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How to Start Bleeding Hearts From Root Cuttings or Seeds

The Bleeding Heart (dicentra) has surely got to be one of the most romantic flowers of all time.

The Bleeding Heart (dicentra) has surely got to be one of the most romantic flowers of all time.

Is It Better to Use Root Cuttings or Seeds?

If you know someone who has a beautiful perennial bleeding heart plant that would give you some root cuttings; or if you already have a bleeding heart plant and want to have more, you might be a very lucky person, as you can get a specimen to transplant much faster using a root cutting.

If, however, you are not that lucky, and you are forced to buy new seeds, don't fret, because either way will do just fine—it's just that one way is a bit faster than the other. These deer-resistant plants will grow up to a height of about three feet, so plan accordingly.

You are also in luck if you live in growing zones 3-9, as bleeding hearts are hardy in those zones, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Regardless of which method you choose, this article is going to offer you some very good tips that will help to ensure your success with these gorgeous, romantic flowers, although you should be aware that they don't last for a long time—they start to bloom in the spring and by mid-summer. . .show's over, and the whole plant dies back to the ground, leaving behind a seed pod that is filled with round, black seeds that can magically become new flowers next spring. And so it goes. . .

As you can see from this map, bleeding heart plants are hardy in almost all of the growing zones in the United States.

As you can see from this map, bleeding heart plants are hardy in almost all of the growing zones in the United States.

These Are the Things You Will Need

  1. Small pots (approximately 4")
  2. Some coarse sand
  3. A small bag of Miracle-Gro potting soil
  4. Milled peat (peat in granulated or crumb form)
  5. A gardening trowel
  6. A small spray bottle
  7. A sharp utility knife
  8. Some slightly larger pots (approximately 6")
  9. A propagation mat (suggested for best results)
A perfect row of bleeding heart flowers.

A perfect row of bleeding heart flowers.

Tips for Propagating Using Root Cuttings

  • The best time to propagate a bleeding heart from a root cutting is after the flowers have faded in the early part of summer. Make sure to water your plant very deeply (preferably the night before you gather the root divisions) to make certain that the plant is properly hydrated.
  • In the bottom of a small (4-inch or so) pot, fill it with a mixture of one part milled peat to three parts of coarse sand. Saturate the mix with water until it begins to drain through the holes at the bottom of the pot.
  • You will need to remove the soil from around the base on your stem, but only until the roots are visible (should only take 3-4 inches of digging), then use a spray bottle of water to rinse away the dirt, which will make them even more visible.
  • With a clean utility knife, snip the root cutting, leaving at least two nodes (eyes), then rinse the cutting completely, using clean water.
  • Don't bury the cutting; it can now be placed on the top surface of the sand mixture and then covered completely with a little less than an inch of sand.
  • Water until it is saturated, but not soggy; then place in a shady area of your yard, where it will be protected from direct sunlight or winds that might blow the pot over.
  • You only need to water when the sand feels dry up in the top inch or so; no need to ever get it soggy.
  • Be patient. You probably won't see any growth at the top for about six weeks (sometimes it's a bit faster if you are lucky), but keep it away from direct sunlight and in the shade. You can put it in brighter light to encourage faster growth, but NOT direct sunlight.
  • Approximately 4-6 weeks after you see new growth, transplant your bleeding heart into a slightly larger pot filled with potting soil, then continue to let it grow in the shade for the entire summer.
  • Your bleeding heart will be ready to be transplanted into its permanent home (either a garden bed or larger container) in early autumn (September through November in the Northern hemisphere; March through May in the Southern hemisphere).
Yellow bleeding hearts.

Yellow bleeding hearts.

Tips for Growing Bleeding Hearts From Seeds

Bleeding heart plants can be propagated from seed in the early winter months, and these are some tips to help your seeds have the best possible chance to turn into beautiful flowers.

  • Moisten a mixture of half coarse sand and half milled peat in a small (4-6") pot with water.
  • You will only need to sow 3-4 seeds in each pot, poking a one-half-inch-deep hole for each of the seeds. Place only one seed in a hole, then cover with loose peat that has been slightly moistened. Press the peat to make it slightly firm.
  • Grab some plastic wrap from the kitchen and completely wrap however many pots you have made, then place them all in the freezer for about six weeks.
  • Once you remove the pots from your freezer, I would recommend that you place them on a propagation mat at about 60-65 degrees close to a window that allows a lot of sunshine in.
  • When the soil feels just barely moist at the very top, you can water the plant. Don't ever let it dry completely out, but don't keep it soggy (seeds can mildew if they get soggy).
  • Once more, be patient, as it could take from two to six months for your bleeding heart plant to sprout. Once you do see some growth, thin out the weakest ones and leave only one plant in each pot.
  • Don't move the plants outside until after the last frost.
  • Once your plants have some mature leaves, they are ready to be transplanted into larger pots filled with potting soil, and grown in light shade for their first year.
  • Continue to water whenever the soil feels barely moist at the top, then transplant them into a larger container, or a shady garden bed in early autumn (too much heat or sunshine will cause your flowers to be short-lived (ephemeral), and although they don't die, they do become dormant, but the roots are still fine.

You should be able to count on having some gorgeous bleeding hearts if you follow all of these suggestions, and I wish you the best of luck with these gorgeous, shade-loving plants.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Mike and Dorothy McKenney


Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on July 07, 2017:

Peggy, these may turn out to be my new favorite flowers! Thanks.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 07, 2017:

I love the flowers of the Bleeding Heart bushes. My grandfather used to grow them in his garden when living in Wisconsin. I have not seen them growing here in Houston. Looking at your zone map, it is doubtful that they would thrive here.

You have provided good information as to how to grow Bleeding Hearts. Will pin this to my plants board.