The rich flora of the planet earth never ceases to amaze us.
The bleeding heart flower plant is one of the most beautiful representatives of the vast and enchanting world of flowering plants.
The common name of the flower comes from its lovely, eye-catching shape.
Numerous little flower pendants look like little pink hearts with a white droplet beneath each one. Since ancient times, gardeners would plant the bleeding heart flower.
The bleeding heart flowers come from Asia. There, people would use them to decorate their fairytale-like gardens.
In addition, the plant possesses some medicinal qualities, so Chinese use it as a medicine.
The symbolism of the bleeding heart flower is the essential concept in our lives – love.
Bleeding heart flowers symbolize immortal love and romance in general, but also some tragic aspects. It has been a subject in Asian legendary tales.
Bleeding Heart Flower Facts
According to botany, bleeding heart flowers are flowering plants from the genus Lamprocapnos.
The species’ name is Lamprocapnos spectabilis, the only one in this genus. It can be referred to as Dicentra spectabilis, the old name and today a synonym.
Lamprocapnos spectabilis should not be confused with other plants commonly known as bleeding heart plants.
In North America, a native bleeding heart plant classifies under the genus Dicentra, but the two are not the same species.
Bleeding heart flowers are known as fallopian buds, lyre flowers, heart flowers, lady-in-a-bath, or Asian bleeding heart flowers.
The plant is native to the Asian continent and has a special place in Chinese and Korean culture and tradition.
These eye-catchy flowers belong to the family of poppies and a subfamily of fumitory plants.
Lovers of gardening highly value bleeding heart flowers because of their incredibly looking heart-formed flowers of pink and white color.
Some associate their appearance with earrings, as these lovely-shaped little flowers are attached to arching stems, looking decorative. Lamprocapnos spectabilis is a rhizomatous perennial plant.
It has three-lobed leaves on green to pinkish stems. Stems are fleshy.
The stems with flowers attached are racemes. They are horizontally arched with hanging pendant-looking flowers of distinguished shape.
Bleeding heart flowers resemble a heart with a drop, a droplet beneath it.
The heart-shaped petals are usually pink or fuchsia, while the inner petals and droplets are white. There are varieties and cultivars of other colors.
In the northeastern parts of Asia, the species has been admired and grown for ornamental purposes for a long.
Therefore, it is not easy to determine its land of origin. The plant is native to Korea and China.
In China, the bleeding heart flower grows wild in the Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning provinces.
In Korea, it grows in Gyeongnam, Jeonnam, Gyeonggi, Gangwoon provinces, and in the foothills of mount Jirisan in South Korea.
It also inhabits the Hambuk North Korean province and Manchuria.
In Korea, the species usually grows in mountainous parts of the country, low altitudes, and shady environments. Lamprocapnos spectabilis possess great value in all of these places.
Bleeding Heart Flower Growth and Care
Bleeding heart flowers naturally love woodland areas and prefer shade. They bloom in the springtime.
The plant could behave as a spring ephemeral. Too much sunlight and hot air could make it disappear throughout the summer.
However, the plant’s roots do not die, and the bleeding heart comes back again in the fall season or springtime.
Its growth rate is moderate and typically reaches a height of about three feet. The spread is similar.
Usually, the plant produces about twenty lovely heart-shaped flowers.
It will flower for several weeks in the springtime, entering dormancy over the hottest summer days. The bleeding flower plant does not tolerate heat very well.
It could be a bit challenging to establish it in warm climates, but not entirely impossible.
The flowers of the bleeding heart plant are sensitive and delicate. They need wind protection.
The most suitable location for your Asian bleeding heart flower would be a spot protected from wind and direct sunlight.
The thing you should have in mind before choosing the right planting spot is that the bleeding heart flower could be poisonous to both people and animals.
The bleeding heart flower plant will not ’threaten’ your garden space, as it does not spread too much.
It does not require too much maintenance once established. It self-seeds so it could be a permanent addition to your garden, without much trouble.
In general, the bleeding heart flower is not a very demanding plant. It mostly requires proper conditions to establish and grow freely.
Light and soil
As we have already mentioned, the bleeding heart flower does not tolerate direct sunlight.
This plant prefers shade. Partial shade is good enough, but the plant will also feel comfortable in full shade. It does not require too much sun to grow properly.
If the bleeding heart flower plant is exposed to the direct sun it could cut its blooming phase and make it dormant.
When it comes to the soil, this plant loves moisture. The soil for your plant should be moist but well-drained, and organically rich.
If the soil you plan to plant your bleeding heart plant in is not rich enough it is advised to add some compost. This plant enjoys organic matter. The soil should be a bit acidic to neutral.
The plant does not require much fertilization, depending on the soil quality.
