is now called Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’
Dicentra cucullaria is still in the Dicentra genus.