HARDINESS: Zones 3 to 8
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Near neutral
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Moist, crumbly
PREFERRED LIGHT: Full to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: Arching items with attractive leaves; for beds
SEASON OF INTEREST: Spring to late fall
FAVORITES: P. odoratum 'Variegatum', P. biflorum, P. x hybridum
QUIRKS: Stems arch toward the available light
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Dead nettle, epimedium, ferns, hosta, lungwort, woodland phlox
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Light shade; moist, crumbly soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Snails and slugs
RENEWING PLANTS: Plants live many years; divide crowded clumps and replant in spring
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Excellent
SOURCE: Bedding plants, division
DIMENSIONS: 2-6 ft (0.6-1.8 m) tall and equally wide
Solomon's Seal in the Landscape
One of the most graceful plants for the shade garden, Solomon's seal is also one of the toughest. It can withstand total neglect and tolerates both frigid cold and humid heat. Solomon's seal grows from a fleshy root, which sends up several long stems that arch elegantly toward the light. Along the length of each stem, either green or variegated green-and-cream leaves line up in opposite pairs in perfect order. In spring, Solomon's seal puts on a brief floral show, with dainty bell-shaped white blossoms dangling from the stems. In fall a crop of blueberry-like fruits may appear before the foliage turns a soft yellow and goes dormant for the winter.
Solomon's Seal in All Sizes
A favorite among shade gardeners because it reflects light, variegated Solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum') has leaves edged with delicate creamy white streaks resembling brushstrokes. It grows 2-3 ft
The leaves of P. x hybridum are slightly wavy, and the blooms are tipped in green.
(0.6-1 m) tall. Plant three to five among shorter-growing shade-lovers and let them arch dramatically overhead. Or try growing them in a larger group, edged with a skirt of the silvery leaved dead nettle 'White Nancy' or of silver-speckled lungwort.
The North American native P. biflorum ranges in height from 3-6 ft (1-1.8 m) and is also known as great Solomon's seal. A sizable clump is very impressive when framed with ferns or large, bold-leaved hostas.
P. x hybridum, which reaches to 4 ft (1.2 m), often features wavy leaves, either green or variegated with cream, and has green-rimmed flowers. Use it as an accent or scatter clumps among trillium and woodland phlox.
Growing Solomon's Seal Prepare soil in a shady spot by mixing in organic matter to improve its texture and ability to hold moisture while also providing good drainage. Solomon's seal is at home growing near seasonal streams or in a woodland garden. Set out container-grown plants in spring or plant dormant roots as soon as they can be procured in late winter or early spring. You can always tell the top of the rhizome from the bottom because the tips from which new growth will arise point upward. Be careful not to snap off these delicate tips. Cover the rhizomes with in (2.5 cm) of soil topped with 1 in (2.5 in) of rich organic mulch.
Solomon's seal spreads to form very long-lived colonies, especially if it likes the conditions. When colonies get thick, use a digging fork to unearth plants in early spring before growth begins. Cut apart the rhizomes, which resemble ginger root, and replant sections large enough to contain both roots and growth points where you want more of these graceful plants. Set the new plants in the soil at the same depth at which the parent plants grew.
The only pests that seem to bother Solomon's seal are night-feeding slugs and snails, which chew smooth-edged holes in the leaves. Control them by removing garden debris, handpicking them at dusk, or setting out saucers of beer to attract and drown them.