Despite its ominous name, bloodroot is a beautiful and delicate wildflower. Officially Sanguinaria canadensis, bloodroot is indigenous to North America and a perfect plant for the gardener who prioritizes native plants. Also known as Indian Paint, Bloodwort, and Red Puccoon, bloodroot is prized for its beauty and easy propagation.
Its white flowers bloom for only a short time in the spring but put on such a breathtaking display that this is definitely one worth adding to your garden this year.
Bloodroot can be purchased as rootstock or grown from seed, although buying and planting the roots will give you a quicker start to your bloodroot patch. Finding bloodroot seeds can be difficult, and you will most likely only be able to find the rhizomes at your local greenhouse.
No matter which method you choose, the most important part of transporting your bloodroot seeds or rhizomes home is to keep them moist and never let them dry out.
When you purchase your bloodroot, be sure to ask if it's pre-cut for planting or will need to be cut. Each piece you plant should be approximately two inches long and include one bud. Plant your rootstock deep enough that it can be covered by one to two inches of well-drained soil when placed in the hole vertically. Bloodroot does best when planted in spring or fall.
Bloodroot prefers a shady spot in the garden. Planting it in a location with too much sun can kill your bloodroot before it has a chance to bloom. In the wild, it grows in woodlands, hiding under the canopy of forest trees. Bloodroot does well in either full or partial shade, making it the perfect plant for that tricky-to-fill section of your garden that the sun doesn't quite reach.
Due in part to its preferred full-shaded location, bloodroot does not require regular watering. As long as it's not getting enough sun for the soil to dry out, bloodroot only needs occasional water, making it an easy, low-maintenance choice for the lazy gardener. Water them more frequently when first planted, but once settled, bloodroot plants only need watering once or twice a week.
Another of bloodroot's low maintenance features is its ability to grow without fancy commercial fertilizers. A good layer of hearty compost will be enough in most cases, and it often doesn't even need that. Save the fertilizer for the more demanding, finicky plants and let your bloodroot take care of itself.
Bloodroot will grow almost anywhere in the continental U.S. This hardy plant can thrive anywhere from zones three to eight. As a shade plant, it does prefer cooler temperatures and may need additional watering during the highest heat of summer.
In other words, unless you live in the desert or on a frozen tundra, bloodroot can grow in your garden.
Unless you want to remove bloodroot from your garden, no pruning is needed. This perennial wildflower dies back and blooms again each year without the need for a trim. If you do want to pare back your bloodroot colony, you'll need to dig up the plants by the roots, as merely pruning the flowers is not enough to kill the plant.
Not much preparation is needed to keep your bloodroot healthy through the depth of winter. This cold-hardy plant can tolerate temperatures as low as -30 F and survive.
However, that doesn't mean bloodroot doesn't like a little pampering. Cover the soil with a thin layer of mulch before the first snowfall to give your plants the best chance of surviving the winter strong and healthy.
If you want to share your bloodroot with friends and family or expand your own colony, dig up the roots after the spring bloom or in early fall and split them. The segments should be kept moist and planted as soon as possible.
Of course, one of the benefits of bloodroot is its ability to self-propagate, so if you want more in your life, just wait a few years, and it will naturally expand to fill the space.
Because they require moist soil, bloodroot is most susceptible to root rot. Affected plants are stunted in stature with uneven growth. They may lose their leaves and even die. Avoid root rot by planting bloodroot in well-drained soil and avoid over-watering. Also, keep an eye out for leaf blight and gray mold on your bloodroot plants.
Bloodroot's poisonous properties make it immune to many common garden pests. If left untreated, slugs can become a problem, but removing them is easy. There are numerous options for homemade traps using easy-to-find household items that will take care of your slug problem before they have a chance to do too much damage.
While bloodroot's white flowers are beautiful, one of the drawbacks of this plant is the short blooming period. Flowers may last as little as one or two days, so it's an excellent plant for a shared bed.
Bloodroot blooms in early spring and is one of the earliest blooming flowers. Plant it in a bed with summer-blooming flowers to create an evolving and dynamic display that lasts the whole growing season.
There's nothing quite like bloodroot, but if you're looking for other early spring-blooming wildflowers to liven up your garden, there are so many options to consider. For a little more color, try opting for wild daffodils or primroses. Dog's mercury and snowdrops are good choices if you prefer more muted colors.
Given its name, it might not surprise you to learn that bloodroot is poisonous in high doses, so plant it with care. Keep small children and pets away from both the roots and the plant itself. Never handle bloodroot without gloves, as some people could develop an allergic reaction similar to poison ivy.
Traditionally, bloodroot has eight petals laid out in a symmetrical pattern. However, some varieties can have up to 16. One type, called "multiplex," has stamens that look like petals, making the flower appear almost entirely white. Rarely, some varieties develop pale pink flowers, but most bloodroot has white petals with a bright yellow center.