How To Plant Bleeding Heart [ Full Guide ]

Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is a graceful, old-fashioned perennial that produces heart-shaped flowers in shades of pink and white. This classic cottage garden favorite is relatively low-maintenance and can thrive for many years when given the proper growing conditions. Planting bleeding heart requires attention to detail, from selecting the ideal location to preparing the soil and supporting the plant to thrive. This comprehensive guide will walk you through each step to ensure your bleeding heart flourish in your garden.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Bleeding Heart

  1. Choose an ideal location: Select a spot with partial to full shade and well-drained soil.
  2. Prepare the soil: Amend the soil with organic matter to improve drainage and fertility.
  3. Purchase healthy plants: Select vigorous bleeding heart plants from reputable nurseries.
  4. Timing: Plant in early spring or fall when the weather is cooler.
  5. Planting: Dig a hole, place the bleeding heart, backfill, and water thoroughly.
  6. Maintenance: Mulch, water, and provide support as needed.

Choosing The Ideal Location For Planting

Bleeding heart thrives in locations with partial to full shade, making it an excellent choice for woodland gardens or shaded borders. When selecting a spot for planting, consider the following factors:

Light Conditions

Bleeding hearts prefer dappled sunlight or light shade. Avoid planting them in areas with intense, direct sunlight, as this can scorch the delicate foliage. Look for locations where the plant will receive morning sun and afternoon shade or consistent filtered light throughout the day.

Soil Drainage

The soil should be well-drained to prevent waterlogged conditions, which can cause the roots to rot. Avoid planting in areas with heavy clay soil that tends to retain water. If your soil doesn’t drain well, consider planting in raised beds or add organic matter to improve drainage.

Soil Ph

Bleeding heart thrives in slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. Conduct a soil test to determine the pH of your soil and amend it accordingly to create an optimal growing environment for the plant.

Space And Air Circulation

Provide ample space between plants to ensure good air circulation, which helps prevent diseases such as powdery mildew. Avoid crowded areas where the plant’s foliage may become overcrowded, leading to reduced air circulation and increased risk of fungal issues.

Preparing The Soil For Bleeding Heart

Once you’ve selected the perfect location for your bleeding heart, it’s essential to prepare the soil to provide the plant with the best possible growing conditions.

Soil Amendment

Before planting, amend the soil with organic matter such as compost, well-rotted manure, or peat moss. This will improve the soil’s fertility, structure, and drainage. Work the organic matter into the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches to ensure that the bleeding heart’s roots can easily penetrate the soil and access essential nutrients.

Drainage Improvement

If your soil has poor drainage, consider incorporating coarse sand or perlite to improve aeration and drainage. Alternatively, planting in a raised bed filled with well-draining soil can provide the optimal growing conditions that bleeding heart plants require.


After planting, apply a layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or leaf mold, around the base of the plant. Mulch helps retain soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and moderates soil temperature. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the plant’s crown to prevent excess moisture accumulation, which can lead to rotting.

Selecting And Purchasing Healthy Bleeding Heart Plants

When it comes to purchasing bleeding heart plants, selecting healthy specimens is crucial for their long-term success in your garden. Here are some essential considerations when purchasing bleeding heart plants:

Reputable Nurseries

Purchase bleeding heart plants from reputable nurseries or garden centers with a track record of providing high-quality, healthy plants. Avoid buying from sources where the plants appear stressed, diseased, or poorly cared for.

Vigorous Growth

Choose bleeding heart plants that exhibit vigorous growth with healthy, lush foliage. Avoid plants that show signs of wilting, yellowing leaves, or stunted growth, as these may indicate underlying health issues or stress.

Well-Developed Roots

Inspect the root system of the bleeding heart plants before purchasing. Look for plants with well-developed, firm roots that are not root-bound. Avoid plants with roots that are excessively crowded, mushy, or show signs of rot.

Absence Of Pests And Diseases

Ensure that the plants are free from pests and diseases. Check the foliage and stems for any signs of insect infestations, such as aphids or spider mites, as well as symptoms of common diseases such as powdery mildew or leaf spot.

