Divide bleeding hearts delicately
I have several very large, old-fashioned bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) that I would like to divide, but my gardening books are vague on how to accomplish this, simply saying to do so carefully. I don’t want to risk losing these beautiful specimens. Can you provide clearer instructions?
Regina Conner, Greenland, NH
Erica Glasener, former contributing editor, replies: Bleeding hearts should only be divided every few years, when the clump becomes large. The best time to do this is after the leaves have died down in late summer or early fall. Because the roots are very brittle, I recommend digging up the entire clump rather than chopping into it with a shovel or spade to break off the part you want. Once the clump is dug up, gently tease apart the roots, using a small garden fork. Replant the divisions, making sure each has buds. Plant the roots deeply, water well, and apply a good layer of mulch.
From Fine Gardening 52, pp. 20