The plant family of the asparagus family offers the garden lover a hardy perennial that shows charming, white flowers in the form of small bells in May and June. The Solomon’s seal with the botanical name Polygonatum odoratum grows between 15 cm and 70 cm and is hardy to -32 degrees. The perennial, herbaceous plant forms a rhizome that reaches a diameter of up to 14 cm. If the flower stalk dies off in autumn, it leaves an imprint reminiscent of a seal, which earned the member of the Weißwurz genus the name Solomon’s Seal or Genuine Solomon’s Seal. With all its advantageous properties, which include undemanding care, it must not be overlooked that a Solomon’s seal is poisonous in all parts, especially the bluish-black berries that appear in autumn.
Table of Contents
Like all Weißwurz, the Solomon’s Seal does not require any complex care, so that the delicate flower chains develop in spring and summer:
- Early spring is the ideal time to plant.
- Best growth in partially shaded to shaded locations.
- Fresh, loose and well-drained soil.
- Planting distance is 25 cm to 30 cm.
- Permanent moisture promotes growth.
- Constantly dripping wet substrate causes root rot.
- Extensive mulching in the spring protects against evaporation.
- Apply complete fertilizer before sprouting.
- Alternatively, dig up compost and horn shavings
- Further doses of fertilizer are not required.
- Do not cut off faded stems.
- Cut back close to the ground only in autumn.
- Wear gloves and eye protection for all work.
- Winter protection is not necessary.
When the graceful blooms have withered, the gardener might be inclined to cut off the stems. However, these should remain on the plant because on the one hand they remain summer green and on the other hand such a cutting measure weakens the plant because it is full of juice. However, there is nothing wrong with using one or the other flower stalk as a vase flower for decoration in the house.
With regard to propagation, gardeners can choose between two different methods:
Over time, with good care, the Polygonatum odoratum will develop a strong rhizome as an outlasting organ, which can reach a diameter of more than 10 cm. These are fully dug up in spring or fall. With a sharp knife – with woody rhizomes with a spade – you can cut them into several pieces. Unlike cane division, it is not necessary for the rhizome parts to have shoots, buds or shoots; new white root plants will still develop from it. An important criterion for successful propagation using this technique is that the parts are just as deep in the ground as before. Ideally, the potting soil is previously mixed with good garden compost and horn shavings to promote growth.
Blue-black berries containing between 7 and 10 seeds appear on Solomon’s Seal in autumn. At this point, the high poison content, especially in the berries and seeds, should be pointed out again. Therefore, one must not do without protective gloves when harvesting these berries. The seeds are dried and kept in a dark and cool place until next spring. Alternatively, they can be sown directly in the desired spot in autumn and lightly covered with soil. Since they need a cold stimulus for germination as cold germs, winter frost and snow are even desirable. Seed culture conditions remain moist and the melting snow softens the seed coat enough to encourage germination.
However, there is a risk that animals will eat the seeds. Therefore, it is advisable to put the seeds in a plastic bag with damp sand. This bag is twisted into a sausage, tied and stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks. During this time, you should check again and again whether the sand is still sufficiently moist. After this stratification, the seeds are sown in a tray or in small pots filled with potting soil. For the coming weeks, a gradual increase in temperature of 5° from around 12° Celsius is now required for germination to begin. Under no circumstances should there be a sudden increase in temperature, as this will destroy all previous efforts at propagation by seeds. During this time, the substrate must always be kept slightly moist. After germination, the seedlings are pricked out when the first leaves appear. From the end of March/beginning of April, the young claret plants can be planted in the garden.
This procedure of propagation is not only comparatively complex, but according to the reports of numerous hobby gardeners, not nearly as promising as dividing the rhizomes.
