The bleeding heart most people think of is Dicentra spectrabilis, the attractive shade-loving woodland perennial that blooms with delicate heart-shaped flowers in spring. Both native and cultivated bleeding heart varieties are available. The unrelated bleeding heart vine (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) has somewhat similar looking but longer-lasting flowers. Less well-known, this tropical plant is generally more suitable for growing as a houseplant. Standard bleeding heart, however, can be forced into off season bloom for gift giving and for bringing indoors as a temporary houseplant.
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Plants successfully grown indoors as houseplants have particular requirements. Light is often a limiting factor, so houseplants need to be able to tolerate seasonally changing low to moderate light conditions. Houseplants also need to thrive in the temperature range typical of most homes, or 18.3 to 23.9 degrees Celsius (65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day and slightly cooler at night. Plants that thrive in the general humidity found indoors are also more likely to succeed as houseplants. Create a more humid indoor microclimate by placing houseplants on drain trays filled with pebbles and water -- always below pot level -- but you can also mist plants.
Bleeding heart vine
Even plants that grow well indoors rarely bloom inside, but an exception is bleeding heart vine, also known as glorybower, native to tropical West Africa. This tender perennial won't survive long outside but it does just fine inside, especially on small trellises, in hanging containers, or when allowed to trail down from a high shelf. Bleeding heart vine produces prolific heart-shaped white and red flowers in both spring and summer if it gets adequate indirect light. The variegated cultivar Variegatum is even showier than the standard version, which has striking deep-veined, dark green leaves. Bleeding heart vine blooms better when it is pot bound, so don't hurry to repot it when it starts getting crowded. Fertilise with diluted high-phosphorous fertiliser every two weeks during bloom seasons, and then give it a rest in autumn and winter by cutting back somewhat on water. Prune bleeding heart vine back in early spring when new growth starts. Cut just above a leaf node to encourage more flowers which grow near new stem tips.
Grow planters of blooming Dicentra in red, deep pink, pale pink or white, depending on the variety, for appealing spring or early summer displays that can come indoors for special occasions. Bleeding heart needs well-drained soil and partial shade to produce its feathery foliage and heart-shaped flowers on arching stems. By late summer, when stems die back, fleshy underground roots have reabsorbed nutrients to support next spring's bloom.
Forcing bleeding heart
For special home-grown Valentine's Day or Mother's Day gifts, you can force bleeding heart into early bloom. You'll need cold-treated crowns; plants require 16 to 20 weeks of chilling at 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) or less. Soak pre-cooled crowns overnight. Plant them with eyes at ground level. Provide full winter or short-day light, natural or artificial, to promote compact growth. Allow six to seven weeks of forcing time at 11.1 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) for Valentine's Day, and four to five weeks in advance of Mother's Day.
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