Sanguinaria Canadensis

The little woodland Sanquinaria canadensis (bloodroot) are blooming now in mid spring. These perennials grow happily under the trees, flourishing in the organic matter that the trees drop and that decays into the soil. The flowers may bloom for a short time, but it is enjoyable to anticipate the beauty, and watch the perfect white petals unfold. The leaves are thick and lobed, making an interesting texture contrast with other woodland plants, or lacy ferns.

Sanguinaria canadensis flowers
Sanguinaria canadensis flowers

This photo shows the simple white blooms of Sanquinaria canadensis. Their petal structure is beautiful, even if the flowering time is brief. The flower on the left shows the perfectly symmetrical shape, with four large petals like compass points, and four shorter ones marking the directions in between.

Sanguinaria canadensis bud with leaf
Sanguinaria canadensis bud with leaf

The leaves of Sanguinaria are deeply lobed and attractive, too. Above you can see how the flower bud comes up through the bottom lobe in the leaf.

Sanguinaria canadensis and Brunnera
Sanguinaria canadensis and Brunnera

Mine are planted in between some Athyrium (ferns), Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ and Astilbe, where they make a nice bridge between the delicate texture of the ferns and Astilbe, and the solid heart-shaped Brunnera leaves. On the other side is an Arisaema (jack in the pulpit). There is some space right now between the Brunnera and the Sanguinaria because the Brunnera leaves keep growing over the summer, and will develop right up to the bloodroot. There are also some Chionodoxa (glory of the snow bulbs) planted around the Sanguinaria now. The Sanguinaria really are a woodland floor plant, standing about 20 cm (8 in) tall.

Sanguinaria canadensis flowers opening
Sanguinaria canadensis flowers opening

Here are the buds of the bloodroot in the process of opening. The folded buds are pretty even before they fully open. You can see a few light shafts hitting the broad leaves. The Sanguinaria get some early spring light before the tree leaves fully open, followed by some dappled light, and the plants seem to enjoy this exposure, making them a perfect shade perennial.

Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex' flower
Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Multiplex’ flower

Sanquinaria canadensis f. multiplex (double bloodroot) has these lovely double blooms. The multiplex are new to my garden this year. The foliage has the same deep lobes, but the blooms get lot of extra white petals. Even though the multiplex has the flashier flowers, I like both of the bloodroots in their own way. There are more photos and information about the double bloodroot, as well as how it overwintered in this followup article.

These woodland perennials are flowering at the same time as the Brunnera (Siberian bugloss) and Pulmonaria (lungwort), creating a pretty blue and white flower scheme. The Trillium flower buds are just about to open, but they’ll join the woodland flower display soon with white blooms, too. It is very reassuring to see the blooms come into flower, each in their own time. I love the plants that bloom all season for their constant colour, but there is a rhythm to the flow of seasonal blooms that add their brief beauty one after another, in a familiar pattern. They allow you to enjoy each change in the garden, and the anticipation of the unfolding seasons. Although Sanguinaria get their name from the blood red colour of their sap, the other meaning of sanguine, or hopeful, is also very appropriate.

Here is post showing more woodland flowers.

24 thoughts on “Sanguinaria Canadensis”

    1. Marit, so many of the woodland plants seem to peak in the spring. I love the beautiful white flowers of these plants.

      Lisa, we have cooler summers, so the leaves of Sanguinaria stay on all season here. Like Dave, I water the bed, too. Some other ephemeral perennials like Dicentra will also last the summer here. However my Arisaema (jack in the pulpit) does die back over summer, and I dug it up accidentally last Autumn when planting bulbs.

      Dave, I just looked it up here, where apparently the fully double form is f. multiplex, and the semi double is ‘Flore Pleno’ or ‘Plena’.

      Have you found that the recent cool weather has caused some flowers to hang on for longer? Some of my bulbs, in particular, had an extended bloom time this year.

  1. I have the double here in my garden. It dies back to the ground when it heats up during summer. I am always afraid I will forget about it and dig it up. Does your leaves stay intact through out summer since you are so far north?

  2. My double came tagged as Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Plena’ last Spring sans flowers. The leaves lasted the summer, but I regularly watered the bed (and ‘heating up’ isn’t really how I would describe an Edmonton summer).

    This Spring the bloodroot came up with triple last year’s leaves and started blooming on 12 May. Right now it is down to its last two flowers, but I am extremely content. The dozen or so powder-puff flowers were superb and the leaves will be attractive – probably – all summer.

    Northern Shade Gardener – thanks heaps! It is thanks to your posts that I finally shelled out the outrageous price.

  3. Your pictures are so pretty. I love them too for the perfect white blooms so early in the spring. I added one to my woodland garden this year.

    1. Marnie, I admire the spring flowers for their blooms when they are most appreciated. These fit right in with all of the blue and white blooms from spring perennials and bulbs that are still going.