Container Size

Choose bleeding heart plants that are not overcrowded in their containers. Overly crowded containers can lead to root entanglement and poor root development, which can hinder the plant’s establishment after transplanting.

Timing: When To Plant Bleeding Heart

The timing of planting bleeding heart is critical to ensure successful establishment and healthy growth. The best times to plant bleeding heart are in early spring or fall when the weather is cooler and more favorable for the plant’s acclimatization.

Spring Planting

Planting bleeding heart in early spring allows the plants to establish themselves before the onset of summer heat. Aim to plant before the new growth emerges, typically in late March or early April, depending on your local climate. Avoid planting late in spring when the weather turns warmer, as this can stress the plants during the establishment phase.

Fall Planting

Fall is an excellent time to plant bleeding heart, particularly in regions with mild winters. Planting in early fall, around September to October, allows the roots to establish before winter dormancy. However, avoid planting too late in fall, as this may not provide sufficient time for the roots to establish before the onset of winter.

Avoiding Extreme Temperatures

Regardless of the season, avoid planting bleeding heart during periods of extreme temperatures, such as during heatwaves or freezing conditions. Planting during milder weather reduces transplant shock and allows the plants to acclimate more effectively.

Planting bleeding heart requires thoughtful consideration of the location, soil preparation, plant selection, and timing. By providing the ideal growing conditions and proper care, you can enjoy the elegant beauty of bleeding heart flowers for many years to come. Whether you’re creating a woodland garden, shaded border, or adding a touch of classic charm to your landscape, the timeless allure of bleeding heart is sure to be a captivating addition to your garden.

Digging The Planting Hole

Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis), also known as lady’s locket or lyre flower, is a beautiful flowering perennial plant that adds elegance and charm to any garden. Its unique heart-shaped flowers, which hang from arching stems, come in shades of pink, white, and red. Bleeding heart plants thrive in cool, shady areas and bloom in spring or early summer.

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Before planting bleeding heart, it’s essential to prepare the soil and create an environment suitable for its growth. Here’s how to dig the planting hole:

  1. Choose an appropriate location: Bleeding heart prefers partial shade or filtered sunlight. Select a spot in your garden that receives morning sun and afternoon shade to provide the ideal growing conditions. Avoid planting it in areas exposed to full sun, as this can cause the plant to wilt.

  2. Prepare the soil: Bleeding heart thrives in moist, well-draining soil rich in organic matter. Start by removing any weeds or grass from the planting site. Loosen the soil using a garden fork or tiller to a depth of 12-15 inches (30-38 cm). This loosening will ensure root penetration and proper drainage.

  3. Add organic matter: To improve the soil’s fertility and moisture-retaining capabilities, mix in compost or well-rotted manure. Spread a layer of organic matter over the loosened soil and incorporate it thoroughly using a garden fork or tiller. Aim for about 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) of organic matter in the planting bed.

  4. Dig the planting hole: The size of the planting hole will depend on the size of the bleeding heart plant you’re planting. Typically, it should be twice as wide and equally deep as the plant’s root ball. Use a shovel to dig the hole and create a loose, crater-like shape.

Transplanting Or Direct Sowing Bleeding Heart

There are two common methods for establishing bleeding heart in your garden: transplanting potted plants or direct sowing seeds. Here’s a closer look at each method:

Transplanting Potted Plants

Transplanting potted bleeding heart plants is the fastest and easiest way to establish them in your garden. Follow these steps to successfully transplant bleeding heart:

  1. Choose healthy plants: Purchase healthy bleeding heart plants from a reputable nursery or garden center. Look for plants with well-developed roots and vibrant foliage. Avoid plants that show signs of pests or diseases.

  2. Timing: Spring and early fall are the best times to transplant bleeding heart. These seasons provide optimal conditions for root establishment and growth.

  3. Prepare the planting hole: As discussed earlier, dig the planting hole to the appropriate depth and width based on the size of the plant’s root ball.

  4. Remove the plant from the pot: Gently tap the sides of the pot to loosen the root ball. Carefully remove the plant from the pot, taking care not to damage the roots.

