Bleeding heart – info, planting, care and tips

Bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)
Bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

Bleeding heart decorates the bed in the light shade with gracefully bent flower stalks. This is how to plant and care for the plant.

Profile of bleeding heart:

Scientific name: Lamprocapnos spectabilis, syn. Dicentra spectabilis

Plant family: poppy family (Papaveraceae)

Other names: Asian bleeding-heart, lady-in-a-bath, lyre flower, heart flower

Sowing time: –

Planting time: spring

Flowering period: April to June

Location: partially shady to shady

Soil quality: loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, flower bouquets, single position, planters, underplanting, cottage garden, flower garden, forest garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 (-26 °C / -15 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of bleeding heart

Plant order, origin and occurrence of bleeding heart

The bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) grows naturally in sparse deciduous forests in China and Korea. For a long time, the plant was assigned to the genus of bleeding-hearts (Dicentra) due to its flower shape, thus the old botanical name is Dicentra spectabilis.

In 1997, however, the bleeding heart was given its own generic name Lamprocapnos due to its deviating anatomy. Lamprocapnos spectabilis is still the only representative of this genus. In the plant trade, however, the perennial is still frequently found under its old name. The bleeding heart belongs to the poppy family (Papaveraceae) together with the other bleeding-heart flowers (Dicentra).

Characteristics of bleeding heart


The growth of the bleeding heart is very distinctive. The perennial herbaceous plant grows about 80 centimeters (32 in) high and up to 60 centimeters (24 in) wide, its flowers grow on arching overhanging shoots.


The filigree but dense foliage leaves of bleeding heart are pinnate and lobed. They reach a size of 20 to 40 centimeters (8 to 16 in). The foliage appears in a bright, fresh green. After flowering, nutrients are absorbed and the foliage dies.


The flowers with their special heart-shaped appearance are the eponym of the bleeding heart. They appear already in spring usually as a scarce dozen per branch and are pink and white in the natural variety. The name “lady-in-a-bath” is created when you turn the flower and lightly press on it.


Bleeding heart – cultivation and care


The choice of location is not too difficult with the bleeding heart. The perennial requires a bright shaded place. A light location without direct sun, for example in the shade of other plants, is ideal. If it becomes too bright, the plant will wither. If the Lamprocapnos spectabilis has already blossomed and is already a little older, it may also be in full sun. Then light and heat can no longer harm it so much. However, wind can still be a problem, so the planting site should be protected. To bloom properly, the hardy bleeding heart needs a frost period.


The optimal soil for the bleeding heart is loose and moderately permeable, humus rich and calcareous. Garden soil based on compost is suitable, if it is provided with an addition of lime and sand. Basically, however, a moderately dry garden soil is also sufficient, fertilized with a little compost before planting.


The bleeding heart is planted in the spring, so that the root of the perennial plant can get a sufficient foothold before the first winter. Place several seedlings 40 to 60 centimeters (16 to 24 in) apart and no deeper than they stood in the planting pot. Work some compost into the soil around the plants as you do so. Then water abundantly.

Caution: The plant sap (especially in the root) contains isoquinoline alkaloids, which can be irritating to skin and mucous membranes. Therefore, plant the bleeding heart out of reach of children, who are fascinated by the heart-shaped flowers, and wear gloves when planting and pruning.



The additional watering is not absolutely necessary to keep the plant alive. But if you want to admire a rich flowering, you need to use a watering can. Because bleeding heart tolerates lime well, there is no need to use rainwater. Instead, the fresh wet from the tap is quite sufficient. Until the plant retreats into the soil, which is around August, watering should continue regularly but sparingly. Small amounts at small intervals are better than extensive watering every few weeks. Waterlogging should always be avoided.


Bleeding heart does not need a lot of nutrients. In fact, the perennial is overfertilized extremely quickly. Nevertheless, it can benefit from the additional fertilizing, if it is the right fertilizer and properly dosed. Ideal is compost, which is lifted once in the spring and once in the fall under the earth. This releases the nutrients only slowly and therefore acts as a long-term fertilizer. The bleeding heart can thus supply itself better and more evenly.


After abundant spring flowering, the flower quickly retracts with the onset of summer. Since the withered flowers and leaves quickly become unsightly, cut off the parts of the plant to just above the ground. Please do not neglect to wear protective gloves during this work, as the poisonous content of this plant can cause unpleasant skin irritation.


The bleeding heart, if it has grown too large, can be divided. However, the perennial grows most beautifully when it is allowed to establish itself undisturbed in one location for several years.


The easiest way of propagation, in the case of the bleeding heart is the division of the root. It is done, as well as transplanting, in the spring. To do this, the plant is dug up and freed from as much substrate as possible. Placed flat on a smooth support, the root is cut, if possible, with a single cut and without squeezing it. Repeated cutting will result in injury. After that, the daughter plants are placed in the desired location and watered as usual.

As a second variant of propagation can be taken cuttings. For this purpose, about 15 cm (6 in) long shoot tips are cut off and optionally placed in growing medium or the substrate mixture of the adult plants. But be careful, the shoots are sensitive and break quickly. Therefore, the handling of individual, small shoots is not exactly easy. As a stabilizing aid, a thin rod can be inserted and connected to the cutting. Once the stand in the substrate is secured, the soil is well moistened. You can also simply place the cuttings in water until they form roots.

Diseases and pests

If the bleeding heart stands too dry, there is a risk of desiccation and aphid infestation. Slugs love the tender foliage in the spring, so you should already start with the slug control at the beginning of budding. If the location is too humid and warm, the bleeding heart easily gets powdery mildew or Phytophthora. Holes in the flower tips do not come from a pest, but are bitten into by earth bumblebees, which in this way get to the nectar.


The plant is completely hardy and easily withstands temperatures down to -26 °C / -15 °F. If the bleeding heart was already planted in the spring, it prepares itself for the winter. Apart from pruning in the fall, no further action is then necessary. However, a thick layer of mulch will not hurt either. When planting in the summer or fall, the situation is different. Winter itself is usually not a problem, but frosts in the spring. Namely, when the perennial already shows the first shoots. An inverted clay pot wrapped with garden fleece provides good protection. Alternatively, a multi-layered layer of garden fleece can be laid down and weighted down to protect the plant and keep it from frost damage. Very young plants, such as those grown from cuttings, should be overwintered in a pot indoors. Well suited is a cool but frost-free room, which is bright.

Use in the garden

Bleeding heart is suitable for planting on the edges of a wood and in the shade of gardens. Its pastel-colored flowers shine most beautifully in spring against a dark background. In the partially shaded perennial bed, the bleeding heart bends its curved branches forward. The bleeding heart is a spring bloomer and retracts after flowering.

To avoid unsightly gaps in the perennial bed, combine the plant with summer or fall bloomers. Good bedding partners for the bleeding heart are perennials such as hosta, alumroots (Heuchera) or Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum). White varieties harmonize especially well with the blue flowers of Siberian bugloss (Brunnera) and columbine (Aquilegia). Even in larger pots, the bleeding heart shows its graceful flowers. The branches make excellent long-lasting cut flowers.


The well-known variety ‘Alba’ has pure white heart-shaped flowers. There is also a dark red and white variety called ‘Valentine’. It keeps its foliage a little longer after flowering and retracts later. The variety ‘Goldheart’ bears unusual yellow-green foliage.

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