Lamprocapnos spectabilis (syn. Dicentra spectabilis) is a peculiar-looking, but absolutely spectacular species of flowering plants in the Papaveraceae family. This spring-blooming flower goes by various common names, such as Bleeding Heart, Locks and Keys, Dutchman’s Breeches, Seal Flower, Asian Bleeding-heart, or Common Bleeding Heart. It originates from several regions of Asia including northern China, Japan, Korea, and Siberia.
The Bleeding Heart species alone makes for a wonderful ornamental plant in both outdoor and indoor settings. But the greatest thing is that this plant comes with several graceful varieties to choose from. Some of the most popular cultivars are ‘Alba’, ‘Gold Heart’, ‘Valentine’, and ‘White Gold’.
About Bleeding Heart
- Thanks to their natural charm, Bleeding Heart and both ‘Alba’ and ‘Valentine’ varieties are all recipients of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society.
- Bleeding heart plants are an important food source for the larvae of some species of butterflies, aphids, and snails. Moreover, ants usually tend to collect and scatter their seeds, spreading these plants in more areas.
- They have adorable, heart-shaped blossoms adorned with small, drop-like hanging parts. This particular feature gives them their most common name ”Bleeding Hearts”.
- These fabulous flowers are excellent additions to landscape decorations like woodland gardens and shaded borders. They are great specimens for containers and also as fresh cut flowers in bouquets because they can last for about two weeks in a vase.
- Bleeding hearts will look at their best if you plant them near other attractive species of plants. The most common companions include Astilbe, Azalea, Columbine, Daffodil, Fern, Lady’s Mantle, Hosta, Rhododendron, Siberian Bugloss, Anemone, Solomon’s Seal, Tulip, and Forget-Me-Not.
- Bleeding hearts are toxic to humans and animals. Touching them can cause skin irritation due to their concentration of alkaloids. For safety purposes, keep these plants in a place where your curious kids or furry friends will not reach them.
Bleeding Heart Features: An Overview
- These plants belong to the Lamprocapnos genus that includes 10 scientific plant names. However, L. spectabilis is the only accepted species in this genus.
- Bleeding hearts are herbaceous perennial plants. Depending on the cultivar, they can reach from 6 to 47 inches (15-120 cm) in height and up to 36 inches (90 cm) in width.
- Their foliage consists of divided soft green leaves that grow on long, fleshy, green to pink stems. It provides interest when the plants go dormant, usually in the summer.
- Bleeding hearts usually bloom in late spring to early summer for 4 to 6 weeks. During this period, they exhibit lockets of colourful flowers on long, arching, woody, and brownish stems.
- The blossoms of the L. spectabilis species come with fuchsia-pink outer petals and white inner ones. The varieties of this species can also produce white or red-tinted flowers. They resemble the shape of a heart with a little droplet beneath.
Growing Bleeding Heart
In their native habitat, Bleeding Hearts grow under the protection of other tall plants or trees. Because of this, they will show the best results in partial shade to full shade all year round. If you live in a region with cooler climates, your plants will require six to eight hours of sunlight. However, overheating them will cause these plants to produce fewer flowers than usual. In areas with harsh summer months, you can place them near a deciduous tree for best light exposure.
In general, Bleeding Hearts are frost-hardy in the USDA zones 2 to 9. These flowers are pretty sensitive to heat and they prefer temperatures on the cooler side. Their ideal growing temperatures range from 55 to 75 °F (13-24 °C). Still, you will have to protect your plants from strong winds because their blossoms are very delicate. Humidity-wise, they will grow just fine in a wide range of conditions.
While Bleeding Hearts are super easy to grow and care for, they can fall prey to various pests and diseases. But you don’t have to worry! The most common intruders that may bother your plants are not very harmful – aphids, slugs, snails, and scale insects. If you notice any suspect sign on your plants, you must first handpick the pests carefully. After this process, apply an insecticidal soap spray or neem oil on the foliage weekly until your plants look healthy again.
