11/07/2011 08:19 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Plant Of The Week: Bleeding Heart

Photo by Tara Heibel

As romantic looking as its name implies (in a tragic sounding way) the bleeding heart vine is a species of Clerodendrum, specifically Clerodendrum thomsoniae. Native to tropical west Africa, it is a long-stemmed, woody vine that will use trees and anything vertical to climb up from the woodland floor to access more light. It boasts an elegant and wild architectural form, packing a flower bloom that is not easily forgotten. Also referred to as "beauty bush" it gained its popularity in the mid-19th century and is currently making a comeback with its old school charm.

The oblong, glossy, dark green leaves are graceful and flowing and the flowers look like a line of dangling hearts thus its common name of bleeding heart vine. The slightly flat flowers have paper like sepals of white to pale purple on either side of bright crimson petals. It naturally blooms April through October but will bloom fairly consistently if kept warm and placed in a sunny enough location. It wants a lot of light but do not put it in direct sun in the middle of the day or it will burn. I brought one home about five years ago and it is kept happy in my eastern window without much effort. Keep your bleeding heart vine moist but not wet. It will visually talk to you when it is thirsty by bowing down its leaves. The bleeding heart vine blooms on new growth so try cutting them back right after blooming to foster more flowers.

They look best when the limbs are allowed to fall and cascade such as a hanging pot or slightly above eye level on a shelf. Since their flower is quite vivid I recommend planting them in neutral colored containers such as black, white or gray, and staying away from yellow tinted off white shades.

Easy to grow, I suggest picking up this beauty if you happen to sight one on your next outing to the local garden center. Bring on the romance!