Propagate bleeding heart by divisions

Propagate bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) by seed, stem or root cuttings, or divisions. Bleeding heart does not require division to keep the plant robust. To create more bleeding heart plants to expand your shade garden, divide the root ball every three to five years. Divide bleeding heart in the spring just as new growth appears or in early fall when the stems are wilted, indicating the plant is dormant. This example on how to propagate bleeding heart by dividing the root ball is performed in early September.

Bleeding heart clump with soil shaken off
Remove the plant

Dig the bleeding heart plant from the ground or container. Dig about 6 inches from the base of the plant and as deep as the shovel will go. Lift the root ball out on the shovel. If you can, lift the root ball in both hands and toss gently to release soil from the roots. The root system of bleeding heart is very fragile and some roots will break. This clump of bleeding heart is about the size of a large grapefruit.

Divide the root ball

Place the root ball on a surface where you can gently separate the roots. I like working on a plastic trash can lid; when I’m finished, I can bend the lid to direct the soil to a desired location. Use your fingertips to comb through the roots to separate the clump. Three divisions came from this clump. The division in the center may lack sufficient root system to grow. Check back in the spring and I'll let you know how it did.

All three bleeding heart clumps survived the winter. 
Only one (the largest) produced blooms the first year after division.
The others should produce blooms in one to two years.


Immediately plant the divisions. Choose a well-drained area with partial shade. Dig the hole as deep as the roots and twice as wide as the new clump. Digging the hole wider loosens soil for easier root growth. Hold the root ball over the center of the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding ground. Push the soil back into the hole. Water around the root ball to settle the soil. Add more soil if needed to level the surface.

Water deeply and apply about 2 inches of organic mulch such as pine chips or leaf mold. For fall propagaton, if the stems are still green, allow them to die back naturally. Otherwise, clip the stems about 2 inches above ground level. Water every seven to 10 days if there is no rainfall, spring through fall.

Related posts: