Lamprocapnos spectabilis in bloom. Photo by: Ivo Vitanov Velinov / Shutterstock.

These easy-care, shade-loving perennials pop up in early spring and grow quickly. Their characteristic heart-shaped flowers bloom in shades of pink, red or white and hang delicately from arching stems from late spring to early summer.

Common bleeding heart plants (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly Dicentra spectabilis) die back after flowering, but don’t worry — they’ll return again the following spring. Dicentra eximia varieties, also called fringed bleeding hearts, bloom for a longer time and don’t go dormant. Learn more about growing and caring for both of these types of bleeding hearts and others.

On this page: The Basics | Planting Instructions | Care Tips | Pictures | Landscape Design Tips

BLEEDING HEART BASICS

Zones:

3-9; see specifics on other varieties.

Height/Spread:

Up to 3 feet tall and wide; also compact varieties 1 to 1.5 feet tall & wide.

Exposure:

Partial to full shade, may tolerate sun in cooler northern zones.

Bloom Time:

Common bleeding hearts bloom mid-to-late spring, see specifics on other varieties.

Color:

Varieties bloom in shades of red, pink, white and purple.

Toxicity:

Mild stomach upset can occur if any part of the plant is ingested. Foliage may also aggravate sensitive skin, so care should be taken when handling.

Other:

Bleeding hearts are deer and rabbit resistant.

PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS

New growth on Lamprocapnos spectabilis plants in spring. Photo by: BOULENGER Xavier / Shutterstock.

When to plant:

In the fall, harvested seeds can be planted immediately. They’ll germinate in the spring after a needed chilling period over winter. Plants can also be divided and transplanted either in the spring when they begin to grow or in the fall after the foliage dies back.

Where to plant:

In warmer southern zones, bleeding heart plants should be planted in a shady, cool location. Farther north, they can be located in an area where they will get partial or even full sun if the weather is cool enough. Although they like damp soil, they shouldn’t be planted in an area that can get waterlogged.

How to plant:

Work compost into the soil before planting to provide the humus-rich base that bleeding hearts need. Plant seeds one-half inch deep and keep the soil moist until the first frost. Bleeding hearts will readily self-sow if seed pods are left on the plant and allowed to open.

If transplanting bleeding hearts from purchased bare root stock or divided plants, place them with the roots fanned out and pointing down. The ‘eyes’ (where they will sprout new foliage) should be about an inch below the soil level. If planted too deeply, they may rot or not flower. To allow for their mature size, space them 2 to 2.5 feet apart. Water well so the soil will settle in around the roots.

Helpful Hint:

Place markers where your bleeding hearts are planted. Since they die back to ground level and leave no trace once cut back, you’ll want to know where they are so you don’t disturb them when planting summer annuals or fall bulbs.

PLANT CARE TIPS

Pruning:

Lamprocapnos spectabilis varieties will die back in the heat of summer, but they’ll be back next spring. Once the foliage has turned yellow and wilted, the plant can be cut back to the ground. It’s important to wait, because up until that time the leaves are busy collecting and storing food and energy for next year. Flower stalks can be deadheaded after blooming to keep your plant looking clean.

Soil:

Bleeding heart plants require moist, fertile, humus-rich soil that is neutral or slightly alkaline.

Amendments & Fertilizer:

Add a time-release fertilizer in the surrounding soil when new growth appears in spring. Additional compost can be added in as well.

Watering:

From spring until winter, water regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Bleeding hearts won’t tolerate wet soil over winter or dry soil in summer.

Propagation:

Bleeding heart plants can form large clumps of roots and should be divided about every two to three years. This can be done in the spring just as they begin to grow again or in the early fall when the foliage is cut back. Dig them up carefully and divide with a sharp shovel or garden knife. Replant sections around your own garden or share with friends.

If you want to harvest the bleeding heart seeds, the seed heads must be left on the plant to dry. They are ready when the seed heads turn brown and the seeds inside are black. The seeds can be planted immediately and will germinate in spring. They can also be saved to be planted the following spring. Place them in a bag with some moist soil and freeze for 6 weeks so they get the chilling period they need, then store in a cool location until spring planting.

Diseases and Pests:

There are no serious disease or pest problems, although they can be susceptible to aphids. Protect new growth from snails and slugs. Diseases such as downy mildew, Verticillium wilt, rust and fungal leaf spot may occur as well. Bleeding hearts are sensitive to soap-based products, so it’s best to test any pest control products on a few leaves first.

