If you have any area of your property that is anywhere from lightly to mostly shaded, and you are dying to plant something other than hostas there, consider bleeding hearts. Bleeding hearts bloom in white, pink, or red, and their blooms look like heart-shaped lockets strung along its graceful, arching branches. Even the foliage is pretty, being dark green and deeply lobed. The plants themselves reach about three feet tall and wide at their largest. Bleeding hearts typically bloom in late spring or early summer, but under the right conditions, yours may bloom sporadically until frost.
The perfect conditions for a bleeding heart are part shade and moist, well-drained, rich soil. If they are allowed to get dry in summer, the plant will go dormant and will die back. Don’t worry, though, if this happens. It will come back in the spring. However, if you keep the soil evenly moist, and, even better, apply a layer of mulch to retain moisture and cool the roots, the bleeding heart will stay attractive all summer. Of course, we can’t account for drought or summer vacations, so I would recommend planting the bleeding heart in with ferns and hostas so that even if it does die back, it doesn’t leave a big hole in your landscape.
Bleeding hearts are relatively easy to care for. As noted above, the most important thing is keeping them moist if you want them to stick around. Give them a dose of a balanced granular fertilizer after they bloom. They should also be deadheaded after the blooms fade. Bleeding hearts rarely need to be divided, but when you do divide, it should be done after it finishes blooming in late spring or early summer. Be careful, though, because the roots of bleeding hearts are quite brittle. Bleeding hearts are also fairly easy to start from seed. Seed should be started in early fall for planting the following spring. The best thing to do is to start the seed in a cold frame, as bleeding hearts prefer to be stratified at 41 degrees or less for at least six weeks. If you start the seed in fall in the cold frame, and leave them in there all winter (being sure to check to make sure they haven’t completely dried out) they will be ready to plant into the garden in the spring. Of course, by far the easiest thing to do is let Mother Nature do the work. Bleeding Heart readily self sows in the garden. Simply dig up the little volunteers and place them where you want them.
With its delicate blooms, pretty foliage, and shade tolerance, Bleeding Hearts deserve a spot in almost any landscape.