Bleeding heart, or burning heart, is a shade-loving perennial native to woodlands. The flowers resemble tiny white or red hearts with drops of blood at the bottom. They help naturalize areas around rocks and are a nice addition to a cut-flower garden. Bleeding hearts also add a touch of color to dark, shady areas.
Depending on variety, bleeding heart can grow to 10 to 30 inches tall. Dicentra eximia (fringed bleeding heart) is more compact at 10 to 18 inches. Dicentra spectabilis is suited to larger spaces, with a range of 12 to 30 inches. Bleeding heart grows in rounded clumps, making propagation easy. Gently divide in spring.
Bleeding heart flourishes in full to partial shade. Prefers rich, organic soil that is moist and well-drained. Mulch after planting to help plants become established through winter. Bleeding heart grows best in USDA zones 4 to 8. It may do well in zones 3 and 9 if given proper temperatures and water.
Bleeding heart blooms during late spring to early summer. It goes dormant in the summer and dies back to the ground.
Natural Pest Control
Bleeding heart is susceptible to aphids and stem rot. Aphids are a favorite food of lacewings and ladybugs. Ladybugs can be purchased at some nurseries, or online if no local source is available. Consider planting flowers such as Queen Anne's lace, tansy and yarrow nearby to attract ladybugs and other aphid-eating insects.
Stem rot is caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. The fungus can remain dormant in the soil for years. It attacks the base of the plant and moves rapidly up the stem. Plants affected with stem rot should be destroyed. The best way to avoid stem rot is to plant in well-drained soil and do not allow bleeding heart to stand in water.
Bleeding heart is deer-resistant, so consider it if you live in an area where deer are a problem.
All parts of the bleeding heart plant are poisonous and should be kept away from small children and pets. After handling bleeding heart, wash hands thoroughly before touching mouth or eyes.