Why You Should Grow Beautiful Bleeding Heart Plants

Bleeding Heart plants are not only beautiful, they are easy to grow, and take minimal maintenance. The graceful blooms look like tiny little hearts hanging from a string!

bleeding heart plants with pink blooms

Bleeding heart plants are the quintessential, old fashioned addition to your perennial garden. They date back to the early 1800’s, when they began appearing in shade gardens and wooded areas here in the U.S. Bleeding hearts bloom in the very early spring, they have lovely bright green leaves and heart-shaped flowers, and they are such a welcome sight after a cold winter.

bed of bleeding heart plants by house

As some of you may know, we lived in a 1960’s colonial style home. (We moved in the fall of 2021.) Along the side of our garage was a narrow walkway that led into our backyard. In between the house and the walkway, was a 2-foot wide garden bed. I planted hosta in the first section of the bed many years ago. The second section, which sits right outside our screened-in back porch, measured about 5′ x 2′. It was a shaded border, so it stayed dark and moist most of the summer. I could, of course, have planted hosta there too, but I wanted something different. So over the years, I tried to grow many things in that little spot. Nothing thrived until I tried bleeding heart plants.

So a few years before we moved, I picked up two bedraggled bleeding heart plants at the end of the summer. I dug up that little bed, added some compost, popped in the bleeding hearts, and hoped for the best. The very next spring, they were full and green, but there were only a couple of blooms. The second spring, which was 2020, they doubled in size, and the blooms were amazing.

In the spring 2021, they were once again big, beautiful, and blooming. If you have any shaded areas in your garden, or around your home, I encourage to plant this gorgeous flowering perennial!

pink bleeding heart plants

How to Grow Bleeding Heart Plants

  • Growing bleeding hearts is easy. Plant in the spring, but wait until the soil has warmed a bit, and there is no possibility of a hard frost. Try to find bedding plants that look healthy…although mine were the opposite, and they did just fine! Bleeding Hearts can also be started from bulbs, or bare-root plants.
  • They love full shade, but will be fine in partial shade. They also love soil full of moisture.
  • Bleeding hearts like rich soil, so if your soil is old and dry, add some compost.
  • Water well the first year, apply a thick layer of mulch, and then bleeding heart plants basically take care of themselves.
  • Bleeding heart plants are finished blooming by late spring, the foliage turn yellow, and the plant dies down. In early summer you can cut them back.
  • It works well to mix bleeding hearts in with other shade-loving perennials that have a later bloom time. That way when they die down, you don’t have an empty spot.
  • There is no need to split or move this plant. Once established, each clump likes to stay put!
arrangement of pink flowers in pitcher

Good Things About Bleeding Hearts

  • Feel free to add this beautiful plant to your garden even if you have issues with deer and rabbits. The deer and rabbits don’t like them. Pests don’t like them much either!
  • Bleeding hearts love the shade, so they pair beautifully with hostas, lungwort, astilbe, or ferns.
  • Bleeding heart plants bloom in the very early spring, so they are among the first blooms you can cut and bring indoors. Cut the stems as low as possible, place them in a tall pitcher, and enjoy a stunning flower arrangement for up to a week.
  • Like many old fashioned flowers, bleeding heart plants are known for their symbolization. The traditional plants with red and pink flowers symbolize romance and love. Plants with white flowers (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’) represent purity.
  • My plants are Dicentra spectabilis ‘Lady’s Locket’ and they have dark pink hearts that hang gracefully from an arching stem.
graceful blooms on bleeding heart plants

More Cultivars

  • Dicentra eximia ‘Fringed Bleeding Heart’
  • Dicentra cucullaria ‘Dutchman’s Breeches’
  • Dicentra formosa ‘Pacific Bleeding Heart’
  • Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’

Word of Warning

Bleeding hearts are not safe for dogs or cats. They are toxic, and if consumed by a small pet, there will be vomiting and even convulsions. It’s very rare, but sometimes after handling, this plant will cause a light rash on human skin. I’ve handled my bleeding hearts many times, without gloves, and never had any adverse side effects. To be on the safe side, just make sure to keep pets and small children away.

Frequently Asked Questions

In what USDA zones can you grow bleeding hearts?

Bleeding hearts thrive in zones 3 – 9.

Can you dry and press a bleeding heart plant?

Just place the petals in between two pieces of wax paper, and put something heavy on top. It also works to place the pieces of wax paper in the middle of a large book. After two weeks, the blooms will be thin, perfectly pressed little hearts.

Can bleeding hearts grow in pots?

Yes…they do very well in containers. Make sure they start out with fresh, fertilized potting soil.

pink bleeding hearts in tall pitcher
from 2020

So what do you think? Do you have a spot where you could plant some old-fashioned bleeding hearts? Let me know in the comments…and thank you so much for stopping by. Until next time…

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  1. I lived in Maryland and had beautiful bleeding heart plants.Now, living in South Florida, I don’t think they will work. Your post brought back wonderful memories!

  2. Hi Ann,
    I too have bleeding hearts in the garden on the north side of our house. I started with one pink and one white, pink has now taken over and white plant now blooms pink. Had that happen with Iris as well. Anyway, I have never split them, but they will seed new plants. What started as two is now six with no help from anyone other than mother nature. Thanks for sharing the post!

  3. I remember as a little girl, going to my grandma’s house and seeing Bleeding Hearts growing there. I loved them! I planted 2 “bedraggled” plants last fall. They are growing nicely with welcome blooms this spring. I never thought to cut them to enjoy inside. Thank you for that tidbit. I’m having a couple friends over for dinner tomorrow and hope to have a few in a vase for everyone to enjoy!

