Life Cycle of the Bleeding Heart Plant


The bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) enjoys cool, moist soil with partial to full shade. The plant does not grow well in flooded wintertime areas. It also cannot tolerate bouts of hot, summertime drought. The plant produces unique heart-shaped flowers in shades of pink and white, yellow or pure white. Highly deer resistant, the bleeding heart does well in a woodland garden setting. An excellent cut flower, the blooms often last up to two weeks when placed in water.

Springtime Flowers

In March, the foliage of the plant begins to appear in a mounding, fern-like habit that measures between 6 inches to 2 feet in height depending on the perennial's age and also its variety. The foliage appears heavily lobed in a shade of powdery-green. Once foliage appears, delicate flower stem arches grow. Flowering takes place from May to June.


The flowers of the bleeding heart grow in racemes along the arching stem. They appear single file. Most are shades of pink or red with a simple drop of white. Pure white and pure yellow flower varieties are also available.

Summer Dormancy

During the height of summer the bleeding heart begins to go into a state of dormancy. The foliage will begin to yellow and die back. When August arrives the plant has usually died completely back to the ground level with no remaining foliage.


The fragile, small rhizomes of the bleeding heart begin to store nutrients for the long winter months. When the fall months arrive and the soil temperature drops from the cool nights, the rhizomes develop crown buds within the soil's depth. The crown buds will form the foliage and flower stems the following summer. The small buds pop out on the rhizome as small bumps.

Winter Months

The root system of the bleeding heart requires a cold winter dormancy to ensure the following year's plant growth. During winter the plant enters a complete state of dormancy and all growth stops. The rhizomes await the warming conditions of spring before breaking dormancy and growing again. Most bleeding heart plants will grow well for three to four years before the rhizome-based root system requires dividing so the plant does not become leggy.

Keywords: bleeding heart life, bleeding heart plant, Dicentra spectabilis

About this Author

Kimberly Sharpe is a freelance writer with a diverse background. She has worked as a Web writer for the past four years. She writes extensively for Associated Content where she is both a featured home improvement contributor (with special emphasis on gardening) and a parenting contributor. She also writes for Helium. She has worked professionally in the animal care and gardening fields.