All About Bloodroot: Characteristics, Propagation, and Care

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Bloodroot white flower

Jean Carr

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant native to eastern North America, known for its distinctive white flowers and reddish-orange sap. The plant has historical significance in native medicine and, more recently, has attracted interest for its potential medicinal properties. However, it’s also appreciated for its ornamental value in gardens. Here’s what you need to know about the characteristics, propagation, and care of Bloodroot.

Bloodroot is a member of the Papaveraceae (or Poppy) botanical family. It is a wildflower found in natural woodlands that serves as a durable ground cover in shade gardens. Bloodroot thrives in deciduous woodlands and native plant gardens, where it can be grown. The blue-green leaves of this perennial, which blooms in the early spring for only a few days, cover the ground with color and texture until the end of the summer, when it dies back.

Quick Growing Guide

Botanical Name: Sanguinaria canadensis

En français: Sanguinaire



Water: Needs consistently moist soils which do not dry out.


Hardiness Zones:

How to Use Bloodroot in Landscape

In the wild, Bloodroot is typically found in woodland environments, indicating its preference for shaded or semi-shaded areas. It is therefore best naturalized in large sweeps in woodland or native plant gardens. It is also effective in shaded areas of rock gardens. Roots contain blood-red juice, hence the common name. In the wild, Bloodroot is typically found in woodland environments, indicating its preference for shaded or semi-shaded areas.

Despite their dramatic name, bloodroot blooms are actually delicate, beautiful, and incredibly simple to grow. This local relative of the poppies gets its name from the crimson sap found inside its rhizome, one of the first ephemerals to appear in woodlands each year.

The bloodroot flower resembles a water lily and has 8–16 white petals around a golden yellow centre. There are two sepals that fall as the flower opens. The plant’s large, round leaves have several deep lobes.

In gardens, Bloodroot is best used in naturalistic plantings, woodland gardens, or shaded border fronts. Its early bloom adds interest to the spring garden, and its unique foliage maintains a presence even after the flowers have faded.


When the bloodroot first appears, its leaves are wrapped around the stem like a protective cocoon before spreading out like a butterfly’s wings when its flower opens. The solitary flowers are white with numerous stamens and generally appear before the leaves fully expand. Each stem usually holds one flower or leaf. Soon after, the brilliant white or pink blossoms entice inhabitant bees to their alluring yellow stamens, fertilizing them; afterward, ants assist in seed dispersal.

A clump of bloodroot with white flowers
A clump of bloodroot with white flowers
Credit Natasha via Pixabay

Plant Care

Bloodroot requires little maintenance. However, removing spent flowers can improve their appearance and prevent unwanted self-seeding in some garden settings. It’s also wise to keep an eye out for pests like slugs or snails

In the fall, bloodroot seeds should be sown in peat pots and buried in a shaded area of the garden. Topsoil should be used to cover the seeds softly, and Glass should be used to cover the pots. Occasionally check on your plants to make sure the soil is still moist. Germination should take one to three months. Glass can be removed once it has happened.

Bloodroot thrives in USDA Cold Hardiness Zones 3 through 8, and it is like a spot that is partially or completely shaded and has well-drained soil. Like many woodland plants, morning sun and afternoon shade are preferred. Planting these and the majority of perennials in the fall may be more successful due to last summer’s heat and drought. This will give the roots the most time to grow before summer.

Sanguinaria Canadensis Light Requirements

Bloodroot is commonly found in deciduous forests along stream banks or on moist slopes in the wild. Place it in the landscape where it will get some spring sun but will be partially covered in the summer. Bloodroot is a plant that can be grown beneath deciduous trees.

Soil for Sanguinaria Canadensis

Bloodroot thrives in rich, moist, well-draining soil. Before planting, add a lot of compost to your soil. It prefers soil with a high organic matter content, mimicking the forest floors it naturally grows on. Give bloodroot plants an acidic, well-drained soil that has been improved with hummus.

How to Water Bloodroot

Water bloodroot thoroughly when they are first planted to help them grow. The soil should then be watered twice a week to prevent drying out. The goal is to keep the soil moist but not saturated.

Temperature and Humidity

A chilly, temperate temperature is ideal for bloodroot growth. USDA Hardiness Zones 3–8 best support its growth.

Mulch for Bloodroot

Applying leaf mulch helps to mimic forest conditions and provides nourishment as the leaves decompose. Leaf mulch also protects against the cold northern winters and the sweltering summer heat. Mulching too heavily, on the other hand, can contribute to stem rot.


The use of commercial fertilizer is not advised. However, a coating of high-quality garden compost applied to the area surrounding the bloodroot colony will promote further growth.



The plant grows from rhizomes, which contain a sap that turns red-orange when exposed to air, giving the plant its common name.

By Division

Propagation is more commonly and successfully done by dividing the rhizomes. This should be done in the fall, after the leaves have died back, or in the early spring while the plant is still dormant. Carefully dig around the plant, lift the rhizome, clean it, and cut it into segments, ensuring each segment has at least one eye (or growth point). Replant the segments immediately. Plant root sections up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep in an acidic, organic-rich soil that receives only dappled sunlight. Dig up your plants, separate the clump, and replant rhizomes in groups of two to three in each hole, horizontally in the soil, in a shady location.

By Seed

Bloodroot seeds are typically sown in the fall, immediately after they mature, as they do not store well. The seeds require a period of cold stratification to germinate, so sowing them in the fall allows them to naturally stratify during the winter. It’s important to note that germination may be slow and erratic.

Pests and Problems

Bloodroot rarely develops fungal infections. However, if it is planted in an area with poor drainage, the rhizomes may suffer Pythium root rot. Lift the rhizomes, remove any sick tissue, sulfur-dust the cuts, and then transplant the good rhizomes in a well-drained location to save affected plants.

Plants may become infected with Botrytis gray mold if they are in environments with poor air circulation, considerable shadow, and slow drying of the foliage after irrigation or rain. If any foliage becomes afflicted, cut it off with scissors and discard it.

Bloodroot Sap

The sap of Bloodroot is toxic and can cause skin irritation in some people. Always handle the plant with care, and wash your hands after touching it.

The plant’s medicinal properties, particularly its use in certain pharmaceutical applications, are potent and should not be experimented with without professional guidance. Its consumption is not recommended, and any medicinal use should be discussed with a healthcare professional.

Companion Plants

In nature, find bloodroot in open deciduous woods, clearings. This plant is best naturalized in large sweeps in woodland or native plant gardens. It is also effective in shaded areas of rock gardens. Roots contain a blood-red juice, hence the common name.

Companion plants include spring beauty, anemone, liverleaf, and other early-blooming forest wildflowers. The early season beauty of this magnificent native woodland plant might be its major benefit.

Medicinal Uses and Benefits

In traditional medicine, bloodroot is frequently applied topically or taken orally as an antimicrobial. Bloodroot is said to relax smooth muscles, especially those in the heart and lungs, when taken internally.

Native Americans have traditionally used bloodroot to make people throw up in an effort to rid their bodies of toxic pollutants. Alternative medicine practitioners claim that it can treat a variety of medical ailments. 

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