  5. Place the plant in the hole: Set the bleeding heart plant in the center of the prepared hole, ensuring that the crown (where the stems meet the roots) is level with the soil surface. Adjust the plant’s positioning if needed.

  6. Backfill the hole: Fill the hole with the loosened soil, patting it gently to remove any air pockets. Avoid burying the crown too deep, as this can lead to rotting.

  7. Water thoroughly: After planting, water the bleeding heart plant thoroughly to settle the soil and help the roots establish.

Direct Sowing Seeds

If you prefer starting bleeding heart from seeds, here’s how to sow them directly in your garden:

  1. Timing: Bleeding heart seeds should be sown in late summer or early fall, as they require a period of cold stratification to germinate successfully.

  2. Prepare the soil: Follow the same soil preparation steps mentioned earlier to ensure optimal growing conditions.

  3. Sow the seeds: Scatter the bleeding heart seeds over the prepared soil surface, aiming for a spacing of about 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) between each seed. Lightly press the seeds into the soil, ensuring good soil-to-seed contact.

  4. Mulch the area: Spread a thin layer of organic mulch over the seeded area to help retain moisture and protect the seeds from extreme temperatures.

  5. Water gently: Keep the seeded area evenly moist, providing light irrigation as needed. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to seed rot.

  6. Winter care: Once the seeds are sown, they will need a cold period to break their dormancy. Nature will provide this during winter. However, if you live in an area with mild winters, you can simulate the cold period by placing a container of seeds in the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks before sowing.

  7. Thinning and transplanting: Once the seeds germinate and grow several inches tall, you will need to thin them out by removing some seedlings to provide space for the remaining plants to grow. Transplant the thinned-out seedlings to other areas of the garden or share them with fellow gardening enthusiasts.

Proper Watering Techniques For Bleeding Heart

Watering is crucial for the successful growth and health of bleeding heart plants. Here are some essential watering tips to keep in mind:

  1. Moisture requirements: Bleeding heart plants prefer consistently moist soil. Avoid allowing the soil to dry out completely, as this can cause stress and affect the plant’s overall health.

  2. Frequent but gentle watering: Instead of drenching the plant in heavy volumes of water, it’s best to water bleeding heart regularly but in small amounts. This helps maintain the perfect moisture balance without creating waterlogged conditions.

  3. Watering schedule: Check the moisture level of the soil regularly, especially during hot and dry periods. Water the plant when the top inch of soil feels slightly dry to the touch. Aim for about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water per week, including rainfall.

  4. Watering methods: Utilize a gentle watering method such as a soaker hose or a drip irrigation system. These methods deliver water directly to the root zone, minimizing water loss through evaporation and promoting efficient absorption.

  5. Mulch to conserve moisture: Mulching around the bleeding heart plant helps retain moisture in the soil, reducing the frequency of watering. Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or shredded bark, around the plant, keeping it a few inches away from the stem.

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Mulching And Fertilization Tips

Mulching and fertilizing bleeding heart plants are crucial for their overall growth and longevity. Here are some tips to remember:

  1. Mulching benefits: Mulching provides numerous benefits to bleeding heart plants, including moisture retention, weed suppression, and temperature regulation. It also helps improve soil structure and fertility over time as the organic mulch breaks down.

  2. Mulch type: Opt for organic mulch, such as wood chips, shredded bark, or leaf compost. These materials gradually decompose, adding organic matter to the soil and improving its fertility.

  3. Mulching technique: Spread a layer of mulch around the bleeding heart plant, taking care to keep it a few inches away from the stem. Aim for a depth of 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) to provide adequate coverage.

  4. Fertilization requirements: Bleeding heart plants benefit from an application of balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring. Avoid using high-nitrogen fertilizers, as they can promote excessive foliage growth at the expense of flower production.

  5. Fertilizer application: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the appropriate amount and method of applying the fertilizer. Generally, sprinkle the fertilizer evenly around the plant and gently work it into the soil surface.

  6. Additional feeding: If your bleeding heart plant shows signs of nutrient deficiencies, such as pale foliage or stunted growth, you can supplement with a water-soluble fertilizer once a month during the growing season.

