5 Reasons Why Your Bleeding Heart Isn’t Blooming

Bleeding Hearts are a beautiful cottage garden favorite that can bring blooms all spring. If yours isn't blooming, we'll share five reasons this occurs and how you can restore the former splendor of this beautiful shade plant!

delicate magenta bleeding heart blooms dangle on a long red stem against a backdrop of dewy green leaves in a shady garden.

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A springtime classic, bleeding hearts are a charming cottage garden favorite. Their signature heart-shaped blooms come in white, pink, and red. They hang like pendants on a necklace from arched stems. They are beautiful perennials for shade gardens and thrive in well-draining, moist soils.

These whimsical plants are treasured for their blooms. The flowers may become few and far between if not grown in the right conditions. Finding a location with the right growing conditions might be a little tricky.

There are several reasons they might not bloom. Luckily, most blooming problems are treatable! With a few adjustments, you should be able to see beautiful blooms all season long.

If these showy shade-lovers aren’t blooming like they should this season, there are some solutions to get them back on track. Let’s look at some common reasons your bleeding hearts aren’t blooming and ways to prevent and treat these problems.

The Plant is Too Young

Close up of a young green plant with three pronged leaves and reddish stems, in black plastic containers.
Your plant may take a while to get established before you see flowering.

Learning to be patient is tough. When it comes to gardening, I’m not a patient person. I love seeing beautiful green plants and beautiful flowers almost instantly. Unfortunately, many plants take time to establish and grow. Bleeding hearts are no different.

If you planted this perennial from seed this year, don’t be surprised if you see little to no flowering. Like most plants, they need time to acclimate to their new surroundings. They can become stressed as they adjust to new soil conditions and sunlight.

It’s common in bleeding hearts to see limited or no flowering in the first year. Your plants need more time to establish a healthy root system. If your plant doesn’t have a solid root structure, it’ll have difficulty getting nutrients from the surrounding soil, and those are needed to produce dazzling flowers and foliage.

With all the right requirements, they will bloom the following year. If it’s year two and you still don’t have blooms, start looking at other factors such as too much sunlight, too much or too little water, and soil conditions.

If you purchase a potted plant, it is most likely in its second year. This means it’s already undergone one year of growth and established a strong root system. You should see those signature blooms the first spring after they’re planted. Plant these very early in the spring or fall when the plant has gone dormant to allow them time to stretch out those roots!

Over or Under Watering

Close up of pink, heart shaped flowers hanging from a branch with water drops all over the flowers and leaves.
This plant can be drought tolerant and only needs about an inch of water per week.

When I started growing plants, I thought giving a plant too much water was impossible. Well, I was wrong. There is a sweet spot for watering these beauties without stressing them out. Too much water may lead to other problems for your bleeding heart.

They are not fans of soggy soil conditions. Avoid poorly-draining soil and overwatering. An inch of water a week is enough to keep your plant blooming from spring to mid-summer.

We now know that bleeding hearts don’t like constantly soggy soils, but do they tolerate dry soils? They are somewhat drought tolerant, but that doesn’t mean you should never water them. For happy blooming bleeding hearts, water when the soil is drying out. If your region is experiencing hot and dry conditions, water more frequently.

Get in the habit of checking the soil moisture around your plant. The soil should be moist an inch below the soil surface. Your plant will have difficulty if you regularly encounter mud or excessively dry soil.

Too Much Sunlight

Small yellow plant with stems curved downwards with little white flowers hanging from them.
Too much sun can stunt growth or affect bloom production.

The most common reason bleeding hearts won’t bloom is too much sunlight. This is a shade-loving plant. Depending on your hardiness zone, they can tolerate anywhere from partial to full shade.

In partial shade, they should receive no more than 5-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Your hardiness zone is going to determine how much sunlight they can handle.

These stunning shade plants grow well in hardiness zones 3 to 9. This is a pretty large range, and sunlight intensity varies between all of these zones. A plant in zone 3 can handle more sunlight than in zone 9. The intensity of the sunlight in zone 9 can be a major downside there; for these higher zones, try to minimize the afternoon sun exposure to reduce the risk of sunscald on your plant.

Too much sunlight decreases the amount of blooms produced. It may also impact its overall growth. Plants grown in too much sun may be less vigorous, can experience sunscald, and may struggle if the weather’s particularly hot.

Transplant Shock

Small pink flowers that are slightly wilted, hanging down from its stem in a small cluster.
Transplanting in the spring is ideal for this plant.

Sometimes, a location doesn’t work. It might receive more sun than you thought. Or there are aggressive plants that overpower one another. Whatever the reason may be, transplanting can be stressful.

A bleeding heart can be transplanted, but you must do it at the right time. Transplant in the spring before it produces buds or while the plant is dormant in the fall.

Transplanting when the plant is flowering isn’t ideal. It will become stressed from the move and will likely drop its flowers. Struggling foliage may need to be pruned while the plant focuses on recovering. If you transplant in the summer, you risk killing it.

Be careful when digging up these perennials to transplant to a new location. The root system is shallow and fragile. Loosen the soil around the roots and lift slowly from the soil to minimize the damage to the root system. Once transplanted into its new location, water the plant well and check often to see if it is adjusting.

It’s Just Too Hot

Tall plant with bright yellow leaves and wilted looking clusters of red flowers.
Warmer weather will cause these plants to go dormant and turn yellow.

We can’t control the weather. Bleeding hearts are a spring-blooming plant that enjoys cool temperatures. How hot or cold your region is affects bloom production.

This shade-lover can’t handle the heat. Once temperatures become too warm, they begin to go dormant. If you notice it isn’t blooming as much anymore and the foliage is beginning to yellow, this could signify dormancy. The plant isn’t dying and will return the following spring.

There is a temperature sweet spot between 55 – 75° F where these perennials thrive. The plant will begin to slow down its production of blooms and foliage at anything above or below these temperatures.

In very mild winters, bleeding hearts might not get the winter chill period needed to flower. If you have a potted plant, you can force blooms artificially, but you can’t do anything about the temperature outdoors. The best we can do is provide enough shade and water to combat hot weather.

Final Thoughts

Since the flowers are arguably the best feature of bleeding hearts, it can be disappointing when they stop producing or produce very few. Lucky for us, most problems related to bleeding heart blooms are fixable. Sometimes it takes a little time and patience to find the right growing conditions for them to thrive.

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