How to Grow and Care for Bleeding Heart Vines

HomeHow ToCare GuideHow to Grow and Care for Bleeding Heart Vines

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Bleeding heart vines, particularly the species Clerodendrum thomsoniae, are beloved for their striking appearance and graceful blooms. These captivating plants have a rich history and a fascinating origin story that enhances their allure in gardens worldwide.

The bleeding heart vine, Clerodendrum thomsoniae, is native to the tropical regions of West Africa, specifically Nigeria and Cameroon. This plant’s enchanting beauty was first brought to the attention of the Western world in the mid-19th century by Scottish botanist George Thomson. As horticultural practices evolved and the global trade of exotic plants expanded, the bleeding heart vine found its way to gardens and homes worldwide. Today, it is cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions across the globe, from Southeast Asia to South America, and even in temperate regions where it can be grown indoors or in greenhouses.

  • Botanical Name: Clerodendrum thomsoniae
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Height: Up to 15 feet
  • Foliage: Lush, green leaves
  • Bloom Time: Summer and Fall
  • Climate: Tropical and Subtropical
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil Requirements: Well-draining, fertile soil
  • Hardiness Zones: 9-11
  • Flowering: White calyx with red petals
  • Seasonal Features: Evergreen in tropical climates
  • Special Features: Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets if ingested

Cultivating Bleeding Heart Vines

Cultivating bleeding heart vines (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) produces beautiful, heart-shaped flowers with a unique combination of red and white. As a climbing vine, it can be trained to grow on trellises, arbors, or fences, adding vertical interest. It can also create beautiful flower-covered arches or screens.

If you’re in a warm climate, it’s best to plant bleeding heart vines in spring. Wait until all threats of frost have passed. If you’re propagating from seeds, the best time to plant seeds is in late summer. The seeds need a period of cold exposure to break dormancy and release the embryo.

  1. Choose a location that offers dappled sunlight or light shade, such as near a tree or on a north-facing wall. Choose a spot sheltered from strong winds, which can damage the delicate vines and flowers.
  2. Remove any rocks, weeds, or debris from the planting area to create a clean planting bed.
  3. Soak seeds in warm water for 24 hours before planting to improve germination rates.
  4. Plant seeds about 1/4 inch deep in the soil.
  5. Keep the soil consistently moist and maintain a temperature around 70-75°F (21-24°C). Seeds typically germinate in 2-4 weeks.
  6. Once seedlings have established roots that are large enough to handle and have a few sets of true leaves, transplant them into individual pots or the garden.
  7. Water the vine thoroughly after planting to settle the soil around the roots. Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the vine to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  8. Provide a trellis, arbor, or other support structure for the vine to climb. Train the vines by gently tying them to the support as they grow.

How to Care for Bleeding Heart Vines

Water

During the active growing season, water every 5-7 days using about 1 inch of water, or more frequently during hot, dry periods, ensuring the soil is moist but not soggy. In colder months, from mid-November to mid-February, before watering, check the soil moisture level by sticking your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.

Use room temperature water to avoid shocking the roots. If possible, use rainwater or distilled water, as tap water with high chlorine or fluoride levels can be harmful to the plant over time.

Sunlight

The Bleeding Heart Vines (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) produce the most blossoms in bright light. Planted outdoors bleeding heart vines (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) where the vine should receive partial shade, such as under the canopy of larger trees or shrubs for outdoor placement. USDA growing zones 9-11 are the ideal area for a partially sunny. Potted plants should placed in a bright room where they can receive plenty of indirect sunlight. Near south or west-facing windows are often ideal. Avoid placing the plant in direct sunlight through a window.

A minimum of four hours of indirect sunlight per day for The Bleeding Heart Vines (Clerodendrum thomsoniae). If natural light is insufficient, especially during winter months, use grows lights to supplement. Position the lights 12-18 inches above the plant and provide 12-14 hours of light per day.

Fertilizer

Fertilize bleeding heart vines every 4-6 weeks during the active growing season, which is typically in spring and summer. Reduce or stop fertilizing in fall and winter when the plant’s growth slows down. Use a moderate amount of fertilizer to avoid over-fertilization leads to root damage. After applying the fertilizer, water the plant thoroughly to help dissolve the nutrients and carry them down to the root zone.

For feeding bleeding heart vines (Clerodendrum thomsoniae), a balanced fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) is suitable. Choose a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer with an equal ratio of N-P-K, such as 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. Or use either granular, liquid, or compost fertilizers. Liquid fertilizers are typically faster-acting and more readily absorbed by the plant.

Soil

A pH between 5.5 and 6.5 is optimal for Bleeding Heart Vines. Bleeding heart vines prefer soil that drains well. Choose a soil mix that is loose, well-aerated, and allows excess water to drain freely. Loosen the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches (30 cm) using a garden fork or tiller. This allows for better root penetration and drainage. If the soil is heavy clay or tends to retain water, amend perlite, coarse sand, or vermiculite into the soil to improve drainage.

Mix in compost, well-rotted manure, or leaf mold to improve fertility, moisture retention, and soil structure. Promote soil health and microbial activity by incorporating organic matter and avoiding the use of chemical pesticides that may harm beneficial soil organisms.

