In the world of garden plants, few stand out as instantly identifiably as Lamprocapnos spectabilis, commonly known as the Bleeding Heart.
I remember these flowers from my youth, as I am sure many other gardeners do.
It has taken me a long time to grow and care for my own but since then I have wasted no effort in caring for these spring favorites since they made their way into my gardens.
Over time, I came to appreciate her easy care, calming foliage and dripping blooms.
What are Bleeding Hearts?
Often referred to as “old-fashioned bleeding hearts,” these herbaceous perennials are members of the poppy family Papaveraceae.
Soft, green, fern-like foliage and stems support the iconic heart-shaped petals, complete with a tiny trailing drop of color at the base of each flower.
It’s impossible not to overlook where this beauty got her common name!
They bloom in mid to late spring to early summer and die back in the hotter months, only to reappear in all their glory the next season.
Bleeding hearts thrive in USDA hardiness zones 3-9, flowering time may vary.
They are low maintenance plants but require a dexterous and artistic eye to fill in the gaps they leave in borders and beds after flowering.
Formerly known as Dicentra spectabilis, and indeed still referred to by that name by many nurseries, the plant was reclassified as Lamprocapnos spectabilis in 1997.
According to a 1997 report in the Journal of Plant Systematics and Evolution by Magnus Linden et al. published article, DNA tests revealed that the Bleeding Heart is in fact more closely related to other members of the Lamprocapnos genus than to those of Dicentra.
In 2006, the Royal Horticultural Society recognized the name change and lists D. spectabilis as a synonym.
cultivation and history
Originally from Asia, Bleeding Hearts made their way into western gardens in the mid-19th century.
Since then, they have become an integral part of many European and North American gardens.
Although L. spectabilis is not native to the United States or Europe, it is not considered invasive in those regions due to its short flowering cycle and tendency to grow slowly in an enclosed area.
Although it is possible to grow L. spectabilis from seed, it is not usually recommended. It doesn’t transplant well after it emerges as a seedling, and it can be difficult to get those seeds to germinate in the first place.
If you’re a glutton for extra work, you can buy seeds and start them indoors about 12 weeks before your average last frost date. You must first cold stratify them by placing the seeds in the fridge for 4-6 weeks before sowing. And be patient – they can take up to a month to germinate.
Keep the seedlings in full light and follow the basic rules of growing seedlings: rotate your plants so they don’t grow crooked, don’t overwater, and extra plant as you’ll likely lose some along the way.
Timing the transition from seed tray to garden can be tricky as L. spectabilis is not easy to transplant and an unexpected cold snap could ruin all your planning and preparation.
When they have grown two sets of true leaves, transplant the seedlings to a shaded or partially shaded area of your garden, keeping a close eye on where to plant them.
Alternatively, you can sow seeds from an existing plant immediately after harvest. Wait until the seed pods are completely dry and sow 1 inch deep.