Soapwort, Bouncing Bet

By: C. Colston Burrell
Soapwort is both easy to care for and lovely to behold with its clusters of white and pink flowers. See more pictures of perennial flowers.

Soapwort, or bouncing bet, is a European immigrant that has now naturalized over much of North America. Soapwort was brought over by the colonists to be used as a soap substitute. When bruised or boiled in water, the leaves produce a lather with detergent properties that even removes grease. The genus name refers to the Latin word sapo, meaning "soap."

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Description of soapwort: Soapwort has stout, 24-inch stems, swollen at the joints and oval, opposite leaves. It bears pink or white 1-inch flowers in clusters, each with 5 united petals that are especially fragrant at night. Soapwort ease of care: Easy.

How to grow soapwort: Saponarias want good, well-drained soil in full sun, but they will also do well in a moist spot.

Propagating soapwort: By division or by seed.

Uses for soapwort: Saponarias are useful in the wild garden, in the bed or border, and even to carpet a slope or bank.

Soapwort related species: Saponaria ocymoides, or the rock soapwort, is a branching, trailing plant for the edge of the border or a rock wall, needing full sun and good drainage. Plants are usually 6 inches tall and covered in June with 5-petaled rose-pink flowers. 'Alba' has white flowers, and 'Splendens' bears deep rose-pink blossoms on 4-inch plants.

Soapwort related variety: 'Rubra Plena' is a form with double pink flowers.

Scientific name for soapwort: Saponaria officinalis


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