The Q&A Archives: Bleeding Heart

Question: I planted a Bleeding Heart "spectabilis" about four years ago and it never gets any bigger and only has three or four actual bleeding hearts on it each year. In the spring, it gets about 3-4 hours of sunlight, but is mostly shaded by tea roses.I have to admit though, it is in a moderately clay soil and I only fertilize it once in the early spring. Why won't it grow or bloom a lot? <br>

Answer: Bleeding hearts like a well drained, shady location. Moist soil is OK, wet or waterlogged is not. I am concerned about your soil's ability to drain well because it is moderately heavy clay. Mine was very heavy clay and I had to modify it a bit. I would suggest you work in some organic matter such as compost to improve the soil structure and to provide nourishment for the soil and therefore, the plant. You can use compost from your household "heap" or purchase compost from a retail oulet/garden center. Mushroom compost, composted cow manure, or leaf mould would all work well. Regarding sun exposure, I have one that flowers well with little (I mean very little) sun, so that shouldn't be the problem. The organic material will naturally provide soil nutrients but if you would like an extra boost, try applying a complete analysis fertilizer such as 5-10-10. Be sure to follow package instructions regarding application rates and when to fertilize. Keep in mind also that old-fashioned bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis -- the upright species with long, arching flower stems) naturally goes dormant in the summertime, essentially dying right down to the ground by July. When summer comes on more quickly than normal (including right up tothe normal flowering time of May), the plant will go into early dormancy. Also note that in some areas, bleeding hearts are subject to wilt and stem rot diseases.

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