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This or That: ‘Gold Heart’ Bleeding Heart vs. ‘Sun King’ Aralia

By: Marisa Reyes
Which plant with gold foliage is best for your garden? Learn about the differences between ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding heart vs. ‘Sun King’ aralia to help you choose.

This or that: Gold foliage: ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding heart vs. ‘Sun King’ aralia.

Gold foliage options for your garden

Welcome to the cool world of gold-foliaged plants! They're the secret to jazzing up your garden beds and borders, giving that extra pop and making your other plants shine. Here, we're shining the spotlight on two stars – ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding heart and ‘Sun King’ aralia – both flaunting their bold, gold foliage. Join us as we explore the unique charm of these plants, helping you pick the perfect garden companion.


Gold heart bleeding heart habit: A lively addition to any shade garden! ‘Gold Heart’ makes an impressive focal point when grown as a single specimen.

‘Gold Heart’ old-fashioned bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

  • Blooms: Delicate pink and white heart-shaped flowers hang from peach-colored stems in early spring and make a charming addition to spring bouquets.
  • Habit: Mounded clumps grow 18 to 24 inches tall and 24 to 36 inches wide.
  • Leaves: Three golden yellow leaflets joined together on a single stem.
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

Grow this twist on a classic

Liven up your shade garden with the bright foliage of ‘Gold Heart’, a unique twist on the classic old-fashioned bleeding heart. Low maintenance and fast growing, it’s one of the earliest perennials to emerge in spring and makes a great food source for waking and returning pollinators. It’s also a good choice for those who struggle with deer and rabbits, as they tend to avoid it.

'Gold heart' bleeding heart labelled botanical illustration: ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding heart botanical illustration.

Where ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding heart works best

Since ‘Gold Heart’ is one of the earliest plants to bloom in spring, it makes an attractive companion for spring-flowering bulbs and woodland ephemerals. Grow ‘Gold Heart’ next to later-developing perennials like hostas and ferns, which help hide its fading foliage by midsummer. It isn’t often planted in big sweeps since it goes dormant pretty early in the season, but it makes a great spring focal point. Hummingbirds and bees frequently visit these nectar-rich flowers.

How to grow ‘Gold Heart’ bleeding heart

Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8, ‘Gold Heart’ develops the most vivid golden foliage color when planted in morning sun and afternoon shade. In too much shade the leaves will be more chartreuse than they are golden, and with too much afternoon sun, the foliage will burn. Plants prefer well-drained soil. In moist soil, ‘Gold Heart’ foliage will remain standing through summer, but it often goes dormant. So don’t worry if it starts to turn brown by midsummer and dies back.

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Sun king aralia habit: Adding ‘Sun King’ to the garden is a great way to get the look of a shrub for the cost of a perennial.

‘Sun King’ aralia (Aralia cordata)

  • Blooms: Insignificant white flowers form on 2-foot spikes in late summer. In fall, they form red-purple to black berries that wildlife and birds enjoy.
  • Leaves: Serrated, oval-shaped gold leaflets join together on a single stem.
  • Habit: Mounded clumps grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide.
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

Make a statement with gold foliage

Looking for a low-maintenance plant with big impact? Check out ‘Sun King’ aralia. This fast-growing perennial’s large gold leaves and impressive size make a bold statement without a lot of work on your part. It’s a delightful addition to the landscape when you want to create a tropical getaway in your own backyard because of its bright foliage.

Where ‘Sun King’ aralia works best

‘Sun King’ aralia shines in woodland gardens all summer. Whether you grow one plant or several together, its gold foliage positively glows in shade and is sure to attract attention. Mark the entrance to a path to draw visitors to take a stroll or to brighten up a shady seating area.

'Sun King' aralia botanical illustration: ‘Sun King’ aralia botanical illustration.

How to grow ‘Sun King’ aralia

Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9, this plant prefers to be grown in moist, fertile well-drained soil. Strong winds can burn or shred the large leaves and even cause them to curl, so it’s better to plant in a slightly protected spot. Morning sun and afternoon shade will provide the best foliage color. In full shade the color won’t be as bright, and in full sun, the leaves can burn.

‘Sun King’ often self-sows, so either cut berries before they drop or you may need to pull seedlings every spring. At the start of the growing season, cut back the previous year’s foliage a few inches above the ground before new growth emerges.

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