Known hybrids and similar species
Various hybrids were bred from the plant species Solomon’s seal, which have different growth heights or variegated foliage. In addition, Mother Nature has produced some species that look confusingly similar to Polygonatum odoratum:
Great Solomon’s Seal – Polygonatum biflorum
- stately hybrid with a growth height of 150 cm
- correspondingly larger, white flowers
- Flowering time May to June
Dwarf Solomon’s Seal – Polygonatum humile
- ideal for planting in tubs and in flower boxes
- Growth height 10 cm to 15 cm
- nice ornament for the shady balcony
- light winter protection required
Striped Solomon’s Seal – Polygonatum Hybride ‘Striatum’
- attractive hybrid with white striped leaves
- Growth height up to 40 cm
- the coloring of the leaves remains after flowering
- a bit weak
Vielblütiges Salomonssiegel – Polygonatum multiflorum
- a distinct species, very similar to the Genuine Solomon’s Seal
- white, bell-shaped flowers
- Growth height 50 cm to 60 cm
- perfectly hardy
Whorl-Leaf Pistachio – Polygonatum verticillatum
- non-venomous species
- Growth height 40 cm to 100 cm
- narrow leaves grow in whorls on the stem
- easy to distinguish from Solomon’s seal
The multi-flowered Solomon’s seal, also known as multi-flowered claret, is much more common in the local regions in the wild. The only difference between the two species is the shape of the green leaves, which are more rounded in the true Solomon’s seal. They are all extremely poisonous.
diseases and pests
A member of the plant wasp family has specialized in Solomon’s seals. The rather inconspicuous wasps themselves do not damage the plants, but their voracious larvae. They are on the undersides of the leaves and within a short period of time they eat the entire claret bare. Since the caterpillars can grow up to several centimeters long, they can easily be spotted and collected in the spring when they are up to mischief. The soft soap solution, which spoils the appetite of the larvae and robs them of their energy, has proven itself as a biological control agent. It consists of 1 liter of water, a tablespoon of soft soap and a tablespoon of spirit. Alternatively, cooking oil can be mixed with water. At intervals of 3 to 4 days, the infested white root is sprayed with it.
Young claret plants are sometimes visited by slugs because they are in a location that these pests can also suffer well. It is therefore advisable to protect newly planted Solomon’s seals from them:
- Create barriers around the plants with pointed stones.
- A ring of ground coffee or coffee grounds keeps snails away.
- Distribute snail nematodes with the watering can.
- Only water directly to the roots in the early morning.
- Collect the pests with the snail tongs.
- Build a snail fence with a beer trap.
- Keep Indian runner ducks in the garden.
- Free-ranging chickens peck the snail eggs out of the ground.
Slug pellets have proven themselves as a chemical control agent. This should only be used when biological and mechanical methods are unsuccessful.
Other pests and diseases are not known. If the plant looks sick, does not flower and its leaves hang down, the cause is usually an unsuitable location or it is not receiving enough water.
Nice neighbor plants
The Solomon’s seal thrives in its natural range, especially on the edges of forests and trees. The experienced gardener takes advantage of this knowledge and prefers to plant the claret in his garden at the edge of shrubs and bushes. Other companion plants include:
- Lily of the Valley – Convallaria
- Lady’s Mantle – Alchemilla vulgaris
- Hosta – sweetheart lily – hosta
- Fingerhut – Digitalis
- Silberkerze – Actaea racemosa
- Blauglöckchen – Mertensia virginica
A proximity to rhododendrons and azaleas, which also favor slightly shady places, has an extremely harmonious effect.
Thanks to Solomon’s seal, locations in the garden that are rarely or not at all exposed to the sun do not have to be empty. The robust, completely hardy perennial with the elegant, curved flower stalks feels particularly at home under deciduous trees and at the edge of the forest. When the white bell-shaped flowers appear in May and June, they spread a pleasant fragrance, which is why the plant is also called fragrant claret. In autumn, the Polygonatum odoratum spoils the eye again with a wonderful foliage color and blue-black berries. However, all this beauty must not hide the fact that Solomon’s seals are highly poisonous and do not belong in gardens where children are.