Growing Bleeding Heart

The old-fashioned bleeding heart is a favorite perennial of the shady flower garden and was called the finest hardy plant of the 19th century. Here’s how to plant and grow bleeding heart flowers in your garden!

Even today, nothing surpasses its graceful, arching, 3-foot stems adorned with its flowers of dangling pink (or white) hearts in early spring. The plant is also known as lady’s locket, lady’s heart, and lyre flower.


  • Plant in the spring after the threat of frost has passed.
  • Plant in the shade.
  • Add compost to the soil before planting.
  • Soak the soil around the plant until moist.
  • Add mulch to keep moisture in and weeds out.


  • Keep soil moist.
  • It blooms in the spring and finishes its growing cycle when warm weather sets in. The flowers fade and the leaves die back. The plant goes dormant in late spring or early summer.
  • Cut back the leaves and stems when they begin to yellow and wither away.
  • Plant shade-loving annuals, like begonias or impatiens, in the garden space where the bleeding heart grew.
  • Bleeding heart does not like being moved. It will thrive for years without being divided or replanted.
  • If you need to transplant, do it as early as possible, as soon as you see the first leaves poking out in early spring.


  • Aphids can occasionally cause problems.
  • Powdery mildew can affect the plant.

Recommended Varieties

There are over 20 species of Dicentra. Many new hybrids have been developed to increase heat tolerance and vigor. 

  • Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ has lovely chartreuse foliage.
  • D. spectabilis ‘Alba’ has white flowers.
  • D. spectabilis ‘Valentine’ has cherry-red blooms with white tips on burgundy stems.
  • D. eximia ‘Zestful’ is a fringed (fern-leaf) bleeding heart that is native to North America and grows only 12-18 inches tall with medium-pink flowers. It has a longer bloom period then the D. spectabilis varieties.
  • D. x ‘King of Hearts’ is a small, fern-leaf bleeding heart with rose-red flowers.
  • D. eximia ‘Aurora’ is a small, fern-leaf bleeding heart with white blooms.