Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart

By Josie Borlongan, Garden Guides Contributor

About Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding heart, also known as Venus's car or lyre flower, is a perennial herbaceous plant native to eastern Asia from Siberia south to Japan. It is a shade-loving perennial that can be an excellent addition to any garden. The name bleeding heart describes the unique tiny pink or white heart shaped flowers with inner petals that when they protrude are likened to a blood droplets. The flowers come in red, pink or white in color. The raceme can bear from up to three to 15 individual flowers, each one 2 to 3 cm long.

A bleeding heart has a palmately-compound leaf. Bleeding hearts flower from early spring to mid summer.

Site Preparation

Bleeding hearts grow on different soils from average, medium wet, well-drained, organically rich soil. Bleeding hearts need partial to full shade. All weeds should be cleared from the site before planting.

To improve the soil structure, add well-rotted organic matter such as manure and compost; this not only increases the water retention of light, free-draining soils and helps to open up the texture of heavy clay soils but also improves the soil's fertility.

A few weeks before planting, apply a 2 to 4 inch (5 to 10 cm) layer of well-rotted organic matter over the site, then fork or till it into the top spit of soil. Allow the soil to settle before planting.

Special Features

The flowers are pendulous and heart-shaped. Bleeding hearts are air and insect pollinated.

Choosing a Variety

Some of the preferred varieties are: Adrian Bloom (with crimson-red flowers); Alba (with white flowers); Bountiful (with deep pink flowers); Luxuriant (with cherry-red flowers); Snow Drift (with white flowers) and Pantaloons (with white flowers).


Bleeding hearts can be planted from seeds, divided roots or from young shoots that start from the soil. Space at least 2 feet apart for best growth if planted in rows, 3 feet for space rows. The pH of soil should be maintained in the range of 6.0 to 7.5 and must be fed lightly, using 5-10-5 commercial fertilizer. Bleeding hearts take two years to mature and can grow to an average of 2 to 3 feet long.

They can be grown in pots or on the ground using soil with well-rotted manure or compost, applying top dressing yearly.


Bleeding hearts can be divided in the spring. Handle the plant delicates as roots can break easily because they are brittle. Mulch plants for the first winter so they will become established.

Bleeding hearts are prone to aphids, slugs and snails that can damage the leaves. Stem rot can also be a problem.

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