Saponaria officinalis or Soapwort has a long list of names it is commonly called, which I will include at the bottom of this page. Its Latin name also is derived from ‘Sapo’ or Soap, which refers to saponin found in the roots. This is a toxic substance but produce lather when mixed with water.
Saponaria officinalis is native to Europe, Asia, and Western Siberia, but it can be found in North America where it seems to be invasive. It is a rhizomatous perennial, and part of the Caryophyllaceae family of plants. It is clump-forming with upright stems.
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 flowers in the summer.
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.
How to grow Saponaria officinalis:
Grow Saponaria officinalis in the sun. Plant it in average to moderately fertile and well-drained soil which is slightly alkaline. It will tolerate poor soil. Propagate by seed or division. No pruning is necessary. Watch out for slugs and snails otherwise, it is disease-free. The nectar attracts butterflies and bees, but it is deer resistant. Deadhead the flowers for a longer blooming season.
They use this plant 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. Saponaria officinalis could be toxic if digested, however, they use it 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