Prune

The best time to prune The Bleeding Heart Vines is late spring or early to mid-summer. Once spent flowers, remove spent flowers by cutting back the stem just above a set of healthy leaves or buds. If you want to maintain a specific shape or size, prune the vines after the flowering period is over. Cut back all stems to about 12 inches. Once the foliage naturally fades, cut all of the foliage down to a few inches above the ground. For bushier growth, hard pruning can be done in late winter before new growth appears.

Thin out overcrowded or tangled stems by cutting them back to the base or to a healthy outward-facing bud or side shoot. This opens up the plant and allows light and air to reach the inner foliage. Cut back long, straggly stems to encourage branching and promote a more compact growth habit.

Temperature & Humidity

While they can tolerate warmer temperatures, protect the vines from prolonged exposure to temperatures above 85°F (29°C). Bleeding heart vines are not frost-tolerant, Avoid exposing the plant to temperatures below 50°F (10°C) to prevent cold damage.

These plants do best with medium to high humidity levels, around 50% or higher. This mimics their natural tropical habitat. When grown indoors, they may benefit from the use of a humidifier to maintain these humidity levels.

Container

Opt for a large container, at least a 12-inch pot, to accommodate the root system and support the vine’s growth. Containers made of glazed ceramic, sealed stone, or plastic are good choices as they help retain moisture. Ensure the container has adequate drainage holes to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot. Since Bleeding Heart Vines are climbers, consider a container that can be placed near a support structure like a trellis or allow for a stake to be inserted into the pot.

Type of Bleeding Heart Vines

While Clerodendrum thomsoniae is the most commonly cultivated species, several other varieties and related species within the Clerodendrum genus are popular.

  • Clerodendrum thomsoniae (Common Bleeding Heart Vine) is the classic bleeding heart vine, known for its red and white flowers. The blooms have white, heart-shaped calyces with bright red petals that emerge from the center.
  • Clerodendrum thomsoniae ‘Delectum’ is a cultivar of the common bleeding heart vine, ‘Delectum’ features more vibrant and larger flowers than the typical species.
  • Clerodendrum speciosum (Java Glorybower) produces red calyces and deep pink to red petals. The foliage is also attractive, with glossy green leaves.
  • Clerodendrum splendens (Flaming Glorybower) is known for its clusters of bright red flowers, this variety is particularly showy and attracts hummingbirds.
  • Clerodendrum bungei (Rose Glorybower) has fragrant pink flowers that form dense, rounded clusters. The leaves are large and heart-shaped.

How to Propagate Bleeding Heart Vines

Propagating Bleeding Heart Vines can be done through stem cuttings or layering. Both methods can yield healthy new plants that will continue the legacy of your original vine.

Stem Cuttings

  1. Choose a healthy, non-flowering stem from the parent plant. Cut a 4-6 inch (10-15 cm) section just below a leaf node. Ensure the cutting has at least two sets of leaves.
  2. Remove the lower set of leaves, leaving the top set intact. If using rooting hormone, dip the cut end of the stem into the powder.
  3. Insert the cutting into a small pot filled with moist potting mix or seed-starting mix. Ensure the node (where you removed the leaves) is buried in the soil.
  4. Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag or place it in a propagator to maintain high humidity. Ensure the plastic does not touch the leaves.
  5. Place the pot in a warm, bright location with indirect light. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
  6. After a few weeks, the cutting should develop roots. You can check by gently tugging on the cutting – resistance indicates root growth.
  7. Once well-rooted, transplant the cutting into a larger pot or the garden.

Layering

  1. Choose a healthy, flexible stem close to the ground.
  2. Prepare a small area of soil next to the plant or fill a small pot with potting mix.
  3. Make a small cut or scrape on the underside of the stem where it will touch the soil. This encourages root formation.
  4. Bend the stem down to the soil and bury the wounded section in the ground or pot. Secure it with a small stake or wire.
  5. Cover the buried section with soil and water well. Keep the soil moist.
  6. After several weeks, roots should develop at the buried section. Once well-rooted, cut the new plant from the parent and transplant it.

How to Repot Bleeding Heart Vine

When your vine outgrows its container, it’s time to repot.

  1. Select a pot that is 2-3 inches larger in diameter than the current one.
  2. Fill it with fresh, well-draining potting mix.
  3. Carefully remove the plant from its old pot, gently shaking off excess soil.
  4. Place the plant in the new pot, filling around the roots with soil and pressing gently to secure.
  5. Water the plant well after repotting to help it settle in its new home.

Common Pests & Diseases

Bleeding Heart Vines (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) are generally hardy, but they can be susceptible to several pests and diseases. Common pests include aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies, which can cause damage by sucking sap from the leaves, leading to yellowing, wilting, and stunted growth. Additionally, Bleeding Heart Vines may suffer from fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and root rot. Powdery mildew appears as a white, powdery coating on the leaves, while root rot, often due to overwatering or poor drainage, can cause the roots to decay and the plant to wilt.

FAQs

Can bleeding heart vines grow indoors?

Yes, with sufficient light and humidity, they can thrive indoors.

Are bleeding heart vines toxic?

Yes, they are toxic if ingested by pets or humans.

How fast do bleeding heart vines grow?

They can grow rapidly, reaching full height within a couple of years under ideal conditions.

Do bleeding heart vines need a trellis?

Yes, they are climbing plants and benefit from support like a trellis or fence.

Can bleeding heart vines tolerate cold weather?

They are not frost-tolerant and should be protected or brought indoors in cooler climates.

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