Saponaria officinalis

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 Saponaria officinalis subsp. var.  Bouncing bet, Soapwort
Saponaria officinalis.JPG
Habit: herbaceous
Height: to
Width: to
12in24in 20in40in
Height: 12 in to 24 in
Width: 20 in to 40 in
Lifespan: perennial
Poisonous: can be toxic
Exposure: sun
Features: flowers
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: 4 to 10
Sunset Zones:
Flower features:
Caryophyllaceae > Saponaria officinalis var. , L.

Common Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is a vespertine flower, and a common perennial plant from the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae). Other common names are Bouncing Bet and Sweet William; locally it is simply "the Soapwort" although there are about 20 species of soapworts altogether.

The scientific name Saponaria is derived from the Latin sapo (stem sapon-) meaning "soap," which, like its common name, refers to its utility in cleaning. From this same Latin word is derived the name of the toxic substance saponin, contained in the roots even 20 percent when the plant is flowering[1] (Indian soapnuts contain only 15 percent!). It starts producing a lather when in contact with water. The epithet officinalis indicates its medicinal functions.

Soapwort's native range extends throughout Europe to western Siberia. It grows in cool places at low or moderate elevations under hedgerows and along the shoulders of roadways.

The plants possesses leafy, unbranched stems (often tinged with red) grow in patches, attaining a height of 70 cm. The broad, lanceolate, sessile leaves are opposite and between 4 and 12 cm long. It's sweetly scented flowers are radially symmetrical and pink, or sometimes white. Each of the five flat petals have two small scales in the throat of the corolla. They are about 2.5 cm wide. They are arranged in dense, terminal clusters on the main stem and its branches. The long tubular calyx has five pointed red teeth.

In the northern hemisphere soapwort blooms from May to September, and in the southern hemisphere October to March.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Saponaria officinalis, Linn. Bouncing Bet. Perennial: sts. 1 1/2-2 1/2 ft. high, leafy, simple, clustered, glabrous: lvs. mostly oblong-lanceolate, 3-nerved: fls. light pink (nearly white in shady situations), in compact, corymbose, paniculate cymes; calyx glabrous, the teeth triangularly acuminate; petal-lobes obovate, entire, notched at apex. July, Aug. Eu. Var. albo-plena, Hort., is a double white-fld, form growing 2 ft. high. June- Sept. Var. caucasica, Hort. (S. caucasica, Hort.), is a double-fld. form, the fls. described as white tinted rose by some, as deeper colored than the type by others, grows 15 in. high. All summer and fall. Var. caucasica flore-pleno, Hort. (S. caucasica flore- pleno, Hort.), is said to have double reddish purple fls. July-Sept. Var. flore-pleno, Hort., is quite double-fld., the fls. paler than the type. Var. plena, Hort., grows 1-3 ft. high and lilac, rose, or white fls. Julv-Oct. Probably includes some of the other double varieties. Var. roseo-plena, Hort., grows 2 1/2-3 ft. high and rose-colored fls. July-Sept. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Succeeds in any moderately fertile well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade[200]. Prefers a neutral to alkaline soil[238]. Hardy to about -20°c[187]. A very ornamental plant[1], soapwort is often grown in the herb garden and is sometimes cultivated for the soap that can be obtained from the roots. There are some named forms, usually with double flowers, that have been selected for their ornamental value[187]. Plants can be very invasive when grown in good conditions[K]. Soapwort should not be grown next to a pond with amphibians or fish in it since if the plant trails into the water it can cause poisoning[238]. The flowers are slightly scented with a sweet aroma that has an undertone of clove[245]. Hybridizes with other members of this genus[200]. A good moth plant[13, 24].


Seed - best if given a short cold stratification. Sow autumn or late winter in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates within 4 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, it can be successfully done at any time in the growing season if the plants are kept moist until they are re-established. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Pests and diseases




  1. book: Farmakognosia, by Raimo Hiltunen (in finnish)

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