How to Plant & Grow Redvein Dock (Rumex sanguineus)

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redvein dock rumex sanguineus growing in the sun
Redvein dock is so named for its attractive red leaf veins. Photo by FarOutFlora / CC BY-SA 2.0

Redvein dock is a tap rooted perennial plant belonging to the Polygonaceae family of knotweed plants (frequently known as “buckwheat” in the United States). It is often grown for its value as an ornamental foliage plant. You may have heard of redvein dock referred to as “bloody dock” or “red veined sorrel,” due to the visible network of dark red or purple veins spanning the light green leaves. These can veins fade in intensity over time.

The native range of redvein dock includes Europe, southwestern Asia, and northern Africa. Within its range, it can be found growing in ditches, open lands, and forests that have adequately moist soils. Outside of its native range, people in the United States and Canada grow redvein dock in garden settings. Over time, R. sanguineus has escaped from contained areas and has become naturalized in these countries.

While it is considered “weedy” by some people due to its high rate of spread and hasty growth rate, redvein dock is a very popular plant that many people grow in herb gardens. It can be a wonderful addition to a healthy salad, or simply enjoyed for its visual value – it will add a beautiful bright green coloration to any garden. 

Facts, Benefits & Uses of Redvein Dock

The seed heads of redvein dock
Within its native range, redvein dock’s seeds provide an important food source for birds and other wildlife. Photo by Agnieszka Kwiecień, Nova, CC BY-SA 4.0

Growing redvein dock in your backyard pond can bring about a variety of interesting animals for you to watch while you enjoy your morning cup of coffee! Redvein dock is an important food source for a variety of insects and wildlife species. In the winter, many birds, rodents, and deer rely on the seed heads produced by dock plants as a nutritious food source. Many dock species also attract butterflies and provide them with essential habitat elements during the spring and summer months.

While it is less common today thanks to medical advancements, dock plants in the Polygonaceae family were once extensively used as herbal medicines for a wide variety of ailments. The leaves of dock plants can be used to alleviate stings from nettles, as well as irritation from insect bites and stings. The leaves have a cooling effect on the skin, and can also be used to help relieve pain associated with burns and blisters.

The leaves aren’t the only part of dock plant species that can be used for medicinal purposes – the seeds and the roots have their own sets of benefits for humans, as well! The seeds have been used to remedy chest colds and bronchitis, while the roots can help treat jaundice, constipation, and skin ailments.

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Redvein Dock Fact Sheet:
Herbaceous Perennial
USDA 5 – 8
Full sun
Green, reddish-brown
June – August (Summer)
30-45 cm (1-1.5 ft.) height & spread
5 cm
pH 6.5 – 7.1

Redvein Dock Growth, Hardiness & Climate

redvein dock Rumex sanguineus growing in a garden
R. sanguineus grows fairly quickly and can live up to 5 years. Photo by FarOutFlora / CC BY-SA 2.0

Redvein dock grows at a relatively fast rate, and can live for approximately 5 years under ideal environmental conditions and care. It blooms for a short period each summer, between the months of June and August, during which time the plant produces very small, star-shaped flowers in cluster-like formations. In the beginning of the flowering period, the flowers are bright green in coloration but then become a darker, reddish-brown color as time progresses. The fruit bared by the redvein dock is also a dark reddish-brown color. 

When it comes to size and spread, the redvein dock tends to grow in a rosette shape. It grows in clumping mound formations, and can reach approximately 46 cm (18 in.) in both height and width.

Temperatures ranging from 7°C-26°C (45°F-80°F) are ideal for optimum growth of redvein dock, with hardiness zones 5-8 working best, although it can tolerate slightly warmer or colder conditions.

How to Plant Redvein Dock In Ponds

redvein dock seedling sprouting from the ground
Redvein dock grows well when planted just about anywhere with full sunlight and moist soils. Photo by KenraizCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Redvein dock can be planted in one of two ways: via seed, or by division. While R. sanguineus is hardy within zones 5-8, it can still be grown outside of these zones as an annual plant. If you are planting redvein dock from seed, you can sow them straight into your garden in the springtime. If you are planting it from division, you simply need to divide a mature plant and add the new addition to your garden! Redvein dock thrives when it has access to full sunlight and moist soil that does not go dry.

When it comes to soil type, R. sanguineus can grow well in sandy, loamy, or clay soils that are well-drained. It grows well in garden beds, or along the shallow banks of pond edges where water is plenty accessible.

In colder climates where R. sanguineus may be exposed to freezing winter temperatures, aquatic planting baskets may be useful for overwintering.

How to Care For Redvein Dock

A mature red veined dock plant in a garden Rumex sanguineus
Redvein dock prefers alkaline, moist soils. Photo by Tiia Monto, CC BY-SA 4.0

Luckily, redvein dock is an incredibly low-maintenance plant, and is very easy to take care of successfully. You can grow it in your backyard pond, in a water garden, or in an alkaline wetland environment (not a bog, as the pH will be too low).

