Despite their beauty, bleeding heart plants aren’t that popular in flower gardens. Their bloom is short-lived, and it seems like their list of requirements is endless and too difficult to manage.
Because of this, a lot of people simply don’t want to bother themselves with this plant – too much effort for too little. But is it really all doom and gloom?
Bleeding hearts are, above all, straightforward plants. Provide the right amount of water and sunlight, and they’ll thrive in your garden.
What is the right amount, though? We’re about to find out.
1. Bleeding Heart Doesn’t Like Sunlight
This is crucial to keep in mind when you’re planting your bleeding heart. You should plant it in partial shade, as the plant goes dormant during the summer because of intense heat.
Obviously, if the temperatures rise, the plant is going to become dormant even if it’s located in a shady area, but the blooming period will last significantly longer if the plant has some shade protection.
If possible, plant your bleeding heart in full shade – they do well with no sunlight at all and you’ll extend the plant’s blooming period by a noticeable margin.
If you live up north and the temperatures are cool (particularly in hardiness zone 3), you can plant your bleeding heart in the sun or at least partial sun.
Although bleeding hearts are usually in danger of being sunburned and dehydrated, in cooler climates, there’s a possibility of being cold.
2. Watering Has To Be Perfectly Balanced
When we’re talking about bleeding heart plant care, watering is just as important as the amount of sunlight it gets. This plant is prone to dehydration, and it doesn’t tolerate dry soil well.
When it inevitably goes dormant, its roots will remain active and absorb nutrients from the soil – it’s important to keep watering it during this time.
Unfortunately, you can’t just pour a hectoliter of water once a week and call it a day because these plants are also prone to root rot. Root rot occurs when the plant sits in waterlogged soil.
Therefore, the watering of a bleeding heart must be perfectly balanced – not too much, not too little.
The best way to water it is by waiting for the topsoil to dry out. Once it’s dry, you can water the plant generously. Wait for the topsoil to dry out again before watering.
The exact time frame between watering depends on the temperatures in your area, but unless you’re going through a very wet or very dry season, you will need to water your bleeding heart once a week.
3. Fertilize Your Bleeding Heart In The Spring
While bleeding hearts don’t need a lot of fertilizer, they definitely benefit from good feeding in the spring. This will fill the plant up with the most important nutrients, which will be important come the bloom period.
The right time to fertilize your bleeding heart is when the foliage starts growing in the spring.
The best thing you can do is cover the base of the bleeding heart with a thick layer of mulch after fertilizing. As time passes, the mulch will start to break down and supply additional nutrients to the plant.
Given that mulch breaks down at a much slower rate than fertilizer, it will provide nutrients in smaller doses over time.
Mulching is, overall, a great thing for bleeding heart plant care. Not only because of the nutritional value it provides, but it also helps with water retention.
The chances of dehydration or root rot happening are lower if your plant is protected with a good layer of mulch.
4. Prune Your Bleeding Heart When The Leaves Turn Brown
Bleeding hearts don’t need much pruning and nothing bad will happen if you don’t prune your bleeding heart plant, but the brown leaves aren’t a nice sight. That’s basically the only reason you should prune this plant – it ruins the outlook of your garden.
Once the leaves turn brown, they’re no good to the plant anymore as they can’t absorb energy anymore. Feel free to cut them to keep your plant clean.
If you want to deadhead the flowers, which will also be useless by the end of the summer, do it when you’re pruning the leaves. Remember, though, that the flowers contain seeds – if you want to plant another bleeding heart, you’ll need these seeds.
5. Help Your Bleeding Heart Survive The Winter
Just like most plants, bleeding hearts become dormant in the winter and the only part of the plant that’s active is the roots. Therefore, you should help your roots out during the colder months of the year.
It’s highly unlikely that your bleeding heart will die during the winter, but extremely cold winters can kill the plant.
To prepare your roots for the winter, keep watering your plant regularly until frost starts to appear. The roots need to absorb as many nutrients from the soil as possible at this point.
The second thing you should do is apply a thick layer of mulch on the base. During the winter, mulch acts as an insulative layer and it will lower the chance of your roots suffering frost damage.
If the ground is covered by snow, that snow will also act as insulation and it will keep your roots from being too cold.
6. Don’t Use Soap-Based Products For Pests
If you’re worried about pests and diseases as part of your bleeding heart plant care, you’ll be happy to know that these plants are not prone to many illnesses.
There are, however, some pests that like all plants (more or less), and if found in your garden, they might invade your bleeding heart. Snails, slugs, aphids, and some species of fungus could be the likely culprits.
If this happens, you’ll obviously want to treat your bleeding heart with a pesticide as that’s the quickest way to get rid of them.
When you’re buying a pesticide, make sure it’s not a soap-based pesticide, as bleeding hearts have a reaction to soap-based solutions. It should say ‘soap-based’ on the label, and you can always ask the people at the store for more information if it doesn’t.
Also, if you want to treat your bleeding heart with home remedies, make sure not to add soap or dishwashing detergent to any of your solutions.
Know that this plant’s leaves will naturally turn yellow as summer draws to a close – this isn’t an indicator of a disease.
7. Keep Pets Away From This Plant
Many people don’t know this, but the bleeding heart plant is toxic! They contain alkaloids that can cause a skin reaction in some people just by touching the plant.
Even more aggressively, they can cause serious mouth and throat pain, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested. This usually happens to pets (and sometimes kids), as adults usually don’t try to eat flowers.
If ingested in large quantities (this depends on the weight of the person or animal), bleeding hearts can cause neurological health issues such as tremors.
There was once even a case of poisoning in Korea when a chef mistakenly added the leaves of the bleeding heart plant to a meal. Four people had the meal, and three of them developed dry mouth, lethargy, and dizziness. The fourth patient, who had eaten the most, was hospitalized for almost two days.
He was extremely confused, unable to comprehend or follow commands from the doctors. It’s suspected that the plant has narcotic effects if ingested in large enough quantities.
8. Know When And Where To Plant
You can plant your bleeding heart from seed or by division from an already established plant. Either way, you should plant it in the fall – the seeds will survive the winter and they’ll germinate in the spring.
The best spot to plant it in, as we explained before, depends on the temperature.
If your area gets moderately warm weather throughout the winter, plant it in partial or full shade. If you see very high temperatures every year, it’d be best to plant it in complete shade.
However, if you live in a relatively cold area, it’d be best to plant it in full sun.
Planting from seeds is easy – after choosing a spot, dig a small hole (no more than 1.5–2 inches), plant the seeds, and water them thoroughly. Keep watering until the winter. A plant will emerge in the spring.
If you’re planting your bleeding heart by division, the entire plant should be beneath the soil level. The shoots from which the plant will grow should end just underneath the topsoil.
9. Know Which Plants Should Surround The Bleeding Heart
Since the foliage of the bleeding heart starts to die so soon, it’s best to combine it with plants that will mask that dying foliage with their own foliage and flowers.
Geraniums, astilbes, and hostas all pair well with bleeding hearts.
See? Bleeding Hearts Aren’t Hard To Care For
Bleeding hearts aren’t that difficult to care for, but they have very specific requirements. Too much sun will dehydrate them, so if you live in zones 7, 8, or 9, you’ll have to plant them in full shade. Zones 5 and 6 should opt for partial shade, while 4 and 3 can even plant bleeding hearts in full sun.
Aside from that, the most important thing to keep an eye on is the amount of water your bleeding heart gets. They need to be watered regularly, but they don’t like soggy soil.
Fertilize your plant once a year, get rid of dying leaves and flowers in the summer, and remove pests if they ever appear.
That’s all there is to bleeding heart plant care!