Last updated on May 10th, 2022
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If you are growing a Bleeding Hearts, (also known as Dicentra) you no doubt know how beautiful the delicate heart-shaped flowers are and have certainly seen evidence as to how the plant gets its name. Bleeding Hearts are woodland herbaceous perennials and they typically grow in a forest along the forest floor often protected from direct sunlight by the canopy of forest trees. They only survive in areas with good soil conditions, cooler temperatures and shade, at least dappled shade, which is why the UK makes such an ideal environment for Dicentra.
Bleeding Hearts propagate on their own if left to their own devices, much the same as they would in their natural environment. The beautiful flowers convert into seeds which then fall to the ground and repopulate. You can choose to do this yourself in order to get more of these stunning plants sprinkled throughout your garden. Another way to propagate them is by dividing larger plants and this gives much faster results in terms of producing more established plants.
But whether you have one, or a dozen Bleeding Hearts, they grow to be quite large and after four or five years you will likely need to divide your plants to make sure they don’t become overcrowded and die off.
When should you divide your Bleeding Heart?
The process of division should be done right at the start of spring well before they have flowered and just as the new growth is beginning to make an appearance. If you do it any other time of the year it won’t necessarily kill the plant but it will certainly inhibit the flowers you get in the spring. They don’t always take either, so it’s a little risky.
How to divide your Bleeding Heart
When you are ready, take a spade or a trowel that has been sanitised and dig around the end of the plant. Lift your plant from the ground, keeping as much of the root structures undamaged.
Try and remove as much of the soil as you can from between the roots so that you can clearly see what you’re working with. If you leave the roots full of soil, it’ll be much more difficult to make a clean and accurate cut during the divisional process.
Using a sharp knife (that has also been sanitised) divide your plant into two or more sections. If the plant is difficult to divide you can try using a spade or saw. The number of sections you are able to get out of your plant is really going to be contingent upon how big the root mass is when you pull it out of the ground.
Each section needs to have a decent size root so that it is adequate enough to regrow and become an individual plant.
With your divisions made it is time to replant. One can obviously go back in the original position and the others can be placed elsewhere in your garden in an appropriately sized hole, or even in containers. If you need to you can always trim up the roots a little if they are sticking out at odd angles to make them fit properly in a pot or container.
No matter where you plant your Dicentra, the final step is to backfill the roots with enough soil and compost and then water everything evenly. You never want the soil to dry out completely because it can be very difficult to get it to absorb moisture once it is dried out. Remember to water them regularly as they only have a limited root system to get water, but once they are established they should look after themselves.