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.
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.
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.
The double bloodroot flowers resemble a lotus flower or waterlily as they appear to float above the broad leaves.
They spread by rhizomes, so if the plants are happy, you can get a nice colony forming.
As the Sanguinaria in this site have spread, they have made a much larger flower display each year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.