In terms of diseases, powdery mildew, leaf spot, or grey mould may bother your Bleeding Hearts once in a while. Especially if you are not growing them in proper environmental conditions. You can treat your flowers by removing all the infected parts, then provide them with suitable fungicides to prevent any future problems.
Planting Bleeding Heart
Bleeding Hearts will have a much easier and better start if you plant them in spring. As a general rule, these plants go dormant once the mid-summer heat shows its presence. If you live in a warmer area, your plants will settle in their new home properly only if you plant them in early spring, once the soil feels warm to the touch.
Although Bleeding Hearts prefer slightly acidic soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5, they can also do well in substrates with a neutral pH. The soil pH is not actually that important for these flowers to thrive. If you want to give your plants the time of their life, plant them in hummus-rich soil that comes with lots of organic matter and excellent drainage. In case of poor soil, you can spread a 2-3-inch (7.5 cm) layer of compost or well-rotted manure when planting.
Fertilizing Bleeding Hearts will directly depend on the quality of your soil. If you have rich soil and you amend it with organic matter yearly, supplemental fertilizing is not an option. For plants grown in poor soil, however, fertilizers will be more than a helping hand. Feed your plants with a balanced, slow-release, and granular fertilizer once every year in spring.
Since Bleeding Hearts will grow and bloom again over the next year without any extra help, you will not have to prune or deadhead them regularly. Still, if your plants tend to become leggy or ragged-looking, you can shear them back to the basal growth to give them a fresh, new start. Likewise, you can trim back their foliage in autumn if it begins to look unattractive.
Watering Bleeding Heart
Even if Bleeding Hearts are typically more tolerant of drought than other woodland species, we recommend you provide them with moist, but not wet conditions. As a general rule, these plants should not be exposed to soggy soil or waterlogging. However, they will grow and bloom at their best only if you maintain their soil constantly damp.
If you are afraid of over-watering your Bleeding Heart plants, it is wise to check their soil first in-between waterings. Make sure you spoil your flowers with drinks only when the top 3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm) of soil has dried out completely. Throughout the summer months, especially on days with warm weather, it is best to keep your plants well-watered.
Propagating Bleeding Heart
Although you can usually acquire Bleeding Hearts from nurseries or markets, this doesn’t mean that you cannot start your own mini plant factory at home! If you want more of these gorgeous flowers around, you can easily propagate them through seeds, division, or stem cuttings. And, once you will see how simple these methods are, you will surely want to share some of your fresh specimens with your family members and friends!
In general, Bleeding Hearts tend to self-seed in the garden and spread without your help. However, you can always collect these seeds once their blooming period has ended, usually in summer. After this process, sow the seeds in a container filled with fresh soil, put the pot in a plastic bag, then place it in the refrigerator for six to eight weeks. When this period has passed, you can move the pot in a warm, well-lit area and water the seeds regularly to maintain the soil damp. With proper care, germination will occur in several months or so.
If you want to propagate Bleeding Hearts using division, make sure your plants are mature and established. First things first, dig the root clumps out of the soil once the flowering time is over. In the next step, you must divide the roots into 2-3 sections, then replant them in their permanent locations. Water the tiny plants right after planting to help them settle in their new environment.
Cuttings are also a great propagation material and require no prior experience in the gardening world. All you have to do is spot some healthy stems and cut about 3 inches (7.5 cm) of them using a sterilized knife. Once you have the cuttings, plant them in fresh soil and water regularly to keep their cut ends constantly moist. Typically, they will develop a strong root system in three months or so.
These cute and low-demanding companions are, without a doubt, a must-have in every spring-blooming collection! Bleeding hearts will not only spruce up your surroundings with their infinite beauty but also fill your heart with lots of love. And thanks to our beloved propagation technique, you will have them around for a very long time!
Are you growing Bleeding Hearts? Share your experience in the comments below!