By following these step-by-step instructions, you can successfully plant bleeding heart and enjoy its unique beauty in your garden. Remember to choose a suitable location, prepare the soil properly, and provide adequate watering, mulching, and fertilization. Whether you choose to transplant potted bleeding heart or directly sow seeds, these tips will help you create an ideal environment for the plant to thrive. With its delicate heart-shaped flowers, the bleeding heart will surely become a focal point in your garden, adding grace and charm to your outdoor space.

Supporting And Staking The Plants

Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is a stunning flowering plant that adds elegance and charm to any garden. Known for its heart-shaped flowers in shades of pink and white, this herbaceous perennial is native to Asia and North America. Planting bleeding heart requires some careful consideration of its specific needs and preferences.

Before planting bleeding heart, it’s important to consider their natural growth habit and provide adequate support. Bleeding heart plants have delicate stems that can be prone to bending or breaking under the weight of their beautiful bloom clusters. By properly supporting and staking the plants, you can ensure their stability and prevent damage.

  1. Choose the right location: Bleeding heart plants prefer partial shade or filtered sunlight. Locate a suitable spot in your garden that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. This will provide the ideal growing conditions for these delicate flowers.

  2. Prepare the soil: Bleeding heart plants thrive in well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Before planting, amend the soil with compost or well-rotted manure to improve its fertility and drainage. This will create a favorable environment for the plants to establish and grow.

  3. Support structures: Install support structures like plant stakes or peony rings around the bleeding heart plants. These structures will help keep the stems upright and prevent them from bending or breaking. Place the supports around the plants before they reach their full height to avoid damaging the foliage or flowers.

  4. Tie the stems: As the bleeding heart plants grow, gently tie the stems to the support structures using soft garden twine or plant ties. Make sure the ties are not too tight to allow for natural movement, but secure enough to provide support and stability.

  5. Regular maintenance: Regularly check the plants and adjust the ties as needed to prevent any damage. This is especially important during heavy rain or when the plants are in full bloom. By providing consistent support, you can enjoy the full splendor of the bleeding heart flowers without worrying about the plants toppling over.

Pruning And Deadheading Bleeding Heart

Pruning and deadheading bleeding heart plants are essential tasks that help maintain their health, shape, and encourage continuous blooming. With proper pruning techniques, you can also control their size and prevent overcrowding in the garden. Here’s how to prune and deadhead bleeding heart plants effectively:

  1. Pruning after flowering: Once the bleeding heart plants have finished blooming, it’s time to give them a good pruning. Using clean and sharp pruning shears, carefully remove any spent flower stalks by cutting them back to the base of the plant. This will prevent seed production and encourage the plants to conserve energy for new growth.

  2. Trimming foliage: Bleeding heart plants have lush, fern-like foliage that may become tattered or brown during the growing season. To maintain the plant’s appearance, gently trim back any damaged or unsightly foliage. Be careful not to cut back the healthy leaves, as they are essential for photosynthesis and storing energy for future growth.

  3. Dividing overcrowded plants: Over time, bleeding heart plants can become crowded and form large clumps. If you notice overcrowding, it’s best to divide the plants to promote better airflow and prevent disease. Wait until early spring or fall when the plants are dormant. Carefully lift the clump, and using a sharp knife or garden shovel, divide it into smaller sections. Replant the divided sections in prepared soil, ensuring they have enough space to grow and thrive.

  4. Pruning back in fall: In late fall or early winter, after the bleeding heart plants have completed their growth cycle, it’s advisable to cut back the foliage to the ground. This clears the garden bed and prevents any potential disease or pest problems from overwintering. Remember to remove and dispose of the plant debris to maintain a clean and healthy garden environment.

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Common Pests And Diseases In Bleeding Heart Plants

While bleeding heart plants are relatively pest and disease-resistant, they can occasionally encounter some common issues. By being aware of these potential problems, you can take early preventive measures and protect your plants. Here are a few pests and diseases that may affect bleeding heart plants:

  1. Slugs and snails: These slimy pests can cause significant damage to bleeding heart plants. They chew through the leaves, leaving behind irregular holes and damage. To prevent slug and snail infestations, create a barrier around the plants using crushed eggshells or a layer of diatomaceous earth. You can also employ traps and baits specifically designed for these pests.

