Plant Spotlight: Bleeding Heart

What It Is

Bleeding heart is a shade-loving perennial that originated in Asia. Although it is now classified as Lamprocapnos spectabilis, it is still commonly referred to by its former genus of Dicentra. It is named for the shape of its flowers, which feature inner drop-shaped petals protruding from the main heart-shaped pair. Bleeding heart blooms in springs, with its distinctive flowers arranged along delicate arched stems. In the Inland Northwest climate, the whole plant often goes dormant in the summer, with its foliage dying back to the ground.

 Bleeding heart gets its name from the heart-shaped flowers.

Bleeding heart gets its name from the heart-shaped flowers.

Why to Grow It

Bleeding heart tends to be very low-maintenance if planted in the right conditions. In addition to its high shade-tolerance, bleeding heart is also quite deer-resistant, a combination which makes it an excellent choice for wooded landscapes. Its springtime blooms add early color to the landscape, and their unique shape makes bleeding heart a striking cut flower.

Where to Put It

Bleeding heart does well in full shade, but some morning sun will improve flowering. Consistently moist, well-drained soil is also important, or the plant will go dormant. While bleeding heart starts as a small plant, over time it can grow to three feet wide and tall. Because it goes completely dormant in the winter, it is an excellent choice under roof driplines, where falling snow might crush other plants. And since it also typically goes dormant in the summer, it is best to locate it with other shade plants like hostas or columbine, which fill out later in the season.