Don’t pretend you don’t watch your neighbors’ spring gardens almost as eagerly as you watch your own. And when Mr. Neighbor’s carpet of bloodroot unfurls elegantly under the magnolia, it sends a streak of jealousy through your veins. Understandable. This spring ephemeral is gorgeous from beginning to end: from the appearance of a single gray-green leaf wrapped like a cape around a solitary flower spear, to the bright white petals of the open flowers, to the carpet of wide palmate leaves that remains long after the blooms close. It’s beautiful and it’s not yours. Maybe that’s really what spring is all about.
Common name: Bloodroot, red puccoon
Botanical name: Sanguinaria canadensis
Plant type: Perennial
Zones: 3 to 9
Height: 4 to 10 inches
• Sun: Part to full shade
• Soil: Well-drained, rich
• Moisture: Average to moist
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed or by division.
Pests and diseases
• Susceptible to leaf spot.
• No serious pest problems.
• Like most spring ephemerals, bloodroot loves a spot under a deciduous tree, where it gets lots of sunlight in very early spring. By the time the tree has fully leafed out, the flowers are in decline or gone. Bloodroot blooms for about one month. After the flowers disappear, the striking foliage continues to grow. About midsummer, it too disappears.
• Good companions are other spring ephemerals, such as spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) and trillium (Trillium spp.).
• Under the right conditions, bloodroot will slowly naturalize.
• The rhizomes and other parts of bloodroot emit an orange-red sap, hence the name. The sap has been used as a dye. The root is considered poisonous but also has medicinal uses.
• ‘Flore Pleno’ has long-lasting double blossoms. Also sold as ‘Multiplex’ and ‘Plena’.
All in the family
• Bloodroot is the only species in the genus Sanguinaria.
• Papaveraceae is also known as the poppy family. Other members of this family include the California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica), the Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale), and the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum).
Where to buy
• Arrowhead Alpines, Fowlerville, MI, 517-223-3581, www.arrowheadalpines.com
• Companion Plants, Athens, OH, 740-592-4643, www.companionplants.com
• Lone Willow Farm, Spencer, WV, 304-927-2115, www.lwfperennials.com
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo of Sanguinaria canadensis by Tracy Walsh)