Saponaria officinalis or Soapwort has a long list of names it is commonly called, which I will include at the bottom of this page. It’s Latin name also is derived from ‘Sapo’ or Soap, which refers to saponin found in the roots which is a toxic substance but produces lather when mixed with water. It is native to Europe, Asia, and Western Siberia. It can also be found in North America.
Saponaria officinalis grows to be 70cm or 2.5ft. It has opposite leaves on the stems which are unbranched. Saponaria officinalis is a rhizomatous perennial. It is clump-forming. It flowers in the summer. Grow Saponaria officinalis in the sun. Plant it in moderately fertile and well-drained soil.
It produces pink shades of flowers that open in the evening and have had a life of three days. They are fragrant and more scented at night. They release pollen on the second night and stigma develops to its final position on the third night. Propagate by seed or division. No pruning necessary. Watch out for slugs and snails otherwise, it is disease-free.
This plant has been used as a mild soap especially for gentle fabrics like wool. To produce the detergent or the soap you can boil the root and the leaves and then strain it. It could be toxic if digested, however, it is used as an emulsifier for making tahini and in the middle east also for making halva.
Following are a variety of common names associated with Saponaria officinalis:
Devil in a Bush
Farewell to Summer
Lady by the Gate
Old Maid’s Pink
Old Maid’s Slipper
Wild Sweet William