Planting Chionodoxa with Sanguinaria Canadensis

Sanguinaria canadensis f multiplex double bloodroot group
Sanguinaria canadensis f multiplex double bloodroot group

The exquisite Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot) flower in in mid-spring with ethereal white blooms that arise on flower stems held between leaves that are still tightly rolled. The flowers are a pure white that glow in the shade. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me until this fall to plant some pretty Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) bulbs with them. They both bloom at the same time, and the wonderful blue of the bulbs will look great surrounding the white bloodroot.

Sanguinaria canadensis f multiplex double bloodroot white flowers
Sanguinaria canadensis f multiplex double bloodroot white flowers

I grow both the single flowered Sanguinaria canadenis and the double flowering  Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex. These woodland flowers are unusual in that the flowers come up and start to unfurl before the leaves even open. Each flower stem is held above a securely coiled leaf, which clasps the stem like fingers around a wine glass stem. The petals open and appear to be rising almost directly from the earth. The purity of their petals is breathtaking. After they are done flowering, the leaves with round lobes continue to grow, and will get quite large for a short woodland plant. Unlike some of the more ethereal woodland plants, the leaves stay until fall in my garden. They are just deteriorating now in September and October, especially after our first frosts.

Sanguinaria canadensis f multiplex double bloodroot 2 flowers
Sanguinaria canadensis f multiplex double bloodroot 2 flowers

Although beautiful, the flowering time of Sanguinaria is brief. The single flowering bloodroots may only last a week, while the double flowering multiplex form last longer. The doubles are sterile, because some reproductive parts get converted to give more petals. I like to have both in the garden, as the single flowering ones are most useful to pollinators, but the doubles have more showy flowers. Because the bloom time of Sanguinaria is short, I have some Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss) planted in front to flower afterwards. You don’t have to hide the Sanguinaria though, as the broad leaves are attractive, and look good next the feathery texture of ferns or Astilbe. I grow some taller Astilbe to the right and some Athyrium filix-femina (lady ferns) in front of those. Here’s a picture of where the Sanguinaria, Brunnera and Athyrium meet.

Sanguinaria canadensis f multiplex double bloodroot 3 flowers
Sanguinaria canadensis f multiplex double bloodroot 3 flowers

It took me until this fall to realize how nice the white blooms of the bloodroot would look if there were some lovely blue flower bulbs accompanying them. In my zone 3 garden, Scilla (squills), Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) and Sanguinaria flower around the middle of May. Both Chionodoxa  and Scilla bulbs, which are closely related, flower for about 3 weeks in a lovely blue colour. Although they are all blooming at the same time, it just didn’t occur to me before to plant them together.

Scilla siberica (squills) blue flowers face down
Scilla siberica (squills) blue flowers face down

I first considered using the pretty Scilla siberica flowers. With those sky blue petals they would make a nice companion plant. They tolerate growing under the trees, too.

Chionodoxa forbesii blue flowers with white centres face up
Chionodoxa forbesii blue flowers with white centres face up

Then I thought the Chionodoxa forbesii would better. I decided to plant the Chionodoxa with the bloodroot because they have a small patch of white in the centre of the blue petals, so I think they will coordinate especially well with the gleaming white Sanguinaria. Also, the Chionodoxa flowers face upwards more, while the Scilla hang down. The Scilla are pretty, and still very noticeable as the back of the petals are so blue, but I think that the Chionodoxa with the wider upright petals will display better with the Sanguinaria flowers. After deciding that the glory of the snow bulbs would make the perfect companion planting for the bloodroot, I got to work with my shovel.

Chionodoxa forbesii glory of the snow bulbs being planted
Chionodoxa forbesii glory of the snow bulbs being planted

I dug holes all around the outer rim of the Sanguinaria group, and placed the Chionodoxa bulbs pointy side up. Then I tossed the soil back in and tamped it down. Altogether I planted 80 glory of the snow bulbs around the bloodroot colony in order to balance out the groups.

I tried to stay outside of the bloodroot root area, but I did accidentally dig one up. The rhizomes are thick and oblong, rather like small carrots, and are a reddish orange color, hence their common name. I could see them already spreading underground by these rhizomes to increase the colony, even though they’ve only been here for 3 years. After I reburied it, I realized that I should have taken a photo of it. I’d already disturbed them enough, so I kept them tucked safely underground.

