The Q&A Archives: luxuriant bleeding heart plants and butterfly bush

Question: How do I take care of a luxuriant bleeding heart and butterfly bush? How much water, fertilizer, pruning?

Answer: Bleeding Heart (Dicentra), grows best in part shade (morning sun is fine, but provide protection from hot afternoon sunshine). Provide rich, moist soil and expect your plants to begin to die down in mid-summer. The roots will rest, then early next spring new shoots will emerge. Bleeding Heart flowers from mid-spring to mid-summer and then the tops of the plants will die down again. Aside from keeping the plant well watered while it is growing and blooming, Bleeding Heart doesn't require any special care.

As for your butterfly bush, plant it in full sunshine. The answer to your pruning question is basically "It depends". To begin with, there may be some die back or winter kill after the winter season, and that should be removed. In some years this could mean cutting it nearly to the ground. In other milder years this might be just a few branch tips. Next, you can prune for shapeliness and to encourage bushiness or branching; you can also prune to try to limit its overall size. The plant has a naturally gangly shape and can grow very large in one season, so some gardeners will opt to prune more than others. Finally, each cut will force the plant to branch and each branch tip will bloom, so you can also influence the number of blooms. If there are fewer blooms then they will be larger, but with more blooms they will individually be smaller. As with all landscape trees and shrubs, water deeply once each week during the growing season to keep the soil moist but not soggy wet. A spring application of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 will be beneficial to your butterfly bush.

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