Reduce the size of that 'Bleeding Hear'

rouge21_gw(5)September 12, 2011

This past spring my three year old "Bleeding Heart" was much too big and I made a mental note to do "something" before next spring.

I dont want to divide it for the purpose of propagating it but just...'cut some out' permanently so it will be much more compact next spring.

So how should I best do this?

Do I use a shovel and slice off some of the plant all the way around the circumference?

Can I do it now or do I have to wait till early spring?

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I'm interested in learning about this also. I have two bleeding hearts that get to be about 4 feet across each spring...and then they die back, leaving me with two huge empty spaces.

Totally Confused

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 7:00AM
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If you want a smaller bleeding heart, you need to be growing a dwarf form, like 'Luxuriant' or 'King of Hearts'. You are basically trying to make a Great Dane into a Chihuahua. Dicentra spectabilis (what you are growing)grows naturally to 4'.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 9:47AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

I agree, these are big plants and there really isn't anything you can do to stop them from doing what they want to do unless of course you want to continually divide them. And they will grow back fast if the dividing doesn't kill them.

I've never tried moving or dividing one of these, but I would suspect you're best bet would be to lift the entire plant, wash off the dirt and make your decision then. I do know they have very brittle, thick, yellow roots, but I'm not sure what the actual crown of the plant looks like or how it would respond to cutting and dividing.

Maybe someone else has more experience.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 9:56AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i am with go blu... if it doesnt please you.. GET RID OF IT ...

they do not transplant easily ... a woody horseradish-type deep root .. that does not make the process easy on an older plant ...

invest or divest.. i say divest.. move on..

check out the link


ps: yes .... and now everyone will tell me its the easiest plant in the world to move.. lol ...

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 10:48AM
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Of course that 'advice' is too easily given for most any inquiry in which one dislikes a feature of an existing plant...this kind of stops any meaningful discussion from taking place.

I would consider replacing my 'Dicentra spectabilis' with a 'Luxuriant' or 'King of Hearts' if either two were anywhere close but still smaller in size to the 'Dicentra'. But they are almost miniature versions i.e. they are much, much smaller.

I was just hoping that by 'slicing' off some of the existing 'Dicentra spectabilis' would result in a more manageable sized plant that of course would still flower the following year (if done in the Fall). If this is the case then I would have no problem doing this simple procedure each year.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 11:53AM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

Just cut it back as it grows in spring. I do this so it won't swallow the neighboring primrose. I just cut back the foliage from the sides and voila, a smaller plant. No need to dig it out.

It will still be tall, however, just not wide. And BH doesn't keep throwing out new foliage like some perennials will, so it's really easy to keep narrower.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 12:01PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

Of course that 'advice' is too easily given for most any inquiry in which one dislikes a feature of an existing plant...this kind of stops any meaningful discussion from taking place.

===>>> i beg to differ ..

the OP ... wants to bonsai a giant plant..

no previous answer suggested that she look outside that box.. and offer another solution ...

so what exactly STOPS the conversation ...

she either likes it.. or she doesnt .. she cant turn it into something it isnt ... and when there are dwarf varieties.. why mess around with this one???

sure ... mess around with it for a season or two.. but just keep it in the back of your mind.. that there are other more important things in life.. as compared to messing with something you basically do NOT like ... and if you dont like it.. GET RID OF IT ...


    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 12:15PM
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Plant it for itself where it will not come in conflict with anyting else. Dicentra spectabilis is one of the most beautiful plants in existence.I would throw out ten primroses instead.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 3:39PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

Actually the idea of chopping it back when it gets too big is exactly what I do now that I think of it. I never wait until he foliage yellows. When it looks like it's about to swallow up that particular bed I get out the clippers. In fact I remove the entire foliage mass by mid summer while it is still mostly green. Let's face it, once this plant is done blooming it is no beauty. This mass decapitation has never slowed it down. Next spring it's back with a vengeance.

I have kind of a love/hate relationship with this plant. As already stated, it certainly is huge. It doesn't bloom all that long and the foliage gets ugly fast. But I simply cannot imagine a spring without it. In that first month or so of new growth and blooms in spring, it's just too lovely to not have.

(It also helps to plant other things kind of close to help hide the inevitable hole once the foliage is gone.)

One of my finest pairings is a Baptisia australis and a Dicentra spectabilis and it was a total accident. The Dicentra just happened to self sow right, smack in the middle of the Baptisia. I didn't notice it until the seedling was quite large and for some reason I didn't bother removing it.

The Dicentra emerges first in the spring and the Baptisia much, much later. By the time the Dicentra is done blooming, the Baptisia takes over. By mid summer, you can't even tell the Dicentra was ever there. It's simply swallowed up by the huge Baptisia. This has been going on for years and both seem totally content.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 4:31PM
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Any chance you could post a couple of pictures of this combination Kevin?

(Btw, doesnt the Baptisita 'need' lots of sun...unlike the BH i.e.I am a but surprised they each do well together)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 4:45PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls


Both are chopped down at the moment and I never took a photo earlier in the year. Sorry.

Yes, the Baptisia is growing in almost full sun along with the Dicentra. I realize most people grow this one in shade, but I never have. In fact, my largest Dicentra is a self-sown volunteer growing in the top of a low, stone wall in almost full sun. I never water it and it's huge. I sincerely doubt I could ever remove it without dismantling the wall.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 5:23PM
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kimka(Zone 6B)

Just for those who are interested, Dicentra spectabilis is actually very easy to divide (which will have the impact of making the plant smaller for a few years).

The key is to do it at the proper time of year and growth stage. When the foliage just begins to emerge and is only 2-3 inches tall (in late February or early March in my garden), use a shovel to dig out the main corm like root. Use a sharp knife and you can cut the root into as many pieces as you have eyes (pieces showing signs of green leaves growing out of it, like a potato). Or cut it into bigger chunks for larger plants. Try not to break off the leaf buds. You can pot up pieces for spreading around, give away or trade and replant a nice size piece where it originally was. If you do this early enough, the small pieces with just a stalk or two of leaves are pretty likely to bloom, even in small pots.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 9:12AM
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terrene(5b MA)

I am growing Hostas and Digitalis purpurea intermixed in the same bed as the Dicentra spectablis. As the foliage for the Dicentra is dying back, the Hostas are filling in and the gaps left by the bleeding heart aren't that noticeable. I plant Foxglove seedlings in between the Hosta and Dicentra and it seems perfectly happy growing as a filler the first year and the 2nd year provides dramatic blooms around the time the bleeding heart finishes blooming. They all are growing well in partial sun.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 9:36AM
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Thanks kimka for the post. That seems like a much better alternative than getting rid of it as one retains the impressive 'Dicentra spectablis' but at a more manageable size (and still much larger than a 'Luxuriant' or 'King of Hearts').

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 10:42AM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Let's face it, once this plant is done blooming it is no beauty.

I'd have to disagree, Kevin. While I fully agree that BH can and usually does look rather ratty by this time of year, the one at my folks' place looks good throughout the summer. Theirs must "like them" better than yours like you. LOL

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 1:00PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Did the title of the OP's post (once the "t" is included for "heart") strike anyone else as a title for a bad country/western song?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 11:10PM
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