Plant A Bleeding Heart For Generations Of Bloom

There’s lots to love about perennial bleeding hearts, and they’ve been especially strong-blooming this year.

Few perennial names are as descriptive as bleeding hearts. This tough, winter-hardy perennial blooms in May and early June. They’re one of the longest-lived perennials, preferring to remain undisturbed in place for decades. Many other perennials require digging and dividing every four or five years to remain vigorous. Not bleeding hearts; they’re perfectly content gradually increasing in clump diameter while maintaining their vigor.

That’s probably why they’re a favorite nostalgic perennial. Because they’re so long-lived, many of us remember bleeding hearts growing in the perennial gardens of our parents and grandparents. Some have been dug, divided and handed down from generation to generation.

Here are some growing tips for bleeding hearts:

  • To get a start, garden centers offer potted plants. They’re fine planted all summer.
  • To dig, divide and relocate an existing bleeding heart, the preferred time is September.
  • They prefer shade or filtered light in half sun/half shade. North or east sides of buildings provides the right amount. If they receive too much sunlight the foliage dies back more quickly in mid-summer. Good perennial to locate in the shade of trees or large shrubs.
  • Because they prefer cool shade or filtered shade, mulching the soil with wood fiber or similar material makes them happy.
  • By nature, bleeding heart foliage slowly yellows and dies back by mid-summer. Leave the foliage on until it’s brown and dry, then it can be cut away. Removing foliage before it has died back can deplete the root system.
  • To fill the void left by the disappearing foliage, save some bedding plants for summer planting around the bleeding heart.
  • Bleeding hearts can take a few years to increase in clump diameter, but they’re worth the wait because they’ll last for years and years.

Although there are white, yellow, and fernleaf varieties, the old-fashioned bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis, is still a favorite for many of us.

Happy Gardening!