Native soapwort is a handsome and extremely hardy garden perennial. If you plant, care for and prune it properly, soapwort will reward you with a profusion of blooms.
Soapwort (Saponaria) is the name given to a species of plant in the clove family. It is also colloquially called washwort, red soapwort or coughwort. The term soapwort includes about 20 subspecies. All of them are warmth and sun-loving, very robust and undemanding perennials. Where the flowering plant originally came from is not known. Today, Saponaria can be found in almost all of Europe, North America and Central Asia. The wild-growing plant is popular for planting in the garden and on the balcony thanks to its flowering splendor.
Soapwort owes its name to a special property: if you crush its roots and rub them together in a little water, the mixture foams like soap. In the past, the plant was therefore also used for washing clothes.
If you want to plant the pretty perennial in your garden, you do not need to pay much attention. The wild herb is very hardy.
Location and soil
Soapwort does especially well in full sun.
Light wind does not bother it.
The soil should be loose and ideally slightly calcareous. Heavy soil can be mixed with a little sand or loam before planting so that the roots do not become waterlogged later. Expanded clay is also suitable.
The best way to cultivate Saponaria is to sow the seeds.
Place the seeds directly in the open or in sufficiently large pots. Press the seeds only lightly and do not cover them with soil.
The best time to sow the seeds is in spring. The seeds are cold germinators and need low temperatures for a certain time before they sprout. Even moderate sub-zero temperatures are not a problem.
Planting soapwort in the spring also has the advantage that the young perennials have enough time to grow in their new location until the coming winter.
When sowing, keep a planting distance of 20 to 40 centimeters, depending on the variety. The bushy herb can grow up to 60 centimeters tall and spreads quickly.
Important to know: soapwort is toxic to pets in higher doses. If you have free-roaming dogs or cats in your yard, you should make sure they don’t eat the herb and plant it out of their reach if necessary. It’s also a good idea to avoid planting ragwort too close to a garden pond or other body of water. Toxins found in the roots otherwise threaten to harm the water and organisms living in it.
Care, cut and overwinter soapwort
Care for soapwort
Soapwort is very easy to care for. Only in extreme temperatures it requires additional care.
Growing wild, soapwort is also adapted to longer periods of drought. Therefore, you only need to water the perennials in your garden when the drought becomes extreme and lasts for a long time.
If you have cultivated your perennials in flower pots, you should water them moderately two to three times a week, especially during the summer. Potting soil in pots dries out completely faster than in the open.
At the beginning of the growing season, from the beginning of May, you can treat your soapwort with a strengthening fertilizer. Use organic fertilizer or homemade compost here.
Cut back soapwort
To prevent the wild herb from spreading rapidly, you should cut it back after the flowering period at the end of October. To do this, cut off all faded fruiting stems and seeds. These would spread over the fall with the wind. If you wish, save some seeds for next spring or give them away to friends and family.
Pruning back in the fall will also encourage your soapwort to sprout extra lush and flowery next year.
Common soapwort, like most of its close relatives, is hardy and extremely robust when it comes to sub-zero temperatures. Once established, plants can easily tolerate temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees in the garden. The plant does not need any further winter protection.
Only potted perennials should be protected during the cold season by placing a thick layer of foliage on their root ball and wrapping the pot in warming jute mats (for example, at ** Amazon).
Also, place the pots slightly elevated over the winter, such as on a few wooden boards. This will prevent frost from affecting the roots.