Soapwort, or Saponaria officinalis, is an ages-old perennial wildflower with a home in many gardens. This perennial features showy little flowers in shades of pink and white, as well as its sweet fragrance. However, it is named for being an ingredient in gentle soap. All the parts of soapwort are high in concentrations of saponins, a compound commonly used in mild detergent. Soapwort is deer-resistant, great for a cut flower garden, and thrives in zones 3-9.
Sunlight Needs: The soapwort plant prefers a partial sun to full sun exposure, but it is not fussy. If you provide the plant full sun in the early morning and shade in the late afternoon, it will do well in your garden.
Watering Needs: Saponaria thrives in soil conditions that are slightly dry to moist. Be careful if you live in wetter conditions. Almost any type of soil is agreeable to soapwort, including clay soil. Soapwort does well in the drier, mountainous areas of the west.
Foliage: The foliage of the Saponaria plant features green, hairless stems. It doesn’t have many leaves, so the attractive flowers get all the attention. The flowers do attract butterflies and moths. The foliage is bitter to mammals, making this plant deer-resistant.
Must-Know Plant Care Tips: Soapwort has a long blooming period that extends from spring into summer. Dead-head the plant to extend the blooming period as long as possible. Just shear off the tops of the plants to remove spent blooms. Fertilize in the fall.
Plant Problem-Solver: The biggest problem with soapwort is that it seeds itself. So it spreads easily and tends to take over if you don’t cut it back. This plant also doesn’t do well with dividing. Just leave it to winter over as-is, and then trim it back to just above ground level once early spring arrives.
Pretty Pairings: This pretty little perennial is an excellent ground cover, because it grows about 6 inches in height and is hardy to light foot traffic. So pair it up with any of your favorite taller flowers to provide the ground cover you need. It’s particularly pretty in a rock garden!