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Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex ‘Plena’

May 4, 2023
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Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex 'Plena'

Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex 'Plena'

Description and occurrence

The Canadian bloodroot is a very special woodland plant that thrives in humus-rich soils in semi-shade. The form usually seen in gardens is the many-petalled Sanguinaria canadensis f multiplex ‘Plena’. This is often offered as S. canadensis¬†‘flore plena’,¬† or simply as ‘double bloodroot’. The wild plant has very simple, anemone-like flowers. But it is rarely grown because they are even more fleeting than those of the plant described here.

A measure of the exquisite beauty of the plant, whether single or double-flowered, is that it is much in demand despite being in flower for only a week or two each year. But then visitors to the garden, not to mention the gardener himself, have eyes for little else. A glance at the illustrations here makes further recommendation unnecessary. Bloodroot is the sole member of its genus.


Bloodroot is a herbaceous perennial with wide-ranging, but never invasive rhizomes. They spread through the leaf litter in undisturbed woodlands on flood plains, and on sloping ground, generally near streams or ponds.The rhizomes are quite thick and chunky. If you damage one you will see how the plant got its name. The sap is red and superficially not unlike blood.


bloodroot Sanguinaria

Sanguinaria takes its name from the blood-red sap

Sanguinria canadensis is limited to the eastern states of N. America, from Florida up into Canada. Like most woodland herbaceous plants, it blooms in early spring before the tree canopy develops, The flowers arise singly, direct from the rhizome, soon to be followed by the rapidly developing foliage. The leaves are attractive in themselves, having an unusual scalloped edge and greyish colouring. They last until early summer and then are gone, having done their work of building up the rhizomes for future seasons.

Cultivation and propagation

Plant bloodroot in a semi-shaded to quite deeply shaded spot in soil containing plenty of well rotted leafmould, or other humus-making material. Make sure that the rhizomes are not buried too deeply, just below the surface will do. Water thoroughly and mulch to conserve soil moisture. A regular autumn or early spring mulch each year will be beneficial.

The double bloodroot is sterile, the male floral parts being replaced by additional petals. So it can only be propagated vegetatively. Division of the rhizomes can be at any time during the dormant season. But early spring (February – March), just before growth commences is probably best. Cut cleanly down through the rhizome, making sure the division has several buds. Don’t worry about the bleeding sap, it is not a problem. But if you must, dust the cut ends with charcoal or sulphur powder to staunch the flow and perhaps sterilise the wound. Divisions can be planted directly into well prepared ground. Or you can pot them in a good humus-rich compost. Either way, water assiduously but do not allow them to become waterlogged.

Single bloodroot can be propagated from seed, although I have never had any set in my garden. It is important to sow fresh seed immediately. Use a similar compost to that for potting rhizome divisions. The seed seems to require cold stratification before germination. This means that it is best to place the seed pots outside through the winter. Hopefully, seedlings will appear the following spring. Leave them in the pot the first year, pricking out in the second spring.They should flower 3-4 years after sowing, but 5-6 is not unusual.


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Author John Good

John Good