Taking Cuttings From A Bleeding Heart – How To Root A Bleeding Heart Cutting
By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is a spring-blooming perennial with lacy foliage and heart-shaped blooms on graceful, drooping stems. A tough plant that grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, bleeding heart thrives in semi-shady spots in your garden. Growing bleeding heart from cuttings is a surprisingly easy and effective method of propagating new bleeding heart plants for your own garden, or for sharing with friends. If you would enjoy having more of this gorgeous plant, read on to learn about bleeding heart cutting propagation.
How to Grow Bleeding Heart from Cuttings
The most effective way to root a bleeding heart cutting is to take softwood cuttings – new growth that is still somewhat pliable and doesn’t snap when you bend the stems. Immediately after blooming is a perfect opportunity for taking cuttings from a bleeding heart.
The best time for taking cuttings from a bleeding heart is early morning, when the plant is well-hydrated.
Here are simple steps on growing bleeding heart from cuttings:
- Select a small, sterile pot with a drainage hole in the bottom. Fill the container with a well-drained potting mixture such as peat-based potting mix and sand or perlite. Water the mixture well, then allow it to drain until it’s moist but not soggy.
- Take 3- to 5-inch cuttings (8-13 cm.) from a healthy bleeding heart plant. Strip the leaves from the bottom half of the stem.
- Use a pencil or similar tool to poke a planting hole in the moist potting mix. Dip the bottom of the stem in powdered rooting hormone (This step is optional, but may speed rooting) and insert the stem into the hole, then firm the potting mix gently around the stem to remove any air pockets. Note: It’s fine to plant more than one stem in a pot, but be sure the leaves don’t touch.
- Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag to create a warm, humid, greenhouse-like environment. You may need to use plastic straws or bent wire hangers to prevent the plastic from touching the cuttings.
- Place the pot in indirect sunlight. Avoid windowsills, as cuttings are likely to scorch in direct sunlight. Optimum temperatures for successful bleeding heart propagation is 65 to 75 F. (18-24 C.). Be sure the temperature doesn’t drop below 55 or 60 F. (13-16 C.) at night.
- Check the cuttings daily and water gently if the potting mix is dry. (This probably won’t happen for at least a couple of weeks if the pot is in plastic.) Poke a few small ventilation holes in the plastic. Open the top of the bag slightly if moisture drips down the inside of the bag, as the cuttings may rot if conditions are too moist.
- Remove the plastic when you notice new growth, which indicates the cutting has rooted. Rooting generally takes about 10 to 21 days or more, depending on temperature. Transplant the newly rooted bleeding heart plants into individual containers. Keep the mixture slightly moist.
- Move the bleeding heart plants outdoors once they’re rooted well and new growth is noticeable. Be sure to harden the plants in a protected spot for a few days before moving it to their permanent homes in the garden.
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Read more about Bleeding Heart
The Bleeding Heart Plant: An Essential Growing Guide
Today I’d like to introduce you to a spectacular perennial species: the Bleeding Heart plant. Once planted, it’ll continue to return bigger and better every year. A truly unique-looking plant, it’s happiest in moist shade and guaranteed to add brightness to a gloomy spot.
Let us discover a little more about this romantic, unique plant species.
Bru-nO / Pixabay
Damp, shaded garden areas are always more challenging when sorting out a planting scheme. Many people are confident in choosing plants for a sunny border, but give them a shade bed to plan and their minds just go blank. We tend to favour planting in sunnier sites, and associate shade with difficult growing conditions, lack of planting choices and overall dullness.
In my opinion, the Bleeding Heart Plant is stunning, and far from dull. I’m sure many of you will already be acquainted with this slender beauty. It was formally botanically referred to as “Dicentra spectabilis” and now “Lamprocapnos spectabilis“.
When planted en masse or amongst other shade-loving perennials like Hostas and Astilbes, its fern-like foliage and gentle arching form is a vision to behold. It features deep pink, heart-shaped lockets dangling in organised rows from a series of slender arching stems.
Native to Northern China, Korea, Japan and Siberia, its delicate appearance encompasses far Eastern aesthetics. As such, it would look magnificent as part of a Feng Shui garden.
