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Plant Profile: Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot gets both its common and botanical name from the red juice of the root and stem (sanguinaria means bloody) and was used by native Americans as a dye and insect repellent. In spite of its name, bloodroot is a lovely early spring blooming plant that is native to deciduous woods from Nova Scotia to Florida and west to the Great Lakes. The leaves and flowers come up on separate stems with the leaf completely enveloping the flower bud. The bud often opens before the leaf unfurls to show bright golden stamens against clear white petals. The flowers are delicate and don’t last long but the leaves are large, saucer-shaped, and deeply scalloped, making an excellent ground cover all summer especially under trees. The plant produces stolons and can form a dense stand quickly. In the dry periods of mid summer the plant may yellow and go dormant if not mulched so keep the soil moist. Ripe seeds are dispersed by ants. If you want to propagate bloodroot by seed plant the seeds as soon as they are ripe so that they do not dry out. Wear gloves when handling the rhizome because it is poisonous.

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Clear white flowers with conspicuous golden stamens are borne singly on red stems in early spring.

Foliage: Large, saucer-shaped deeply lobed leaves

Size: 12-14” H x 9-12” W

Light: Shade

Soil: Humus-rich, moist, semi-acidic to neutral.

Fertilizer: Mulch with compost

Hardiness: Zones 5-9

Care: Mulch with deciduous leaves in winter

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed (sow immediately after ripening to avoid drying out); division (wear gloves because rhizomes are poisonous).

Companion plants: For deep shade, Canadian violet (Viola canadensis, squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis); for light shade, columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis), hosta, primroses.

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