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What is a Bleeding Heart?

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  • Written By: L. Hepfer
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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A bleeding heart, also known as dicentra spectabilis is an herbaceous perennial plant that is native to Japan, sometimes known as Dutchman's trousers. They are called herbaceous plants because they have a non-wood stem. A bleeding heart grows and blooms every year once it has been planted. It takes two years to mature and can grow to reach a height of 4 feet (1.22 meters).

This plant spreads out like a shrub with foliage that is fern-like. The foliage is a soft green color with flowers stemming down the foliage in an arch-like pattern. While the flowers can come in a small variety of colors, the most common is a pink flower with white on the inside. The bottom of the heart-shaped flower has a tip which makes it look like it is bleeding, thus giving it its name.

A bleeding heart thrives in rich soil combined with humus and grows extremely well in partial to full shade. Growing a bleeding heart in full sun can make it hard for the plant to survive, causing the foliage to yellow and not bloom as many flowers. The plant is very delicate and the stems can break off easily. This flowering perennial blooms from May through August every year. At the end of the season, the flowers die off leaving behind the foliage, which dies down during the fall season.

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Each year the bleeding heart comes up, it grows larger and fuller with more flowers. Once the plant becomes too large, it can be divided by digging the plant up and gently pulling the roots apart. The roots are very brittle and need handled with extra care. Any dividing and replanting should be done in the springtime before the plant begins to grow.

Caring for a bleeding heart is very simple. Other than good well-drained soil mixed with humus, the plant needs the soil kept clean to avoid the stem from rotting. It is very rare for the bleeding heart to have any disease or insect problems.

Bleeding hearts work great when planted as a border, but they can also be planted alone. They work great in shade gardens with other plants. Surrounding them with other perennial plants can help fill in the vacant space the plant leaves once the flowers have died back. At the end of the season, the plant is cut back to the ground and left alone through the winter. It will then start a new cycle again the following year.

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