How to Grow Bleeding Hearts Indoors
Although the heart-shaped, nodding, rosy-pink flowers and pendulous drops of bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) usually grace the landscapes of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 9, where the plant is hardy, you can bring their ephemeral beauty indoors if you recreate outdoor growing conditions. Bleeding heart seeds need more than six weeks of cold temperatures to stratify and germinate, and an ambient temperature of no more than 65 degrees Fahrenheit to flower. If you create the correct environment and give bleeding heart plants a well-draining medium and partial sunlight, they’ll produce showy blooms and a moderate, but consistent, growth rate.
Soak bleeding heart seeds in a bowl of water for 24 hours. Remove the seeds from the bowl, and place them in a food-storage bag filled with sphagnum peat moss. Cover the seeds completely with the sphagnum peat moss, and place the bag in a refrigerator set at under 41 degrees Fahrenheit but not freezing. Leave the seeds in the refrigerator for six weeks.
Fill 4-inch, sterile pots with a growing medium mixture of equal parts horticultural perlite and sphagnum peat moss. Use enough pots so that each seed will have its own pot. Remove the seeds from the refrigerator, and plant each seed 1/4 inch deep in its pot's growing medium. Cover the seeds with the growing medium, and gently tamp the growing medium with the bottom of a drinking glass.
Set the pots on a shallow tray. Use a watering can with a fine, rose tip to water the pots' growing medium until water drains from the pots. Secure food-grade plastic wrap over each pot with a rubber band to create an enclosed area, and cover the pots with cheesecloth to simulate shade. Place the pots in a south- or west-facing window in a room that has a temperature between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow three to four weeks for the seeds to germinate and sprout.
Mist the pots' growing medium with water from a spray bottle each day during the germination period, removing the pots' plastic wraps to mist the growing medium and then securing the plastic wraps back on the pots with rubber bands. Misting maintains the humidity in each pot's enclosed area. In addition to misting, water the growing medium as needed during the germination period to keep it perpetually moist throughout.
Rotate the pots 180 degrees every other day to distribute sunlight evenly while the seeds germinate.
Fill 8-inch, sterile pots 1/2 inch from their top with equal parts horticultural perlite and sphagnum peat moss, which form the growing medium. Use enough 8-inch pots so that each bleeding heart seedling will have its own pot. Gently scoop one bleeding heart seedling from its 4-inch pot using a spoon, and set the seedling aside. Use the spoon to dig a hole in an 8-inch pot's growing medium, making the hole large enough to contain the seedling’s roots. Place the seedling in the hole. Use the same procedure to remove each remaining bleeding heart seedling from its 4-inch pot and to plant it in its 8-inch pot.
Cover the seedlings' roots with growing medium, and mound the growing medium around each plant's stem to stabilize the seedlings. Tamp the medium down by hand to remove air pockets, and water the medium until water drains from the pots. Place the bleeding hearts in an area that receives partial sunlight and has a temperature between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix 1 tablespoon of plant-growth regulator containing 85 percent daminozide with 1 gallon of water 10 to 19 days after you transplanted the bleeding heart seedlings to the 8-inch pots or until their emerging leaves start to unfold. Pour the solution in a spray bottle, and spray the bleeding heart plants on all sides until the solution covers them but does not run off them.
Irrigate the bleeding heart plants with the equivalent of moderate weekly rainfall, or about 1 inch of water per week. Mix a granular fertilizer containing 250 parts per million (ppm) nitrogen and potassium with the fertilizer manufacturer’s recommended amount of water. Add the solution to the water you irrigate the plants with starting three weeks after transplanting them. Cut each plant's main stem back to 6 inches in length using garden shears after the flowers fade or drop.
Starting Bleeding Heart Seeds
Bleeding heart seeds need periods of warm and cold stratification to break their dormancy. The plants have incredibly delicate roots and do not transplant well, so it is best to sow the seeds in a pot of soil where they will grow for one or two seasons rather than starting them in small pots and attempting to transplant them later. Nursery pots with several drainage holes at the base and a volume of 1 gallon work well for starting bleeding heart seeds.