It is important to remove the flower stalks occasionally – if left to its own devices, R. sanguineus will self-seed and become somewhat invasive as it spreads rather quickly. Make sure that your R. sanguineus plants are in soil that is constantly moist, and have access to full sunlight if possible!

How to Winter Redvein Dock

In climates that don’t consistently reach freezing temperatures in the winter, redvein dock will do just fine remaining outside in its pond habitat for the winter. In zones 5 and higher, the roots of the plant can overwinter themselves, and produce new shoots in the springtime after lying dormant through the colder months. In colder climates, however, it may help to plant your redvein dock in a container within the pond to help it survive through the wintertime.

Is Redvein Dock Toxic, Poisonous or Invasive?

Redvein Dock is considered an invasive and harmful species in North America and other regions outside of its native range of Europe, southwestern Asia, and norther Africa. If allowed to self-sow, redvein dock can self-seed to the point of outcompeting other plants even within its native range. In order to prevent this from happening in your pond or garden, it is important to remove the long flower stalks that are producing seeds either before they have a chance to produce seeds or soon after. You can also cut back on the bushy growth to rejuvenate your plants. 

Redvein dock is not considered toxic (despite containing some levels of oxalic acid) and is known to be a forage plant for species of insects and wildlife. To help ease your mind, broccoli, rhubarb leaves, and mustard greens owe their strong flavors to oxalic acid and are quite safe to eat. You, or your fish, would generally have to eat a lot of these (well over 10 pounds, actually!), or redvein dock, before adverse effects would occur.

Is Redvein Dock Edible? Will Fish Eat it?

Redvein dock is an edible plant, and has high levels of minerals and vitamin C. It can be eaten raw by itself or in a salad, or sauteed among other tasty vegetables. R. sanguineus can also provide a nice leafy texture to a hot vegetable soup on a cold day! It can basically be substituted in any cooking in which you might otherwise use spinach, kale, or another leafy green.

Redvein dock does often have somewhat of a sour taste to it, due to the high content of oxalic acid (an organic compound also found in spinach), and thus should not be consumed in huge quantities. While oxalate poisoning from a food source is incredibly rare and unlikely to occur, consuming too much of it at one time can cause stress on the kidneys. Again, you’d have to eat many, many pounds at a time of redvein dock and similar greens for this to occur.

Fish are not known to feed on redvein dock directly, but the plant does provide important habitat elements that attract insects; as insects are an essential food item for almost all fish species, this is a benefit to your fish. R. sanguineus is not known to be toxic for pets, so it is safe to grow in your backyard without special precautions.

Is Redvein Dock Prone to Any Issues?

Snails and slugs are two major pests associated with redvein dock, and they can cause a lot of damage to your beloved plants. Not to mention, they can be a pain to get rid of! One method of pest control that often works on these is the ‘beer trap’ method. It is an oldie, but has definitely withstood the test of time! To give this method a try, place shallow saucers containing beer around your garden. Dig them into the ground slightly so that they are flush with the soil. Slugs and snails are attracted to the yeast in the beer, and won’t be able to resist falling for your trap! This is one of the more humane ways to take care of these pests, as the snails and slugs will die quickly in the beer.

However, do note that slugs and snails exist for a reason. They perform important ecosystem services such as cycling nutrients through the soil and up the food chain as predators consume them, and are an important food source for many birds, small mammals, and herps (reptiles and amphibians). If you love all forms of nature and prefer to have a more natural wildlife-based pond, there is no need to exterminate the slugs or snails. In fact, their love of redvein dock may even serve to help keep this plant from spreading out of control around your pond garden, while also drawing in other wildlife that will feed on the slugs/snails.

Redvein dock has also been known to fall victim to plant rust.  Rust is a fungal disease spread by spores, and is the most prevalent in moist climates. While rust is very difficult to completely eradicate, there are some measures you can take to minimize the damage! Keep your redvein dock spaced out from other individuals when planting them, as this can help to slow down or prevent the spread of rust from one plant to another.  Keep a close eye on your redvein dock, and remove any infected leaves as soon as you notice them.  Dispose of the rust-infected plant parts so that it can no longer spread to healthy plants. There are also fungicides that you may decide to treat your plants with as a preventative measure.

Leaf spots are another culprit that can cause downfall in redvein dock plants. Like rust, leaf spots are also caused by a fungus and spread from infected plant to healthy plant via airborne spores. Leaf spots can cause the most damage to your plants when conditions with high moisture and poor air flow allow leaf spots to spread rampantly. Keeping your plants spaced out, and watering them at the soil level rather than the foliage level, are smart preventative measures you can take to reduce the risk of leaf spot damage.

Where to Buy Redvein Dock & Seeds? (UK & US)

Redvein dock is a popular plant choice for gardeners and pond owners in the UK and in the US alike and it is widely available in garden centers in both places. Please note that this is an invasive species in the US that is escaping widely into natural areas, so do try not to grow redvein dock if you live outside of its native range.

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