Sanguinaria canadensis and Chionodoxa forbesii collage
Sanguinaria canadensis and Chionodoxa forbesii collage

I created a collage to show the effect of the Sanguinaria canadensis surrounded by Chionodoxa bulbs. There will be more white flowers in the middle, since there were originally 3 double bloodroot and 3 single bloodroot. Both the bulb and the perennial will only flower for a short time in May, but I think they will be very eye-catching as partners. The Sanguinaria and Chionodoxa are compatible, since both can grow in the shade, and luckily they are both hardy in zone 3. These two come from different native areas;  Sanguinaria is a woodland plant from Eastern Canada, and Chionodoxa is from alpine areas in the Eastern Mediterranean. Although you wouldn’t find them growing together in the wild, they should make a terrific duo in my garden.

You can see how the double bloodroot and glory of the snow looked the next spring


30 thoughts on “Planting Chionodoxa with Sanguinaria Canadensis”

    1. Lillekasvataja, those white Sanguinaria flowers look marvelous when they open, almost like water lilies for the garden. They are especially surprising, as they rise up out of the soil so quickly to flower, and are easy to miss if you aren’t walking around the garden every day.

      Marit, I’ve been having a lot of fun planting new combinations for next spring. Since the Sanguinaria have a short flowering time, it’s trickier to get companions that bloom at just the right time.

    1. M/S Design Mariana, I really appreciate that the Sanguinaria canadensis is up so early, too. It is flowering before many other perennials are even getting their leaves.

  1. I have planted Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex several times but they have all died.
    This Autumn I have only bought 4 bulbs. Four Tulipa sprengeri. Hope that they like to live here :-)

    1. Birgitta, it is unfortunate that they didn’t flourish for you. When you try them a number of times, that’s especially disappointing.

      It’s fun to try new bulbs, so I hope the new tulips do well for you.

  2. I love the combination! You have given me something to hope for. I planted a couple of small bloodroot last fall, and one or two little flowers came up this past spring. My dream is for it to spread, and I hope someday they will look like yours. If mine begin to prosper I will plant more.

    1. Debsgarden, this is the bloodroot’s third year in my garden, and they have been putting on a better display each year. I was happy to see the rhizomes spreading underground.

  3. I planted a clump of bloodroot this spring, but it died back. I hope it just went dormant. I have several spring bloomers that died back. I hope they come back.

    I like your idea of the combinations.

    1. Corner Garden Sue, I think that they are more likely to go dormant in warmer climates. Our summers are fairly cool, and the leaves stay until autumn. I hope you see the spring blooms pop back up next year.

    1. Helena, I’m glad that the Chionodoxa have a longer flowering time of 3 weeks, so they should overlap their bloom times.

      Gitte, I have seen the single form in the forest when I was in Eastern Canada.

  4. So wonderful to find my way to your blogg! Thank you for the comments in my blogg.
    You make me feel that there IS a new spring coming, after all this autumn-rain and darkness. I love my Sanguinarias, they are so sweet and lovely.

    1. Törnrosa, The Sanguinaria seem all the more sweeter, because their flowering time in the garden is brief. I’ve had my mind more on spring than autumn, with planting so many bulbs lately. When I took the tender plants out of my planters, I put some spring coloured pansies in them.

  5. Thank you for the nice comments! I like your blog and posts about planting a lot of bulbs for springflowering. The post about killing weeds with boiling water is very interesting I have to try that! Sorry I’m not used to write in english and our iPad changes some words all the time.. ;-)

    1. Ulrika, your English writing is fine, and the iPad didn’t garble the message either. The boiling water works great for weeds between the cracks in your patio or walkway.

      Marie, the bulbs give you something to anticipate through winter.

  6. YOU are going to truly enjoy your upcoming Spring!! I’d love to visit and have a tour! :-) I’m way behind on the Chionodoxas… Must get my act together for next year!

    I’m also looking forward to seeing your lawn next spring. My little “couple of volunteers” just don’t spread fast enough. :-)

    Happy Fall!!

    1. Shady gardener, I try to get the bulbs in as early as I can here, preferably September or at least early October, since our cold starts quickly and they need time to settle in. However, I have put some in as late as November and they do okay. I don’t think my crocus naturalize and spread as much as they might in other zones. I gave them a head start by planting a large group.

  7. i’ve been enjoying reading your blog of late .. very inspirational to me as i, too, am learning to garden a shade garden .. finally had to give up my belief that i have more sun than i actually do .. takes years sometimes to finally ‘get it’ .. so .. am loving your choices of plants .. am looking forward, with you, to the new duet with sanguinaria and chinodoxa in the spring .. as i watch the emergence of bulbs and the growing buds on perennials and shrubs in my own yard i remind myself that not everyone has such a garden peering luxury .. quiet hibernation to you ..

    1. Jane, as my trees grow, I have fewer sunny spots, and am planting more and more shade perennials. I can’t wait for spring to arrive here, to see how the new bulbs combinations look, especially this one. I also planted some new combinations of crocus, some new tulips and perennials duos, and some other early bulbs groupings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.