  4. Hi Kathy
    I live in north central Maryland (Zone 7 I think) and last year, we built a new shade garden and relocated all of our plants to the new garden as we plan to re-do our deck. My bleeding hearts were large and had spread. We split them up and planted them in the new garden along with transplanted plants from my mother-in-laws garden. They all look beautiful this year. Good luck!

    1. I’m glad to hear you had good luck transplanting bleeding hearts. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Hi,
    I totally agree with you about the Bleeding Heart plants. I have white plants that I have had for years and they really spread. After my Mother-in-law passed in 2019, I dug up some of her plants before we put the house on the market. She had pink bleeding hearts, which my mom had in her garden when I was growing up. I have added them to my shade garden and they have done beautifully. The pink plants and white plants mixed are real showstoppers in the spring. Thanks for this post because I think they are a plant that is not well known.
    Have a good week! :-)

  6. Our yard is heavily wooded , almost all shade and we live in a cool climate on the coast so I have difficulty finding many colorful plants that will grow and bloom. Hostas do no thrive but ferns grow like mad. I am going to try bleeding heart IF I can find them locally.

  7. Beautiful. Trying to think of a shady place in my garden.
    Also, I baked your box cake. The buttermilk and extra egg made a delicious moist cake. Thanks, Lucy

  8. Donna Benton says:

    My bleeding heart started off pink but has now turned white. Can I do anything to change it back to pink??

  9. I agree that it is delightful to see the beautiful blooms as signs of spring. I have successfully separated one of my large plants after it has finished flowering.

  10. Your bleeding hearts are lovely! I adore these, too. Ours are getting taller every day and their cute little blooms are about ready to pop open. It seems as though they emerge with both their foliage and blossoms simultaneously. I had purchased two (2) two gallon pots for five dollars about ten years ago and they have thrived. I don’t think they were a prized hybrid, but they bring a lot of cheer. As another reader noted, they do self sow. It can be a bonus, but the new volunteers might have to be relocated to a spot where you want them. We live in northern New Jersey (zone 6) and the deer and rabbits here don’t care for them either!

    Love the idea for pressing the flowers. I’ll have to give that a try this year.

  11. I’m adding this to my plant list. I’m in Houston so hopefully it can withstand the hot humid summer.

  12. I live in MT and it is hard to grow many plants because of the very frigid winters, but I did plant a bleeding heart many, many years ago and every year it doesn’t disappoint. It has just started peaking out of the ground and I can’t wait to see another year of pink hearts.

  13. Thank you for the reminder of these wonderful plants! I love them. My mother had some beside our side door so they are precious to me. I have a shady yard. I should get some for sure.

  14. I had bleeding hearts in our previous home.They are so pretty and delicate.Have not seen them available in central Florida.

    1. Lois Munn says:

      We live in NE Florida, an hour south of Jacksonville, less than 2 miles from the ocean! planted from a cutting and it’s beautiful. West side of the house but shaded by palm trees! Stays green all year, loaded with flowers almost all summer.

  15. Your bleeding heart is gorgeous!! This is by far my favorite spring plant. I had planted one over 25 years ago in the shade of a birch tree. Sadly, the tree fell during a storm…but the plant survived. And it proudly pops up every year, and blooms it’s little heart out…even in the bright sunlight. I never moved it, because I knew they didn’t like to be moved. I’d say it likes it’s home.

    Enjoy your day! ;)

  16. Oh I am pink with envy with the size of your Bleeding Heart. 😋I planted 2 plants two years ago and they are still small. They did produced the cutest little hearts… I am in love with them.. too bad they last so little time.Thanks for the info and lovely pics.❤

  17. Patricia Robertson says:

    One more thing about bleeding hearts, they self seed! I have bleeding hearts all over my yard. In fact, I just transplanted a red one and a white one to a shady area in the front of the house. Thanks for this lovely article about one of my favorite plants.

  18. Oh my goodness I LOVE this plant! My favorite color is pink, and I collect hearts, so it is perfect. And it blooms while it is still cold here in Michigan. I have three areas of Bleeding Hearts and I think I need more. :) You are right, they just do their own thing, bringing smiles to growers without much work.

  19. Mary Brubaker says:

    I LOVE bleeding hearts, they remind me of my childhood. My Uncle had them and I was fascinated by them when I was little. I have been looking for something to grow in a place that is very shaded for most of the day and this is perfect! Thanks again, Ann! You have saved the day!

  20. Ann, thank you for this good information! I have several shady spots that would be brightened up with the addition of this plant, and since we have deer in the neighborhood, it’s good to know these plants won’t be bothered by them. And I appreciate that you included the warning about its effect on cats and dogs, too.
    I can always count on your posts to be thorough!
    On a different subject, I’ve continued to make homemade vanilla after your post a few years ago, and try to always have a couple of small bottles on hand for giving. So, just in case I forgot to tell you back then, many thanks for that info as well!

  21. Lovely plant. I was really excited until I checked and this plant can’t be grown in Texas. Info says “They seem to grow in the wild in Maryland, Virginia, and Tennessee.” Best in Zones 4-8. It’s so pretty.

  22. Barbara Murray says:

    Love Bleeding Hearts! I planted one by our mailbox and she comes back every year for the past 8 years. Thank you for all the plant information. I think it’s time to give our Bleeding Heart some company. I have some Hosta that need to be divided and they would do well in the shady location.

  23. These are so pretty and I’m glad you posted this. I too have a very shaded area and these would look so pretty in the yard. I’ll have to look in to getting some of this. I do have pets but they aren’t into getting into things, plus they stay indoors most of the time and are only with someone outside.

    1. We have a little dog too, but she never eats anything outside…and like you, we don’t leave her outside alone. I hope you plant some…you will love them!

    1. Hi Jan…no the deer don’t like them! I have never had issues with deer, but I did quite a bit of research while writing this post, and every single source said they are safe from deer and rabbits.