How to Grow and Care for Bleeding Heart, a Spring Perennial We Really Love

Shade loving and low maintenance, this flower's heart-shaped petals look striking in any garden.

If you're looking for a vibrant, low-maintenance flower to add to your garden, consider growing a bleeding heart. Known for its pink-and-white heart-shaped blooms, the perennial plant comes up early in spring—giving your garden a quick burst of color following winter. The shade-loving plant is a popular choice for beginner gardeners, since it's easy to care for. 

There are a few different varieties of bleeding heart you can grow in your landscape, but the most popular is Lamprocapnos spectabilis (formerly Dicentra spectabilis). Common bleeding hearts are considered spring ephemerals and will die back after flowering. No matter which variety you choose to grow, the care requirements are relatively the same.

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

How to Plant Bleeding Heart

Bleeding heart grows best in USDA growing zones 3 to 9. The perennial should be planted in early spring once the threat of frost has passed. Choose a location with well-draining soil that receives either full or part shade. If you're planting other varieties around your bleeding heart, space them accordingly; young bleeding heart plants will spread 1 to 2 feet as they grow. Once you've selected the perfect spot, begin planting. 

  1. Dig a hole slightly bigger than the container the plant is in. 
  2. Loosen the soil in the bottom of the planting hole. 
  3. Gently remove the plant from its container. 
  4. Plant at the same depth it was in the nursery pot. 
  5. Water deeply. 

How to Care for Bleeding Heart

Beyond its beauty, bleeding heart has a reputation for being low maintenance—which is why so many gardeners love to grow it. Beyond routine care, there isn't much you'll need to do to help the perennial thrive. 


When caring for the bleeding heart flower, location is key. "If planted in too much sun or in dry conditions, the bleeding heart will just sort of fade away," says Blythe Yost, CEO and co-founder of Tilly, an online landscape design company. Plant bleeding heart in full or part shade for best results.


Bleeding heart flowers like moist, humus rich soil. The plant also prefers soil that is slightly acidic—with a pH range of 6 to 6.5. Ensure you're planting in a location with well-draining soil, as bleeding heart doesn’t do well in boggy spots. 


Newly planted bleeding heart requires frequent watering to get established. "Established plants need average water—about 1 inch per week," says PeggyAnne Montgomery, horticulturist and bulb expert for "Watering deeply is preferred to watering a little every day." If you notice the flowers have started to wilt at all, it's time to water.


Though this plant is adaptable to a wide range of climates, bleeding heart prefers temperatures that range from 55 to 75 degrees. If temperatures get too hot, you may need to ramp up your watering schedule.

Don't confuse yellowing for dehydration: "Bleeding hearts go dormant in mid-summer and die back to the ground. During that time, the foliage turns yellow. That is normal and not a sign of any disease," says Montgomery. 


If you have moist, humus rich soil, you may not need to apply fertilizer. But to encourage additional blooms in a location with poor soil quality, an all-purpose organic fertilizer once a year in spring should be adequate, Montgomery says. 

bleeding heart plants

Insung Jeon / GETTY IMAGES

How to Prune Bleeding Heart

Unlike many plants, bleeding heart flowers don't require any pruning. In fact, you should avoid trimming away seemingly dead leaves—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," says Ryan McEnaney, communications manager at Bailey Nurseries. "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."

How to Re-Pot Bleeding Heart

Though bleeding heart is commonly grown in the garden, it also performs well as a container plant. When it comes time to re-pot bleeding heart, choose a container that's slightly bigger than the current vessel.

  1.  Fill a container with well-draining potting soil rich in organic matter. 
  2. Gently remove the plant from its container. 
  3. Place it in the new container at the same depth it was planted previously. 
  4. Back fill in the hole with soil.
  5. Water thoroughly. 

How to Propagate Bleeding Heart

Rather than re-potting your bleeding heart, you can snip off part of the plant and use it to grow more bleeding heart plants instead. "Place in indirect light and check regularly for water," says Montgomery. "It should take about 15 to 20 days to root."

  1. Take a 3- to 5-inch cutting right after the plant blooms.
  2. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting.
  3. Dip the stem in powdered rooting hormone.
  4. Fill a container with potting soil.
  5. Use a pencil to make a hole in the soil in the new pot.
  6. Put in the stem and tamp down the soil around the cutting.
  7. Put a plastic bag over the top to provide humidity, if you'd like.

Types of Bleeding Heart

There are a handful of bleeding heart plant varieties, but a few types are more common amongst gardeners than others. 

  1. Lamprocapnos spectabilis: Known as common bleeding heart, this type produces lacy green leaves. "Elegant stems rise above the foliage and produce pink-and-white flowers that look like hearts," says Montgomery. "It is undeniably attractive. Spectabillis means spectacular or showy."
  2. Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’: This variety is like the above, but it has white flowers, rather than a mix of pink-and-white. "It’s perhaps slightly less vigorous, but may tolerate summer heat better," says Montgomery. 
  3. Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’: Another type of bleeding heart, this one has pink flowers, but the foliage is bright gold with green undertones. 

Commons Pests and Diseases

One of the biggest allures of growing a bleeding heart plant? It doesn't typically encounter pests. Occasionally, you may find aphids growing on the foliage of your plant, but these can be prevented by rubbing horticultural oil on the leaves.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles