7 Reasons Your Bleeding Heart is Turning Yellow

Bleeding Hearts are known for their beautiful lacy foliage and delicate nodding blooms. If yours is turning yellow, join Paige Foley for an explanation of potential causes and solutions to get your plant healthy again!

Yellowing bleeding heart plant

A beloved spring perennial, bleeding hearts are a beautiful addition to any shady area. Noted for their heart-shaped blooms and blue-green foliage, they bring cottage charm to any space. They are quick growers and fairly low-maintenance once established.

They are pretty easygoing plants that will adapt to most environments, but like most plants in the garden, they are also prone to problems. One of the most common problems is yellowing leaves.

There are many reasons your bleeding heart leaves might be turning yellow. Here, we discuss seven reasons why it happens and how to fix the problem. Let’s get started!

Contents

Sunlight

Close up of bright pink, heart shaped flowers hanging from a curved stem. Sun is shining in the plant and the leaves are a yellowish, green color.
Sun exposure plays a big part in the color and well-being of your plant.

The biggest reason the leaves on your plant are turning yellow is too much or too little sunlight. Bleeding hearts like partial shade to full shade. The leaves will become sunscalded and shut down due to the stress from too much sun.

If you have the perfect spot, but there is too much sun, consider a variety that can handle more. ‘King of Hearts’ is a perfect option to handle more sun.

Sunlight requirements will be based on your hardiness zone. Plants in zones 3 to 5 can handle more sunlight than those in zones 6 to 9. This is because lower zones have shorter sunlight hours and less intense sunlight.

If you live in zones 3 to 5, consider planting this species in full to partial shade. I recommend planting in areas of your garden with less than 6 hours of daily sunlight in lower zones.

Plant in the shade of trees or buildings for best results. These plants produce more blooms and denser foliage if planted in the right sunlight. Shade from other taller perennials or annuals works as well. Morning sunlight is preferred over afternoon sunlight, which is too intense for many plants.

If you think your plant is getting too much sun, consider transplanting it to a shadier area in spring or fall. Transplanting during the summer will cause too much stress on the plant and could kill it.

Improper Watering

Close up of a bright green plant with small, light pink flowers that has water droplets all over it.
This species likes consistently moist soil, but not an excess of water.

Bleeding hearts are native to woodland areas. These areas are typically shadier and have moist soil conditions. Bleeding heart prefers consistently moist soils, so it’s best to try and mimic a woodland-like environment. By mimicking their native habitat, you will have beautiful, lasting plants.

Check your soil. It should be moist at least an inch below the soil surface. Provide water if you can’t feel damp conditions with a touch, and don’t allow the soil to become soggy or too dry. A good, consistent balance is ideal!

You’ll need to water more frequently during the plant’s first year of growth. They need the extra water to help establish strong, healthy roots. An inch of water weekly is ideal to achieve maximum growth. If your region experiences a hot and dry summer, provide supplemental water.

Aeration is key to your plant’s health. The root system should have access to oxygen as well as water. Too much water will cut off that oxygen supply and can lead to the development of fungal pathogens that cause root rot.

Yellowing leaves can indicate oxygen deprivation or root rot, so monitor the plant’s color for warning signs.

Towards the end of summer and into the fall, water less frequently as the plant goes dormant. As the heat of the summer ebbs away, the soil will lose less moisture to evaporation, which means watering as much is no longer required. During the winter months, only water if the soil dries out; if you have regular rainfall, you may not need to water at all.

Temperature

Close up of bright pink, heart shaped flowers hanging from a reddish stem with tiny water drops lining the stem.
Bleeding hearts can experience summer aestivation, a form of summer dormancy.

This early spring bloomer loves cooler temperatures. They are one of the first plants to emerge after the winter, gracing the garden with their charming blooms.

The ideal temperature for bleeding hearts is 55- 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You may notice wilting or light-colored leaves once temperatures rise above 75 degrees. If you’re in a warm climate, these are plants for partial shade!

They bloom longest in cool regions with adequate watering and lower temperatures. In a typical summer, bleeding hearts finish blooming by mid-season.

If temperatures are too hot, the plant goes into aestivation, a period of summer dormancy. It can’t handle the high temperatures and shuts down all processes. This is natural and will happen even if you water regularly. But with aestivation comes some yellowing, so if it’s getting warm, this may simply be your plant dying back and going dormant during the summer.

High Soil pH

Close up of a PH soil monitor stuck in the soil.
It’s important to provide the right kind of soil when planting.

Understanding your soil is beneficial. Soil pH affects how well certain plants grow. Assuming it isn’t one of the above factors, it’s possible that your soil’s pH is to blame for yellowing leaves, particularly if you’re experiencing highly acidic or alkaline conditions.

The ideal soil pH for bleeding hearts is 6.0 to 7.0. This is the sweet spot. Do not plant in soil pH above 7.5, as the alkalinity can cause problems. Similarly, if the soil leans acidic, you may have some issues.

Soil pH affects the availability of nutrients in the soil. As the soil pH increases, micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and manganese become less available to the plant. While nitrogen and potassium are more linked to the photosynthesis process, a lack of micronutrients can also cause a reduction of chlorophyll in the plant’s tissues, eventually turning leaves yellow.

Nutrients

Close up of gloved hands holding a pile of soil.
Organic matter such as grass clippings and dead leaves will help the soil hold onto nutrients.

Providing enough nutrients can be a struggle. When the soil doesn’t hold enough nutrients, plants have difficulty becoming established or accessing what they need to survive.

Certain soil types leach nutrients. While plenty of flowers enjoy sandy soil, it’s notorious for being nutrient deficient. It’s challenging, but possible, to amend your soil. Adding organic matter will help the soil hold onto nutrients.

Organic matter is found all around! Some common types of organic matter are grass clippings, dead leaves, and kitchen scraps. Many gardeners create their own compost, which is easy and cost-effective.

If you don’t have a readymade supply of compost at hand, slow-release organic fertilizers are fantastic for amending soil. These release steady amounts of nutrients gradually over time. Slow-release fertilizers eliminate the risk of fertilizer burn and stay in the soil much longer. Quick-release fertilizers that are water-soluble may quickly leach out of the soil.

Dormancy

Green bush with three pronged leaves all over it.
This species can experience winter dormancy, too.

Many plants go dormant when temperatures get colder in the fall, but these plants favor cool weather. Even so, some truly cold winters can cause dormancy. Dormancy is a period of metabolic inactivity. This is a survival mechanism to help the plant avoid weather extremes and stress.

During dormancy, foliage often begins to die back, which can cause yellowing of the plant tissues. The plant will pull back some stored food supply into the root system to sustain it through the colder months.

It’s a good idea to cut back the dormant foliage once it fully turns yellow or brown. This will help clean your garden and prevent the spread of diseases. Cutting back in the late fall or early winter can help create bigger, bushier plants the following spring.

You Planted a Yellow Variety

Yellow bush with three pronged leaves and tiny white flowers all over it.
Some varieties have beautiful golden leaves all season.

Did you know there are golden varieties of bleeding hearts where the leaves are always yellow? It’s true!

If the plant’s leaves emerge yellow in early spring, it’s most likely a golden variety. Common golden types are ‘Gold Heart’ and ‘White Gold,’ which produce elegant yellow leaves all season.

If your plant continues to produce healthy yellow leaves and plenty of flowers, there is no need to panic. Don’t stress, and enjoy your beautiful golden cultivar!

Final Thoughts

Yellowing leaves can be discouraging, but they’re not always a bad sign for bleeding hearts. Understand why your plant’s leaves turn yellow to make fixing the problem easier!

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