Organically rich soil does not require feeding at all. Your plant would benefit from universal slow-releasing fertilizer if the soil is of poor quality.
If necessary, the feeding should take place in spring. As the bleeding heart flower plant enjoys moisture, it would benefit from a layer of leaf mold on top of the soil.
Temperature, humidity and water
Beautiful bleeding heart flowers tolerate humid environments but not much head.
The ideal temperature range for this plant is between 13 to 24 Celsius (55-75 Fahrenheit). Do not worry if you see the foliage turning yellow in the summer.
This plant loves water, but it requires good drainage. Wet soil is not a good option, as it could lead to root rot.
However, water the plant during the growing season. When a top inch of the soil dries, water it.
Water the plant throughout the dormant season as well.
Although it does not grow in this period, its roots will benefit from proper hydration. This plant cannot tolerate too dry soils, so make sure you provide it with enough moisture and drainage.
It is a part of the natural process of entering the dormancy phase. That way, the plant stores its energy.
Propagation and repotting
There are several ways to propagate the bleeding heart flower plant.
The most common way is plantation from seedlings you get from nurseries, though. However, if you want to, you can propagate them from seed, by division, and by cuttings.
Most gardeners would choose practical propagation by division. It is easy to do. The process is done after the flowering season.
You should carefully dig and pull out the root ball and cut it through. Each part should contain one pink bud at least.
The original plant should be replanted into the same spot, while new plants need fresh, separate locations.
They require deep watering but make sure the soil does not stay wet.
The cuttings method is a bit more complex. Take three to five inches long cuts from the original plant.
Use sterilized tools. Remove the leaves from the bottom of the cutting and plant them into the potting mix, with the rooting hormone.
Make sure the soil is thoroughly watered but not wet. Protect the cutting by placing a plastic bag around it.
It will provide needed humidity, but make a hole in the back if there was condensation inside. Put the potted cutting into non-direct light.
Remove the bag when the plant starts producing new growth. Bring it outdoors and plant it into the final spot several days after it adapts to the outer surroundings.
You can grow bleeding heart flower plants in containers, as well.
However, the conditions must be right. The plant requires a large one, with draining holes. The potting mixture should be high quality with excellent drainage.
You should probably repot the plant after four or five years.
You could divide the plant and repot the new ones in separate pots, or use a larger container for the whole plant.
Common problems and diseases
In general, the bleeding heart flower plant is prone to common pests that most garden plants are.
Aphids, scales, snails, and slugs are the most common threat to this plant. Neem oil or an insecticide soap would be the best and the least invasive cure.
Snails and slugs are removed manually. They usually appear in the early morning or at night.
Fungal diseases could also bother your bleeding heart flower plant. Fungicide would be the best option.
If the plant turns black, it means the fungal infection is severe. The plant is rotting.
Since it could infect other plants, you should remove it and sterilize the spot.
Bleeding Heart Flower Colors and Varieties
The bleeding heart flower, Lamprocapnos spectabilis, is the only species within the genus.
Therefore, there are no other species of the plant but there are some incredible varieties and cultivars. They could be divided by colors.
Lamprocapnos spectabilis ’Valentine’ – This is the most spectacular red variety. The flowers are enchantingly cherry and white. The foliage is deep green and reddish.
Lamprocapnos spectabilis ’Alba’ – As the name says, this variety is white. It looks like a plant from a fairytale. The flowers are pure white and the foliage is light green.
Lamprocapnos spectabilis ’White Gold’ – This variety presents beautiful white flowers and light green to yellowish foliage. It appears stunning and looks spectacular in shaded areas.
Some Dicentra plants look strikingly beautiful and resemble the Lamprocapnos plants, but they do not belong to the same genus.
The dominant colors of Lamprocapnos spectabilis are pink shades and white. These colors are associated with love, passion, affection, romance, gentleness, kindness, grace, faith, purity, honor, and honesty.
Everything about the colors and shape of the bleeding heart flowers has to do with love.
In the following paragraphs, we shall learn more about the symbolic meaning of bleeding heart flowers, legends about their origin, and their cultural significance.
Bleeding Heart Flower Symbolism and Meaning
The bleeding heart flower is associated with love and romance, of course.
As we will see in the stories that follow, the legends about this beautiful flower are all about love, rejection, waiting, faithfulness, and more.
The plant got its name after its appearance – a heart-shaped flower with a droplet.
The droplet looks like it is coming from the heart. The symbolism of the flower is quite obvious. It represents a longing and/or a hurt heart.
The symbolism of the bleeding heart flower is powerful, and it could be considered both positive and negative. It symbolizes the emotion of loss, rejection, hurt, and a broken heart.
It also represents faithfulness, and the willingness to sacrifice and wait for love.
It stands for the virtue of love that conquers all obstacles. The bleeding heart flower symbolizes one’s readiness to stay faithful until the end, no matter the difficulties.
