How to Grow and Use Solomon's Seal
Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum) is a hardy perennial native to Asia, Europe and North America that derived its name from the scars left when its stems fall back, which resemble two interlocking triangles—the symbol you see in the seal of King Solomon. It grows best in shade, is deer resistant, and thrives in USDA zones 3–9. It was also named Perennial Plant of the Year in 2013 by the Perennial Plant Association.
The plant was nowhere near my gardening vocabulary until I was visited by a friend who has lived in my area for a time long. We went out to my front yard, and she was so astonished to see our Solomon's Seal loaded with berries. This plant has been in the woods around us for as long as I can remember, and there were times in the past when the grandkids were still very young that I wanted to pull the plant out. I feared that the grandkids would eat its berries, and I didn't have any clue whether they were poisonous or not.
The moment our friend left, I opened my computer to know more about this elegant and graceful plant in our woods. Ever since then, I've been enthralled with this wonderful plant and am thrilled at the opportunity to help other gardeners grow this exciting perennial.
True vs. False Solomon's Seals
One interesting thing about Solomon's Seal is that there are both "true" and "false" versions. The plant was formerly known to be part of the lily family, and you can see its close resemblance to Lily-of-the-Valley. The true varieties, however, were later moved to the Asparagaceae family.
True Solomon's Seals include the variegated and green varieties. Most reach as high as 1 or 2 feet, but some varieties grow as high as 5 feet. In May and June, their exquisite, white, bell-shaped flowers tipped with green or yellow appear dangling on arching stems. In the late summer, these flowers turn into bluish-black berries. And in autumn, the graceful, arching leaves turn to golden yellow.
False versions of the plant have similar ribbed, arching leaves, but they blossom in a cluster at the end of the stems. And their berries instead grow in ruby red colours.
How to Plant Solomon's Seal
Solomon's Seal grows wild in many places in North America. But if you want to plant some in your garden, it is better to leave the wild ones be and get healthy rhizomes from the garden nurseries or from your friends.
When you plant your rhizomes or seeds, choose shady and damp areas in your garden where the soil ranges from neutral to acidic. Give enough room for them to grow, as they multiply and spread well. You don't need to plant them too deep, however, as just 1 or 2 inches deep and about 2 to 3 inches apart should be fine.
You also don't have to worry about dividing them immediately, as it takes several years for them to establish themselves. Once they're established though, they can easily withstand a drought. I haven't done anything to the plants we have, and we've had them for years.
Here are three particular varieties to try in your garden (as suggested by The Spruce):
- True Solomon’s Seal (P. biflorum): Very dependable and one of the fastest growing varieties.
- Fragrant Solomon's Seal (P. odoratum "Variegatum"): Variegated form with white tips.
- Fragrant Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum. biflorum var. commutatum): Grows to about 5 feet in height.
The wild ones growing in our garden can take some sun because the surrounding trees keep them cool. They are woodland plants, after all. In fact, when you're looking for the best place to plant your own, a woodland setting—together with some of your ferns, perhaps—would really make it display its beauty.
How to Care for Solomon's Seal
These perennials are actually fairly easy to care for, as they are hardy and very adaptable. They primarily just need moist soil. As long as they have this, they'll multiply well by rhizomes that you can replant or share with your friends. You can also add leaf compost to simulate the woodland environment where it naturally grows.
At the beginning, you may want to water the newly buried rhizome to make sure the soil around it is always moist. Once it has established itself, it multiplies and spreads into a beautiful blanket of foliage with dangling flowers, an elegant addition to your garden. And even though they flower, these flowers fall off naturally. No need for deadheading, which can take up so much of your time.
Additionally, they seem not to have much issue with insects or diseases, so you can relax and not spend so much time caring for them. Slugs can occasionally be a problem in damp areas, but the plant is quite resistant.
Uses and Side Effects of Solomon's Seal
Solomon's Seal is edible and its shoots can be eaten like asparagus. It can be dried and used for making tea. Its berries, however, are poisonous.
What Are Solomon's Seal's Medicinal Uses?
The plant can also be used as an herb in making medicines. In fact, it was used as early as 3500 years ago, traced to the reign of King Solomon, who proclaimed the plant to be a gift from God because of its many uses. Documented acknowledgement of this plant was recorded by Dioscoredis and Pliny in the first century. In Asia, it is considered one of the top 10 healing plants. The first nations in North America and the ancient Europeans also considered this herb of great value.
There have been various claims about Solomon's Seal and its assortment of medicinal and healing properties, which include (according to www.solomonsseal.net):
- Aids in restoration of damaged cartilage and connecting tissue.
- Aids in easing general inflammation.
- Aids healing of bruises, wounds and skin irritations.
- Hastens recovery from bone injuries (broken, stressed) and associated connective tissues.
- Encourages the production of synovial fluid to reduce grinding in joints.
- Addresses and aids restoration of too-tight or too-loose tendons, ligaments, joints and attachments associated with repetitive stress, injury and inflammation.
- Soothes upset stomach.
- Encourages loosening of mucous in lungs.
- Improves women's reproductive health.
And for women who want to have beautiful complexion, the Solomon's Seal tea or its direct application on the skin can naturally repair bruises, acne, pimples and other blemishes. A knowledgeable traditional medicine expert can help, but just applying this on your own is not advisable. Though immediate use when you are in the woods and sustain bruises should be fine, long-term use may require your doctor's approval.
Note: There is not yet sufficient data on the plant's effectiveness in these areas, though it has been generating greater interest as of late. More studies are still needed, however, to substantiate these claims. Moreover, side effects include nausea, diarrhea and other stomach complaints.
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© 2018 Mary Norton