How to Grow and Care for Bleeding Heart Plants, the Uniquely Beautiful Springtime Bloomers

The plant's heart-shaped flowers will look striking in any garden.

If you're looking for a vibrant bloom to add to your garden, you may want to consider planting a bleeding heart. As the its name implies, this plant is known for its pink-and-white heart-shaped blossoms; it's easy to grow, which makes it popular with novice gardeners, but it's uniquely beautiful, which is why even seasoned green thumbs choose to tend to them year after year.

"Bleeding hearts are easy to grow in shade and come up in early spring," says Blythe Yost, CEO and co-founder of Tilly, an online landscape design company. "There are a number of different varieties, but all have distinctly heart-shaped flowers. Common bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly Dicentra spectabilis) are considered spring ephemerals and will die back after flowering. The fringed bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) is a smaller plant with a longer bloom time and won't go dormant."

close-up of bleeding heart flowers
Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

Why You Should Plant Bleeding Hearts

"Few other plants have such a distinct flower shape," Yost declares. "Be sure to plant them somewhere they can be appreciated at close range." Aside from their fun shape, bleeding hearts are a great addition to your garden because they are safe from hungry, four-legged friends. "Bleeding hearts are a favorite for the garden for their flower, of course, but also because they are deer and rabbit resistant and make fabulous cut flowers," says Ryan McEnaney, communications manager at Bailey Nurseries. "Especially in woodland gardens, selecting plants that won't be lunch for your furry visitors is really important, especially in spring as everyone is looking for green food."

According to Amanda Campbell, the owner of Flora & Spice, a landscape and floral design studio, this plant's pretty flower also makes an excellent addition to a floral arrangement. Aside from the flower's shape, the foliage will come in different shades, too, ranging from chartreuse to blue-green. "Being somebody that goes to the flower markets all the time, it's not a flower that I see normally," she says. "It definitely could be in a flower arrangement or in something special like a bridal bouquet. But, it's not a plant that you see a lot of flower farms growing."

Though not always easy to find at a traditional flower market, the bleeding heart is a prolific flower, should you choose to cultivate it, and can be found at most garden centers, Campbell adds. You can expect blooms in the early spring, and some varieties will continue through the summer. The bleeding heart also attracts pollinators, bringing bees to your garden and benefiting all your other plants. "Having one in your own garden would be its own special element that you can add to your own flower arrangements or someone else's arrangement that you're making," Campbell says. "I always love having little plants like that in my garden."

How to Grow and Care for Bleeding Hearts

When caring for the bleeding heart flower, location is key, according to Yost. She says, "If planted in too much sun or in dry conditions, the bleeding heart will just sort of fade away. I have found the Common Bleeding Heart to be more robust than the fringed." Campbell notes that this flower requires medium to high watering, so be ready to spend some time out in the garden to ensure yours flourishes. You'll also want to plant it in a more loamy, acidic soil, and avoid a boggy location. McEnaney advises planting the bleeding heart on the north side of your home, as well as underplanting to fill in the gaps when it recedes in the off-season.

"Surviving best in full or part shade, bleeding hearts do well in a woodland garden or on the north side of your house that is mostly shaded," McEnaney adds. "Since the leaves of bleeding hearts either fade away or can be cut back early in the season, they can be underplanted with hostas, ornamental grasses, or other perennials and shrubs that put out foliage later in the season. Not only will that give the bleeding hearts time to shine in spring, but will then fill in that open area for summer and fall once the bleeding heart goes dormant for the warmer part of the year."

Finally, both McEnaney and Campbell caution against trimming away seemingly-dead leaves. Campbell says that allowing the leaves to live their full lives means a healthier plant the following season. "Be sure not to cut back your bleeding heart while the leaves are still green," McEnaney says. "It's still taking in the sun's rays to save energy for next year's blooms. Wait until the plant dies back naturally in the heat of summer or trim it back once the leaves start to yellow."

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