Double Bloodroot for the Shade

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex pretty double flowers
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex pretty double flowers

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex (double bloodroot) are fabulous plants for a shady woodland section in your garden. I’m very happy to see this year that the bloodroot is spreading well and putting on a better flower display each season.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex newly emerging bud
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex newly emerging bud

The new flowers rise up straight from the ground in spring, wrapped cozily in a rolled up leaf. As the leaf unwraps, the flower opens fully on the first or second day. You can see the sequence of blooms in the picture above, with a tight bud on the left,  a partially open bud in the middle, and a fully open flower on the right.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot flower closeup
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot flower closeup

Multiplex is the double form of bloodroot. All of the extra petals make for an exquisite flower, packed full of pure white loveliness. The double multiplex form flowers for longer than the single, which can be very brief.

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

The double bloodroot flowers resemble a lotus flower or waterlily as they appear to float above the broad leaves.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex white flowers
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex white flowers

They spread by rhizomes, so if the plants are happy, you can get a nice colony forming.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot

As the Sanguinaria in this site have spread, they have made a much larger flower display each year.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex white flowers with blue chionodoxa
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex white flowers with blue Chionodoxa

This bloodroot colony is surrounded by Chionodoxa luciliae (glory of the snow). This year the Chionodoxa peaked a little before the Sanguinaria, so there aren’t as many of the pretty blue flowers left to set off the white blooms. I’m thinking of adding some Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ (double grape hyacinths) bulbs to this area in the fall. ‘Blue Spike’ blooms after the Chionodoxa, so if the Chionodoxa are a little early, there will still be some blue flowers surrounding the bloodroot.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot 4 flowers
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot 4 flowers

You can see here how nicely the Chionodoxa at the back pairs with the double bloodroot in front. It just needs a larger blue background to balance it out.

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

The flowers have a delicate, exotic appearance, but they are very hardy. They have no problem surviving a zone 3 winter, with temperatures down to -35 °C (-31°F), or sometimes -40° (Celsius and Fahrenheit even out about this temperature). My garden is surrounded by houses in the city, so the site is a little sheltered, rather than open prairie or parkland. These beauties are thriving in Edmonton, even though they are native to the woodlands of Eastern Canada.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex leaves
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex leaves

The foliage grows quickly as the flowers bloom, and soon those substantial leaves are up to 20 cm (7 to 8 inches) across. Their attractive shape is a little different from other shade plants, with their rounded lobes and a deeply wavy margin. In my cooler summer, the thickly textured leaves stay all season, and form a dense mat to make a good groundcover. Those overlapping leaves  can out-compete the maple seedlings that are determined to turn my yard into an all maple forest. There are bare areas around this group right now, as the surrounding ferns, Hosta, Brunnera and Astilbe are just starting to grow, but within a month they will meet the bloodroot leaves to make a tight carpet of foliage here.  The ferns and Astilbe make good companions to bloodroot, since their slower growth ensures they don’t block the view of the pretty white flowers when the bloodroot are in bloom.  As the double bloodroot finish flowering, the Astilbe and ferns grow lacy foliage, to contrast with the thick and solid bloodroot leaves. There is also some Polygonatum (solomon’s seal) to one side that starts blooming as the bloodroot flowers finish.

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

I used to have some Sanguinaria canadensis (single bloodroot) in the same location, but they’ve disappeared over the last few years, while the doubles have settled in and spread. Although the double bloodroot is more beautiful, it’s unfortunate for the pollinators, because the doubles are sterile. Since the single flower form doesn’t seem as hardy in my garden, I don’t think I’ll try replanting it. Sorry bees, I usually try to cater to you.

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot large group
Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex double bloodroot large group

The double bloodroot must enjoy the location under the trees on the north side of a fence, as they have been spreading beautifully. The site is almost all shade, with a small amount of direct light when the sun is very low in the sky, and a little bit of dappled light. You can see in the pictures that they get a lot of debris from the trees,  such as small branches, twigs, leaves, willow catkins, etc. If you have a willow you know they are always dropping something in the garden. I clean up some of the leaves in the spring, but leave most of the other tree droppings here. The bloodroot seem to flourish in the backyard woodsy setting. I can highly recommend these for a shady zone 3 garden, particularly if you have a site under the trees, with organic, humus rich soil. Their flowering time in spring is brief, but glorious, and then you have  a good looking groundcover for the rest of the season.


28 thoughts on “Double Bloodroot for the Shade”

  1. This plant is so lovely! I have it in two different places. I can see that it likes lighter soil better than my clay. The one who have that grows much better. I love their leaves too!

    1. Marit, I have to go out and observe them a few times a day when they are in bloom, and those leaves are appealing, since they are stiff and thick.

      The bloodroot seems to thrive at the edge of my willow, appreciating all the humus in the soil.

  2. These are so beautiful. You convinced me to try these so last year I found two (past their flowering time) and popped them in the garden. One promptly disappeared; however, the other has sent up leaves and is looking divine. I am hoping for a bud or but not sure what to expect.

    1. Ms S, usually they flower right when the leaves first start to rise. The flower buds come up with the first curled leaves. If the leaves are already out full, then it won’t be flowering this year. Perhaps it needs another year to settle in to the site

  3. These are beautiful! I was given several “singles” a few years ago. Their problem at my house (as it would be for any flower in this site) is the deciduous leaves fall and blow into huge mounds and I am not able to uncover them before they grow and bloom (which is very early Spring!). I will have to check into these bloodroot plants… And into moving my others!!