BLEEDING HEART PICTURES

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis

Zones: 3-9

Exposure: Partial to full shade

Height/Spread: Up to 3 feet tall and wide

Bloom Time: Late spring

Color: Pink flowers with white centers

A cottage garden classic, this variety goes dormant in midsummer and returns again the following spring.

Photo by: Iva Villi / Shutterstock.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’

Zones: 3-9

Exposure: Partial to full shade

Height/Spread: Up to 3 feet tall and wide

Bloom Time: Late spring

Color: White flowers

This white bleeding heart blooms in late spring, but bloom time may be stretched into summer with adequate water. Foliage dies back midsummer as the plant goes dormant.

Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’

Zones: 3-9

Exposure: Partial to full shade

Height/Spread: 18 to 24 inches tall, 24 to 36 inches wide

Bloom Time: Late spring

Color: Pink flowers

A slightly smaller variety with gold foliage in spring. Dormancy may be delayed until late summer or early fall with adequate water.

Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis Valentine

Zones: 3-9

Exposure: Partial to full shade

Height/Spread: Up to 30 inches tall and wide

Bloom Time: Late spring

Color: Red flowers

Deep red flower stems with red flowers make excellent additions to cut-flower arrangements, lasting up to 2 weeks in a vase. This variety also goes dormant after flowering.

Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

Dicentra eximia

Zones: 3-9

Exposure: Partial to full shade

Height/Spread: 15 inches tall, 12 to 18 inches wide

Bloom Time: Late spring to early fall

Color: Pink flowers

Unlike the common bleeding heart, fringed bleeding hearts’ foliage doesn’t die back in the summer. A good choice for more southern gardens, as it is more heat tolerant.

Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

Dicentra eximia ‘Snowdrift’

Zones: 3-9

Exposure: Partial to full shade

Height/Spread: 12 to 15 inches tall, 12 inches wide

Bloom Time: Late spring to early fall

Color: White flowers

Another fringed, heat-tolerant option good for southern zones. Flowering may continue all summer in cooler climates.

Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

Dicentra ‘King of Hearts’

Zones: 5-9

Exposure: Partial to full shade, full sun in cooler climates

Height/Spread: 8 to 10 inches tall, 12 inches wide

Bloom Time: Late spring to early fall

Color: Pink flowers

A fern-leaved, compact, heat and sun tolerant variety that blooms from late spring until fall and does not go dormant.

Photo by: Garden World Images, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo.

Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’

Zones: 3-9

Exposure: Partial to full shade, full sun in cooler climates

Height/Spread: 12 to 15 inches tall, 12 to 18 inches wide

Bloom Time: Late spring to early fall

Color: Pink flowers

This long-season bloomer is heat and sun tolerant and does not go dormant in summer. It’s a sterile variety and does not set seed.

Photo by: Colette3 / Shutterstock.

Dicentra formosa ‘Burning Hearts’

Zones: 3-9

Exposure: Partial shade, full sun in cooler climates

Height/Spread: 8 to 10 inches tall, 12 to 18 inches wide

Bloom Time: Late spring to mid-summer

Color: Red flowers

This fern-leaf bleeding heart makes a nice addition to mixed containers with its bright red flowers.

Photo by: Mike Truchon / Shutterstock.

Dicentra cucullaria

Zones: 3-9

Exposure: Partial shade

Height/Spread: 8 to 10 inches tall, 12 to 18 inches wide

Bloom Time: Late spring to mid-summer

Color: White flowers

Commonly called Dutchman’s breeches, this compact variety gets its name from flowers that look like upside-down pants. It does best in shady gardens.

DESIGNING WITH BLEEDING HEARTS

Here are some ideas to help you use bleeding hearts in your garden:

  • Perfect choice for Asian or cottage-style gardens.
  • Brighten up a dark or shady corner.
  • Add spring color under shade trees in woodland gardens.
  • Plant smaller growers like ‘King of Hearts’ in rock gardens.
  • Combine with other shade-loving perennials that will fill in after bleeding hearts die back, such as hostas, astilbe, monkshood, heart-leaf brunnera, coral bells and ferns.
  • Excellent choice for containers — bring them out in spring to enjoy, move to an out-of-the-way location after the plants die back.
  • Use blooming flower stalks in cut-flower arrangements.

RELATED:
Shade Garden Design Ideas
Beautiful Foliage for Your Perennial Garden
Shade-Loving Hostas

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