Solomon's seal is a special and little known perennial shade plant. The botanical name is Polygonatum. This genus has many species, ranging from a 9-inch ground cover to a 6-foot tall plant. The foliage is the main attraction, with alternate leaves climbing up a non-branching stalk like a ladder. The stalks arch over and produce small white dangling flowers in spring followed by blue/black berries. The green foliage is attractive from spring to fall, when it turns yellow.

It prefers moist and organically rich soil but will tolerate less than optimal conditions. It IS important (as with most plants) to keep well watered the first year, but after that Polygonatum can tolerate drought conditions fairly well. This is important because many shade gardens are quite dry due to competition from tree roots.

The stalk grows from a branching rhizome allowing the formation of thick colonies over times. Only 1 stalk/stem is produced per rhizome branch each year. This allows one to determine the age of the plant by counting the number of scars on a given rhizome branch. These scars are said to resemble a wax seal, thus accounting for at least part of the name. The shape of the scars resemble 2 inverted triangles, which in turn, is said to have been the symbol of King Solomon, standing for the union of the body and soul.

My favorite Solomon’s seal is the 2 foot light green and white variegated variety called Polygonatum odoratum thunbergi 'Variegatum'. A bonus is that this species (native to Japan) has fragrant flowers as well. To my knowledge it is the only variegated Solomon’s seal. There are 60 or more species of Solomon's seal plus another plant that closely resembles it call "False Solomon's seal". Only 4 species are commonly seen for sale; Polygonatum odoratum thunbergi 'Variegatum', the little ground cover one (both native to Japan) and 2 native North American species, the tall one and one other.

I love green and white variegations in a shade garden, it brightens up the darkness. I don’t like yellow variegation, it always looks sickly instead of intentional to me. Solomon's seal is a great shade garden plant and can be found more easily in garden centers and internet garden stores in recent years. It has gotten some well deserved praise in plant magazines and garden shows recently which has served to push it into commercial production more.

Sol"o*mon's seal.

A mystic symbol consisting of two interlaced triangles forming a star with six points, often with one triangle dark and one light, symbolic of the union of soul and body.


© Webster 1913.

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