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Bloodroot, a member of the poppy family, is more delicate and beautiful than its common name implies. (It gets its common name from the blood red sap that oozes from the root when it is cut or broken.) Native to North America, bloodroot is found in the shade of deciduous forests where it unfurls white daisylike flowers in early spring. The flowers usually open a day or two before the plant’s large, lobed leaves unfurl. Bloodroot spreads by thick, tuberous roots; the rootstock is poisonous if ingested.
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Using Bloodroot in the Garden
A native woodland wildflower, bloodroot functions as a long-lasting groundcover in shade gardens. Bloodroot is also suitable for native plant gardens and deciduous woodlands where it colonizes in the wild. Although its bright white flowers last for just a few days in early spring, this perennial's blue-green leaves blanket the ground with color and texture through late summer when it dies back. Plant bloodroot with other shade-lovers like Virginia bluebells, lily-of-the-valley, bleeding heart, Japanese painted fern, woodland phlox, wild ginger, and goat's beard.
How to Care For Bloodroot
Bloodroot grows best in shade or part shade and moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil. It is a common wildflower in deciduous woodlands where it thrives in the bright spring light and then grows well in the summer shade produced by foliage overhead. Loose, moist soil that is brimming with nutrients is also key to good bloodroot growth. Improve soil structure and fertility by incorporating a 2-inch-thick layer of compost in the garden bed before planting. Top-dress the area around bloodroot with an annual layer of compost.
Look for bloodroot in a local garden center that specializes in native plants. Mail-order bloodroot is often sold and shipped as dormant rhizomes, which should be planted in early spring. Dig a shallow trench about 1 inch deep. Plant the rhizome horizontally about 12 inches apart. Cover them with loose soil and water well. After planting, mulch rhizomes and plants with about an inch of chopped leaves or compost.