  4. Lovely plant profile Northern, I hadn’t given bloodroot much thought before. The shape of the single flowers is so attractive, and the plants look especially nice when paired with Jack Frost with their coordinated bloom times.

    1. The Garden Ms. S, the double bloodroot blooms last longer, but these flowers are fleeting, so it’s helpful that they look good afterwords. I do like them with the lacy Astilbe foliage.

  5. Bloodroot flowers are always such a lovely surprise. I must have gotten the double in a trade, because the flowers lasted for several days instead of just one. It’s funny though, it didn’t really look double, perhaps semi-double. The number of petals may vary from year to year.

    1. Sweetbay, my single flowered bloodroot lasted a week. You were fortunate to get such a nice plant in a trade.

      Rebecca, my Hosta are slow too. They are about 10 to 15 cm above the ground, and still mostly curled. I think some varieties might be a bit earlier, and probably those in sun get a faster start.

  6. Hi Northern, Just wondering what stage your hostas are at? Mine are just peeking through but I just noticed some around town that are quite advanced. I wonder if it’s variety, soil conditions/planting depth or sun exposure? Mine are always very late, and they always have me convinced they won’t return.

  7. Hi Northern Shade,

    In reply to your question, the cool weather did seem to extend the blooming time of the tulips and daffodils that were fully emerged when the snow came, but the cold in the first week of May also blasted many of the tulip buds that were just coming up. So, the net effect on overall bloom period was probably near neutral. Only the later varieties (Rococo Parrot, Apricot Blue, Tinka, Lady Jane, Little Beauty) are in bloom now.

    I found the tag for my bloodroot – Sanguinaria canadensis multiplex ‘Plena’! So I guess the distributor was trying to have their cake and eat it too. In any case, it seems to be a full double (picture should be at the bottom of the posting at the link in my name – that way you can avoid the celebration of spiders from last weekend). There are still two buds left on the bloodroot, but they are completely covered by the leaves. If they bloom once this cold ends, I won’t even see them, but that would extend the bloom time to three weeks (started 12 May).

    For some reason, my Canadian ginger did very well last winter and has sent runners out in all directions. I’m trying to convince myself that I should take advantage of this miserable weekend to divide and transplant the ginger to spots that need a shady ground cover. But this clay is so miserable to work in when it is wet.

    1. Dave, some of my Scilla, Iris and Muscari, and later Crocus seemed to have hit the sweet spot in between weather changes to prolong bloom time. I’m surprised that more of my perennials didn’t lose their buds with our weather skirting near freezing so many times recently. However, my cowardly planters full of tender annuals hid in the garage last night when they heard the weather prediction of the possibility of some snow mixed in with the rain.

      I just checked with the RHS plant finder, and the two accepted namings seem to be Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex ‘Plena’ and Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex, but I’m not sure what the difference is between them, or if there is one. Either way, those lovely curved petals are beautiful.

      I always enjoy your posts on the more movable parts of the garden, and like observing the insects, arachnids, etc in my yard.

  8. They are such beautiful delicate looking flowers (I have lusted over the Double Bloodroot for ages and can’t find them here !) white flowers are gorgeous in a shade garden I absolutely love them : )
    I have added to my collection of brunnera and can’t wait to see how they all look next year, when they get over their transplant shock from this year ? ;-) Do you have Silver Lining by any chance ? it is completely new to me and what the owner of the company I bought them from, told me that the flowers are a bit darker in their blue colour .. I also have Mr. Morse now for the white flowers .. and King’s Ransom .. I went a bit over board because I love brunnera so much .. one more would be Emerald Mist that I would like !
    I have my first pulmonaria .. Moonshine .. so that is totally new to me .. good thing I like these plants so much because my garden is becoming more and more shade .. LOL

    1. Joy, the double bloodroot look very pretty in flower. I haven’t seen Brunnera ‘Silver Lining’, but it sounds like one that I would like, since silver leaves look great in the shady areas. I look forward to seeing your pics. Pulmonaria are lovely plants, especially when adorned with the blue flowers.

  9. Bloodroot is such a charming little flower. Mine(Sanquinaria canadensis) has given one bloom each year for the past 3 years and that’s it. Will it grown into a more substantial plant eventually?

    1. Linda, they can produce more flowers as they mature, and if they like the location. This year, the most flowers one of my plants produced was 6 flowers, but they can have more.

      Meredith, it’s fascinating to look at the adaptations plants have to their environment. The Asarum Europaeum (wild ginger) seeds are also spread by ants.

  10. What a beautiful plant! Thanks for introducing me to it — I’d never heard of bloodroot before. I looked it up and read that its seeds are spread by ants — something else I’d never heard of! Apparently they like to eat the fleshy part around the seed, so they take it to their nest, eat the fleshy part, and then discard the seed, which then germinates in its new home.

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