Perennial Overview: Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)


Discover how to grow Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) with instructions on starting seed, transplanting, site selection, care and maintenance, water and fertilization requirements, pests and disease, and harvesting and storage.


Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) Stats at a Glance

Botanical Name: Dicentra spectablis

Common Name(s): Common Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), lyre flower, Japanese Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)

Height: 12-18 inches

Soil Conditions:  Well-drained, damp, fertile soil

Sun: Partial shade

Soil pH Conditions: 5.8-6.2

Planting Instructions

Can I Start Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) from Seed?

You can start Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) from seed, but propagating by division is usually most successful.  Many seed catalogs and garden centers sell established plants.


To start indoors, fill individual peat pots with a fertile commercial soil starter and moisten.  Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the soil. Press them lightly into the soil to ensure contact with growing medium. Place in a room with a constant temperature of 70-75°F.  Cover with clear plastic wrap to maintain the soil moisture and temperature.  Keep the soil moist.  When seedlings appear, remove the plastic wrap and move to a sunny location.


When Do I Plant Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)?

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) are cold sensitive and should not be planted until after the last frost and the soil has reached at least 65°F.  They will germinate much more quickly in warmer soil.  You can hasten the warming of the soil with black plastic mulch.

Soil Temperature: 65°F


Where Do I Plant Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)?

If you are looking for a plant that will perform well in lightly shaded areas, Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) is a good choice.  They flourish in areas with plenty of moisture that aren’t too soggy.

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) plants perform best in loamy, well-drained soil high in organic matter but will grow in nearly any good garden soil that is well drained. Incorporating several inches of organic matter into the soil when preparing the bed will improve growth and development.

Soil Type: Well-drained, fertile
Sun Exposure: Partial shade
Soil pH: 5.8-6.2


How Far Apart Do I Plant Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)?

12-18” apart.

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) Plant Care and Maintenance

Once established, most perennials require very little routine care and maintenance.

How Often Should I Water Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)?

For many perennials, average rainfall is sufficient to keep the plants healthy.  Supplementation may be necessary in droughty conditions. Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) requires consistently moist soil. If not planted in a naturally moist area, may need to be watered during warmer months.  Will cease flowering when moisture levels drop.

Water the soil around the plant. Overhead watering will encourage disease.  Drip irrigation is best.

Mulch around the plant will help to lock in moisture.


Should I Fertilize Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)?

Most perennials do not require a specific fertilization regiment.  Fertilizing decisions should be based on a soil test.  If a soil test cannot be obtained and you feel that your perennial bed would benefit from fertilization, keep it light.  Work in a small amount of a low nitrogen fertilizer, such as 5-10-5 around the plants in the early spring and once or twice at six-week intervals.

Fertilize the soil around the plant at least 6” from the plant base. Irrigate into the soil.


Additional Care Instructions

Cut back when the plant stops flowering in the fall.

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) Diseases

The most common diseases associated with this plant include downy mildew, fungal leaf spots, rust, verticillium wilt, and viruses.

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) Pests

The most common pests associated with this plant include aphids, snails, and slugs.


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