  2. Aphids: Aphids are tiny insects that cluster on the undersides of leaves, excreting a sticky substance called honeydew. This can lead to the growth of sooty mold and weaken the plant. Remove aphids by spraying a mixture of water and mild dish soap onto the affected areas. Ladybugs and other beneficial insects can also help control aphid populations in the garden.

  3. Powdery mildew: Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that appears as a white powdery coating on the leaves of bleeding heart plants. It thrives in humid and poor-air circulation environments. To prevent powdery mildew, ensure proper spacing between plants to promote airflow and avoid overhead watering. If detected, prune affected foliage and apply a fungicide according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

  4. Root rot: Bleeding heart plants are susceptible to root rot if the soil remains overly wet for extended periods. This can lead to the yellowing and wilting of leaves and eventual plant death. Ensure that the soil has good drainage and avoid overwatering the plants. Mulching around the base of the plants can also help retain moisture while preventing excessive water pooling.

Maintenance And Care Tips For A Healthy Bleeding Heart Garden

To maintain a healthy and flourishing bleeding heart garden, it’s important to provide the right care and attention throughout the growing season. By following these maintenance tips, you can ensure the long-term success and beauty of your bleeding heart plants:

  1. Watering: Bleeding heart plants require consistent moisture to thrive. During the growing season, water the plants regularly, particularly during dry periods. Aim to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Mulching around the plants helps retain moisture and prevents weed growth.

  2. Fertilization: Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring as the plants emerge. Follow the package instructions for the correct application rate. Over-fertilizing can lead to excessive foliage growth with fewer flowers, so it’s important to use the appropriate amount. Avoid fertilizing after mid-summer to prevent a late-season growth flush that may be susceptible to frost damage.

  3. Mulching: Mulching around bleeding heart plants has several benefits. It helps conserve soil moisture, suppresses weed growth, and insulates the roots during extreme weather conditions. Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or compost, around the base of the plants, taking care not to bury the crown. Maintain a mulch depth of 2-4 inches to ensure optimal results.

  4. Winter protection: In colder climates, bleeding heart plants may require some winter protection. After the foliage dies back naturally in late fall, cover the plants with a layer of protective mulch, such as straw or shredded leaves. This will help insulate the dormant plants and prevent frost damage. Remove the mulch in early spring as the new growth emerges.

  5. Regular inspection: Regularly inspect your bleeding heart plants for signs of pests, diseases, or nutritional deficiencies. Early detection allows for prompt intervention and prevents problems from escalating. Promptly remove any affected foliage or plant parts and take necessary steps to control pests or diseases.


Planting bleeding heart in your garden can bring a touch of beauty and elegance to your outdoor space. By providing proper support, staking, pruning, and regular maintenance, you can ensure the health and vitality of these delicate flowering perennials. Remember to monitor for common pests and diseases and take appropriate measures to protect your plants. With proper care, your bleeding heart garden will reward you with stunning displays of its heart-shaped blooms year after year.


What Is The Best Time To Plant Bleeding Heart?

Bleeding heart plants should be planted in the early spring, after the last frost has passed. This provides enough time for the plants to establish their root system before the hot summer months.

How Much Sun Does Bleeding Heart Need?

Bleeding heart plants prefer partial to full shade. Too much sun can cause the foliage to wilt and burn while too little sun can result in sparse blooming.

What Type Of Soil Is Best For Bleeding Heart?

Bleeding heart plants thrive in rich, moist, and well-draining soil. Adding organic matter, such as compost, can help improve the soil structure and provide necessary nutrients for the plant.

How Do I Plant Bleeding Heart?

Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the plant’s root ball. Place the plant in the hole, making sure the crown (where the stems meet the root) is at ground level. Backfill the hole with soil and gently press down. Water thoroughly after planting.

How Often Should I Water Bleeding Heart?

Bleeding heart plants require consistent moisture, but avoid overwatering as it can lead to root rot. Water deeply once a week, or more frequently during hot and dry periods. Mulching can help retain moisture in the soil.