    1. Shady Gardener, it’s too bad the wonderful flowers get buried on you. Mine get some leaf fall, but not enough to hide them. The doubles are awesome, as they also flower for a longer period of time than the singles. The downside is that they are not as useful for pollinators.

    1. Swimray, its probably the single form which is native to your area. They are very pretty, but short flowering. The leaves are also attractive, though. I’m not sure if the leaves stay all summer in a warmer climate, but you could have them between taller growing (and poisonous) plants. The rhizomes can leak a red substance when cut.

  4. Love these but have been unable to find them in the Edmonton area! Is there a specific time of year I need to be looking for them?

    1. Always Annie, I’ve seen them available at Greenland Garden Centre, at the back of their perennial area in the shade plant section, but I don’t know if they have any in right now,

  5. Dear Sir, I live in the North of England, and as I type, I have placed an order with a Dutch firm for a
    sanguinaria canadensis 3 nosed variety and a further order for 2 multiplex ‘Plena’ with a SW England firm.
    These will be delivered shortly in the next few days.
    This follows a discussion with the owner of a local garden centre and my research of the above – described
    as the most beautiful plant in the world.Looking at your pictures on NSG, I can see why. I have a smallish garden and I am wondering if I could possibly plant in a South facing aspect in full sun, or should I plant in partial shade of an evergreen Camellia ? Plus how deep should I plkant these 3?
    I have enjoyed looking at your 69 pages of flowers,
    rather enviously!!
    I would value a reply. Yours sincerely, Eric

    1. Eric, the multiplex are my favourite, as the flowers are exquisite and showy. The partial shade location is probably best. Mine are in a very shady location, with minimal sun, and they bloom very well. They are a forest floor plant, and would probably do well in your partial shade location. Mine get the rich humus soil from being under the trees, with leaf mold and twigs in the soil, and they are doing very well, as well as spreading. I especially like the Sanguinaria paired with the early blue bulbs, such as Chionodoxa, and Scilla.

      Enjoy your new plants.

  6. Eric Sayle – Thanks for the information, Northern Shade
    I have now planted 5 of the plants in 3 locations in
    my garden. We are having heavy frosts at the moments, so I have partially covered them with light straw( some
    semblance of leaves!) and have also a frost/snow thermal blanket which I placed lightly over the 3 formations. Is the straw and blanket desirable?
    Now eagerly looking forwards to the spring – snowdrops daffs chiondoxa etc, Thanks for all your
    help. Eric and have a happy new Year 2015.

    1. Erik, the covering should give them some protection, but they are very hardy. We have good snow coverage here, which also gives good insulation, since we sometimes get down to -35 °C (-31 °F). As the snow piles up, I’m looking forward to the early spring blooms as well. After a bleak winter, those early bulbs give a welcome punch of colour.

  7. Dear Sir, I note your comments with deep respect and am very grateful. I go out every day to look at where I have planted these lovely plants.
    We are having a right mix of weather here at the moment, i.e continuous rain, then a small period of
    being dry, then a severe frost, and now again very heavy rainfall( however I have taken off the temporar
    cover off the plants, being so hardy). I subscribe to a weekly gardening magazine but Sang.Canadensis multiplex hAs not been featured yet ( I live in hope). I delve into each magazine, deeply pondering what else,( apart from the bulbs you have mentioned )
    I can plant for the forthcoming plant season, which is deeply exciting. Thank you for ALL your valued
    help and assistance. Sincerely, Er ic.

  8. Wow! Just wow! I was not familiar with this plant, but I will certainly look for them now. They are gorgeous. Thanks for the post.

  9. Hi Brenda:

    Where can I buy these beautiful plants. I have been looking for bllod root plants in Edmonton but no luck so far….

  10. Hi Northern shade,

    Just gorgeous! I have just moved to Calgary. Would love to have these in my garden. From where can I buy them? Are these bulbs? And when is the right time to plant them?

    1. Mini, You usually buy them as small plants. Mine are from a garden centre in Edmonton. They spread by underground rhizomes, sort of like Iris do, but I haven’t seen them sold by the rhizome. Fraser’s Thimble Farms, in BC, has them for sale by mail order here, I’ve ordered other perennials from them before and have been satisfied with them.

  11. This seems perfect for our upstate NY home. I have a shady area that is in need of ground cover. Is this plant harmful (poisonous) to cats and dogs?

    1. SugarbabyK, I’m not sure of how it is for pets, but I haven’t heard anything negative about it. Bloodroot is a great shady groundcover, but the leaves might retreat back in later summer in warmer climates.

  12. Hi: I just had question. I am looking to grow perennials in containers in Calgary. Want to stop investing in annuals every spring. Two of the containers will be placed in a sunny spot. The other two will be placed in a part shade spot. Would you have some recommendations.

    1. Prita, the thing you have to watch for with containers, is that they can get very cold above ground in Calgary. If you can put them on the ground in a protected spot for winter, with some leaf cover over them, they have a better chance of surviving the winter. The other thing, is that most perennials won’t bloom for as long as annuals would over the summer, so you probably want some with decorative foliage, too. For the shady containers, some Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss) would be hardy, and they have beautiful foliage, with pretty blue flowers for about 6 weeks in early spring. Some of the hardier Heuchera or Tiarella would work, too. Their leaves are very showy, and they have airy sprays of flowers. Some of the Campanula (bellflowers) can be very hardy, and they have pretty blue flowers for about 6 to 8 weeks.

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