Fill a 1-gallon pot with very moist seed-starting compost to within 1 inch of the top. Sow two or three bleeding heart seeds per pot at a depth of 1/8 inch. Put the pots outdoors in a very warm location, or indoors on a propagation mat set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 days to warm-stratify. Keep the soil moist during the stratification process. After 30 days, move the pots to a cold location, such as inside a refrigerator, for 60 days.
Bleeding heart seeds germinate at very cool temperatures, ranging from 40 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the pots in bright, indirect light and keep the compost moist. According to Texas A&M Department of Horticulture, bleeding heart seeds germinate in three to four weeks when kept at temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove all but the most vigorous seedling.
Learn how to propagate bleeding hearts
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Question: I have a bleeding heart that was given to me by my mother-in-law. My daughter would like to have a piece of the plant, but I’m not sure how to divide it since it has died back for the season. What is the best time to divide a bleeding heart and how should I go about doing it?
Answer: Old-fashioned bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, syn. Dicentra spectabilis) are lovely plants. I understand why your daughter would like to have a piece of the one that belonged to her grandmother. Thankfully there are several ways you can propagate this popular perennial.
First, bleeding hearts are easy to divide through classic crown division. For bleeding hearts, there are a few different times you can complete this process. The first is in the very early spring, when the plant is just beginning to peek through the soil. The biggest negative of this timing is that sometimes the young shoots can break off during the process, affecting its growth and flower production for the season.
Another option is to divide the plants when they start to die back in late summer. Bleeding hearts’ foliage turns yellow in July or August, signaling the start of dormancy. The main benefit of dividing the plant at this time is that it won’t matter if you accidentally break off a stem they were soon to die back anyway. You’ll also have to work hard to make sure the plant stays well watered through the rest of the fall, even after it’s fully died back.
You can also divide the plant in the late fall, after it is completely dormant, but it can be hard to find the crown of the plant when nothing is visible above ground.
To divide the crown of the plant, dig up the entire root system, remove any excess soil and use a sharp knife to cut the plant in half, making sure each half has a portion of the crown attached. Immediately replant or pot up each division and water it in well.
While you have the plant out of the soil (or instead of digging up the entire plant to divide the crown), you can also take a few root cuttings to start new plants.
Growing new plants from root cuttings is a fun way to expand your garden, and spring and early fall are great times to do it. Root cuttings are a fast and easy way to make more plants, and you can do it with lots of different perennials and shrubs (including poppies, hollyhocks, phlox, Heliopsis, viburnums, hollies, hydrangeas and more).
To start new plants from root cuttings, you’ll need just a few things: A mother plant, a shovel, a clean sharp knife, some new plastic pots or a seeding flat, a bag of high-quality soil-less planting mix and water.
Begin the process by digging up the mother plant. Then, using a clean, sharp knife, remove several 2-inch long root sections ideally each should be about as thick as a pencil.
To plant the root cuttings, fill a clean pot or seedling flat with the planting mix, and place the cuttings into the soil with the up end pointed up and the down end pointed down (maintaining polarity). If the cutting is planted upside down, it will not grow.
The top of the root piece should be about an inch below the soil’s surface. If you aren’t sure which end is up, lay the cuttings horizontally about an inch deep. Water the soil well and keep it constantly moist but never soggy. New shoots will emerge in a few weeks to a month or two depending on the plant species.
If you take root cuttings of your bleeding heart in the fall, you’ll need to overwinter the pots in a greenhouse or in a cool, but protected site (you can always sink the pots into the compost pile or a corner of the vegetable garden up to their top rim).
If you take root cuttings in the spring, the new bleeding heart sprouts can be planted into the garden later that season.
One final way to propagate your bleeding heart is to harvest and plant some of the seeds. Bleeding hearts often naturally reseed, with young plants popping up near the mother plant in the early spring. You can also harvest a few of the seed pods in the fall, let them dry completely, pack a few seeds into an envelope and put it in the fridge for the winter. Come spring, sow the seeds in seed-starting mix in a sunny window or under grow lights. It won’t take long for them to germinate, but remember to keep the seeds in the fridge to mimic the passage of winter and break seed dormancy. Growing new plants from seed is a fun process, but it will take several years for the plant to mature enough to bloom.
With these methods, you and your daughter will have plenty of bleeding hearts to remember your mother-in-law by.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.
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