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Bleeding hearts are beautiful plants that produce flowers with an appearance very similar to a heart shape that is drooping downward giving the impression that it is bleeding. These are delicate flowers that dangle along the pendant stalk and preferred shaded, cooler areas like those found in the UK. What’s more, you can grow them very successfully in a pot so you don’t need a large garden space in which to cultivate them. It’s worth mentioning that they will grow more vigorously and larger in the ground so if you can plant them in the ground, we recommend doing do. However, they do also grow well in a large containers and pots.
Position in partial shade
The first thing you need to consider is whether you have the appropriate environment or conditions. As mentioned, they prefer shaded areas and in fact, if they are exposed to too much sun or too much heat they may not flower and they might go dormant until the following year.
This is why you need to consider where you’re going to put the containers. Make sure that you place wheels or some sort of supportive structure on the bottom of the container if you need to be able to move it around and store it during dormancy as they start to look tatty in summer or keep it out of the sun during summer.
It does start to produce flower early at the beginning of Spring so you can grow it in a container that is slightly smaller than a larger container you might use with a perennial that flowers later like hostas. That being said, you want to choose a large enough pot as they do get quite big.
Picking the right container
Picking the right container is equally important. These plants can become very substantial as a herbaceous perennial so you need to have a large container that gives the roots enough space to stretch out. If you don’t have a large space to accommodate a big container, you can always pick dwarf variety like Dicentra Formosa.
Bleeding hearts can grow for 4 or 5 years in a very large container but after that, you will need to divide them and repot them.
How to plant bleeding hearts
Once you have the right container you need to make sure that you have the right potting soil. These woodland perennials are accustomed to growing on a forest floor with trees above them and grass below them. That said they need a good quality potting soil mixed with a lot of organic material, something that mimics the natural environment of a forest. We recommend mixing in some homemade compost and grit for improved drainage.
The soil should also be kept moist but not overly wet. These plants suffer from root rot very easily so you have to be diligent about watering when there is extreme heat but never over-watering to the point that the plants are susceptible to root rot or fungal diseases. This isn’t usually a problem when growing dicentra in pots as they require a lot of water but it still worth bearing this in mind as they don’t like soggy soil.
Position in shaded or partial sunlight.
In terms of light exposure, you need to place the container in somewhere that’s shaded or has filtered sunlight. It’s okay to have early morning sun exposure but beyond that, you need a lot of shade. Again, consider the natural environment where these plants are grown under the canopy of large trees which helps them to produce early blooming flowers in the springtime when the tree branches are at their bare state and then enjoy the protection of the trees and leaves throughout the hottest months.
If you need to add fertilizer because your soil is of poor quality you can use a slow-release fertilizer but it’s better to remove the top layer of once a year and replace it will good quality compost with some fertilizer mixed in.
Once you have successfully planted your bleeding hearts, bear in mind that you can deadhead them after the flowers have been produced to prevent them from self-seeding.
However, pruning in deadheading is not necessary for the overall health of the plant. More importantly, they go into dormancy at the end of spring or beginning of Summer. The leaves start to turn yellow and some of them fall off. You can trim back your plant to the basal growth lower down if you want to keep it aesthetically appealing or simply move it somewhere where it is not on display. It will grow back again the following spring.
It’s worth mentioning that while I worked in a nursery, we would trim them back hard after flowering and sometimes they did flower again for a second time.