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How to Divide Bleeding Heart Plants

By Bobbi Keffer ; Updated September 21, 2017

Dicentra--known as bleeding heart because of its chain of heart-shaped blooms that look like they're dripping--has been a favorite perennial for generations. With only a short blooming time in early summer, bleeding hearts grow in a bush shape and the whole plant dies off soon after bloom. It's fern-like spring foliage gives nice texture to a perennial shade garden. Bleeding hearts grow best in well-draining most to all shady soil in zones 3-9. For best growing results, divide bleeding hearts after 3-5 years.

Dig your bleeding heart plant in late summer to early fall before the plant's foliage begins to wane. Dig about 6 inches around the base of the plant, loosening it in place.

Cut down through the center of the root ball with a straight-edged spade. A large plant that hasn't been divided in years may yield four nice-sized root divisions, but be sure that you are not cutting the roots too small.

Work compost or peat moss into the area where you plan to transplant your bleeding heart. Dicentra grows best in acidic, rich soil. Once established, bleeding hearts are virtually maintenance-free.

Plant new root balls in mostly shady sections in a hole at least 6 inches deep. Water regularly.


Things You Will Need

  • Flat-edged spade
  • Compost or fertilizer


  • Trim foliage, if desired, before dividing for easier management.
  • Water proficiently for a couple of days before dividing to ensure that your plant has stored enough nutrients for the move.
  • Plant new plants at least 2-3 feet apart.
  • Bleeding hearts can also be grown easily from seed.


  • Do not allow bleeding heart plants to go too dry. Water on a regular schedule.
  • Transplant root balls immediately. Bleeding heart does not survive long outside of the ground.

About the Author


Bobbi Keffer attended Kent State University to study education but soon found her true love to be in the garden. She prides herself on her frugal skills reusing, recycling and reinventing her whimsical style in her home and garden.