This lovely plant is a symbol of marriage and love oaths.
Bleeding Heart Flower Legends and Beliefs
The bleeding heart flower has a special place within Chinese tradition. The plant is commonly known as hébāo mǔdān, which could be translated as ‘purse peony’. The name comes from the appearance of the plant.
It resembles an upside-down Chinese ‘lucky purse’. It also has leaves that remind of those of the tree peonies plants. In China, there is a legendary tale about the origin of the bleeding heart flower plant.
The story is about the Jade maiden named Si Jun, a character who was originally a minor deity. She is an archetype of a virtuous and beautiful young lady. Si Jun lived in ancient times, in a beautiful valley between the mountains.
She was kind, faithful, beautiful, wise, and had numerous suitors.
However, the loyal Si Jun – her name translates as ‘the one thinking of her lord’ – refused all of them. She had her secret love, a beautiful and handsome young man.
Her beloved was a soldier, encamped far from her and forbidden to communicate with his love and send her answers in letters.
The faithful and patient Si Jun waited for his return. While waiting, she would dedicate herself to embroidery.
Once a month, she would embroid a purse she dedicated to her lover.
The embroidered purse would hang on the branch of a peony tree by her window. Her embroidery was so beautiful and real, that it tricked bees and butterflies.
The bees and butterflies would try to pollinate the artificial motifs on the purse, and it continued for so long that the peony tree gave new, heart-shaped flowers.
The gods made it into a new plant, the one Chinese legend refers to as the ’purse peony’.
The story of Si Jun inspired a custom of giving this plant as a precious love promise or even a proposal of marriage since the flower has a shape like a bridal purse.
The symbolism of the ’purse peony’ in China is similar to that of red roses in European culture.
The popularity of the bleeding heart flower plant reached neighboring Japan, inspiring interesting beliefs.
According to a Japanese legend, there was a young man in love with a girl, trying to win her heart.
He gave her a pair of rabbits, a pair of shoes, and earrings. The girl, however, did not fall for him and refused his kind gifts.
The young man was so hurt and in despair that he stabbed himself through his heart. It turned into the bleeding heart flower, or the drops of his blood did.
Bleeding Heart Flower History and Cultural Significance
Chinese mandarins adored the bleeding heart flower plant. In case you did not know, mandarins were bureaucrat scholars in the historical periods of China, Korea, and Vietnam. They were imperial officials.
Chinese mandarins much appreciated bleeding heart flowers. They grew them in their enchanting gardens.
Chinese gardens astonish visitors with their unique landscaping style.
The history of Chinese gardens lasts for more than three millennia. Chinese emperors and royalty would build impressive gardens of this particular style.
For a good reason, these are called fairy gardens. Chinese gardens commonly include ponds, rocks, trees, and flowering plants.
They are built within closed walls and include pavilions and halls connected by a net of paths and galleries.
Chinese fairy gardens are a beautifully arranged set of scenes a visitor can deeply enjoy. No wonder enchanting heart-shaped flowers were considered a charming touch to such an environment.
England, a country well-known for its interest in gardening, first saw the bleeding heart flower in the early nineteenth century. The introduced species were lost and then re-introduced some decades later.
The plant was re-introduced by Robert Fortune, the Scottish botanist.
He sent it to the Royal Horticultural Society and described the plant as being cultivated on the Chusan island gardens, growing between the rocks, along with other lovely flowering plants.
Chinese traditional medicine and toxicity
Apart from being deeply symbolic and beautiful, the bleeding heart flower has medicinal purposes. Chinese traditional medicine recognizes its value.
The root of the plant has precious properties. It is primarily used for detoxification.
The root of the bleeding heart flower is also employed to improve blood flow. It could also work as an analgesic.
According to Chinese traditional medicinal guidelines, this plant eliminates sores, disperses blood, and ’harmonizes’ it. Its quality is warm, bitter, and pungent.
It is beneficial to the liver by replenishing the ’jing’, the essence of the liver. Orally used, it could treat abdominal pain. Topically applied, it treats swelling and bruises.
However, these plants’ properties are powerful, so one should be cautious regarding overdose.
The overdose could lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and even serious poisoning that could lead to cardiac paralysis and respiratory failure. The plant juice could cause parenthesis if applied to the skin.
The foliage of Lamprocapnos spectabilis could be confused with that of the Korean radishes, which could lead to accidental poisoning.
One such case was recorded in a Korean restaurant, where the guests have accidentally been served some Lamprocapnos leaves instead of radish leaves.
They complained of dizziness, lethargy, dry mouth, and palpitation, and the severity of the symptoms was associated with the number of leaves they ate.
The poisoning was not fatal for anybody, but the example shows the importance of caution.