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Years ago, a close friend went through a divorce and moved to a small house of her own. The first spring she threw herself into fixing up the neglected garden, digging, trimming and planting. With her own heart bruised, bleeding heart plants seemed fitting and she chose a dozen for the shady side of her garage. The following spring arching stems of delicate white heart-shaped flowers greeted her in May. Simple. Beautiful. Now, years later, those bleeding heart plants are still there, full and lush, and the friend wouldn’t replace them for the world. In spring, she shares fistfuls of cut stems with neighbors and is reminded of how far she’s come.
Regardless of what state your heart is in, plant bleeding hearts. There’s never a time when simple beauty is unwelcome.
Bleeding hearts prefer some shade and are happy with a range of light from dabbled sunlight to moderately shady to the shade that’s found on the north side of buildings. These plants are also well suited to areas that receive a few hours of morning light as is often found in east facing beds.
Moderate feeders, bleeding hearts grow well in average, well-drained soil and don’t require rich, perfect loam. Compost, dug in when planting or added as a top dressing later, provides a welcome supply of nutrients.
Plant outdoors when frost danger has past. Bleeding hearts are hardy perennials and can take freezing without ill effects, once they are established. For fall planting, get your bleeding hearts in the ground at least 7 weeks before hard freezes typically arrive in your region. This gives the plants time to develop strong, anchoring roots before going into winter.
Your bleeding hearts will be shipped bareroot, in a dormant state. Dormancy means the plant is not in actively growing; it’s been held in a cool, dark setting similar to winter garden conditions and is “sleeping”. The bareroot term means that the soil has been washed from the roots; there is no risk of introducing any soil-borne diseases into your garden, and the plants are lighter and cleaner to ship. When you plant your bleeding hearts, adding light and moisture, they’ll wake up. Roots will start growing in a few days and top growth will be visible in 1-3 weeks. Fall planted bleeding hearts will develop roots in the cool, but not frozen, soil and will sprout top growth in spring.
Dig a hole 8-10” across and deep, and mix in a couple scoops of compost. Fan out the roots in your planting hole and place the crown (area from which leaves will sprout) an inch below soil level. Refill around plant with soil, tap down to eliminate any big air pockets and water well.
In the garden, space your plants so they have enough room to grow without crowding. Allow 30-36” between plants; mature bleeding hearts grow big and full.
Bleeding hearts require little care during the growing season. During their first season while they are settling in, make sure they receive 1-2” of water, from rain or irrigation, per week. From their second season on, they’ll be fine with about the same or a little less. Feel free to snip flowers; this won’t hurt the plants.
Light: Light to moderate shade
Soil: Fertile and well drained
Depth: Plant clumps at ground level
Water: Average moisture
Uses: Beds, accents and woodland gardens
Tip: Use where deer are a problem
They Start Out looking Like This:
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