Bleeding Heart propagation

dirthappy(8)May 18, 2006

I got frustrated looking on line for information so now I come to the experts.

Whats the best way to propagate bleeding hearts? I had one "runner" that my hubby dug up and gave to a nice elderly lady. If I want more, how do I go about it.

Thanks in advance.


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Yes I would be interested in this too!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 12:19AM
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Bleeding Hearts... Something Nice For Shade!

by Fred Davis, MG, Hill Gardens of Maine (To view previous articles, click: Archives)

Welcome through Our Garden Gate! Some of the most attractive and colorful sights in the shady garden are the graceful flowers of the bleeding heart (Dicentra).

Bleeding hearts are an old-fashioned perennial species which are not only easy to grow, they've been a popular favorite for many years. Native to Asia and North America, they are perfectly hardy right up into our rugged Zone 4.

The name Dicentra derives from dis, meaning twice, and kentron, indicating a spurhence, two-spurs - referring to the flower's corolla.

An interesting side-note: one of its very old common names is "lady in her tub," or "lady in her bath." If you hold a dicentra flower by its spurs and gently pull them apart, there she stands, looking for all the world like she must be saying, "Close the door!" I thought you'd enjoy that!

The most frequently seen variety is the red bleeding heart (D. Spectabilis). This one will actually grow out in full sun but looks better and the flowers last longer if it gets shade from about noon, on. Flowering occurs during May and June but may continue throughout the summer if conditions are good and they're not allowed to set seeds.

Once one of these lovely plants goes in, it'll be perfectly happy in the same spot for years. We have a seven-year-old clump in our garden which spans about 24-inches at the ground, and every bit of 60-inches at about the three-foot level. (It would probably take a back-hoe to get it out if we ever decided to move it.)

A close relative is the white variety (D. Spectabilis alba). White bleeding heart is much better suited to heavier shade, better soil, and isn't quite as strong a grower in most gardens.

Still another cousin is the charming little fringed bleeding heart (D. Eximia), available in a number of shades of red from crimson to soft pink. Its finely-dissected leaves are gray/blue in color and have a ferny appearance. Flowers are similar to spectabilis but are smaller and face outward and upward, while their cousin's are pendulousÂhanging down. Very nice...and they re-seed themselves quite handsomely, so allow them plenty of room back in the shade to "play."

Bleeding hearts like their soil rich and well-drained. Roots are long, thick and very brittle, so you'll want to prepare their home deep and add plenty of organic matter (compost). Soil ph isn't too important but they'll look and grow better if ph is adjusted to between 6.0 and 7.0 (slightly acid to neutral). Perhaps a friend or gardening neighbor has one of those electronic ph-meters. If not, I'd be happy to do a soil evaluation and run the test for you.

It would be a good idea, after you've thoroughly built your soil and planted a new bleeding heart, to mulch it with straw or pine needles for its first winter. After that it shouldn't need protection but an attractive shredded bark or leaf mulch would be beneficial, holding down weeds, conserving moisture and maintaining comfortable soil temperature.

Diseases and insects are not a serious problem with bleeding hearts. Aphids might make an appearance once in a while but are easily controlled with a fine spray of water. Stem rot and wilt are about the only diseases which attack. They can be effectively prevented with shredded bark mulch, providing adequate air circulation around the plant, and thorough drainageÂso it won't be forced to spend most of its time with wet "feet."

Clumps can be divided in either spring or fall...I prefer to do it early in the spring so they have the whole season to prepare for next winter. Dig the entire clump out, gently shake most of the soil off and look for a logical place to cut with a sharp knife. Don't worry about pieces of root that break them to bury about an inch or so deep near your new divisions. You could also harvest a few seeds late in summer, and sow them right away in a prepared bed. By spring you'll have more bleeding heart seedlings than you'll know what to do with.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 5:41AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

Thanks dirthappy,
Great information!


    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 7:14AM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

Wonderful information, dicenta is my favorite plant too. I have pink and white, both regular eximia and fernleaf. The last four years I also grow a yellow BH, Dicentra Scandens Athens Yellow. It's a vigorous climbing vine . Its only drawback is its hardiness, only to zone 7. I am in zone 6. so I know I have been extra-lucky in that it returns for me every year. Are there any other dicentras available?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 10:03AM
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waplummer(Z5 NY)

I have found the fringed bleeding hearts almost impossible to kill. The roots are long and seemingly fragile, but easy to transplant. It also seeds around for me and I have them growing in unusual places like out of a crack in a dry wall.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 9:33PM
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hammerl(z5-6 Amherst NY)

I think my fringed bleeding heart died this year. Can't find it out back.

We always propagated the regular (non-fringed) bleeding hearts by cutting a large branch with hearts on it, sticking it in the moist dirt, and keeping it well watered for a few weeks. They will root.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 4:48PM
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Mine seeded itself. Nice to have but they're going to have to be moved because they are taking up too much space which will need to be covered when the dicentra goes dormant. The most spectacular is the white bleeding heart which evidently found just the conditions it likes since it's four feet across and three feet high and just keeps blooming right up to August.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2006 at 8:47AM
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ken_mce(zone 4, NY)

Last time I did it I just took out half a mature plant with a shovel. I figured the undisturbed part should have lots of undamaged roots and would heal quick. Both pieces were fine.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2006 at 10:00AM
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Hey I noticed my White BH reseeded also. I have three ..2 inch plants. The only problem is they are not where I want them to be. Anyone know when I should move them to my prefered location?
Also I bought two BH from Walmart...they were in a bag with peat moss. I planted them a month ago...anyone know when I should expect them to come up?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 11:29PM
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I have bleeding heart plants Ibought them bare plant in a box I have alot of broken peices how do I get them to root so I can plant them

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 10:29AM
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I have several branches that broke off thanks to my dog how do I root them

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 1:39PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

I just dig up my plants and break of sections and replant them and they start sending out new shoots and roots. I usually try to have at least one leafed out stem attached but I don't think it is neceessary.


    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 1:47PM
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I just bought a bleeding heart root from wal mart, it had started sending out some fresh roots in the package on one of the roots (it was a 2 root pack) but the second one wasnt sending out any nice white roots yet. i set them in a tub of water for overnight then planted them with the long root looking things down. ill keep this updated to let everyone know how they turn out. they are in a container so if they dont start doing anything within a week or so ill dig around see if anything is happening under the soil.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 11:30AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

I got my first one as a bare root plant from walMart. That was about 10 yrs ago. I have divided and transplanted them several times now.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 5:06PM
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Matthebrute, it would be better if you just wait and see if they grow. If you start digging around in the soil you might damage the roots and disrupt any new growth from them.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 5:21PM
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