Common names: Solomons Seal, Lady’s Seal
Polygonatum comes from Greek poly meaning ‘many or much’; and, either the word gonos referring to ‘seed’ or the word gony referring to the ‘knee joint’ which is an allusion to the swollen joints of the stems
Solomon’s Seal is less clear. Some tales tell us that the flat round scars on the roots resemble grand seals (you know the kind that Kings sign letters with) and Solomon’s because he was a great king. Another explanation is that when the root is cut transversely, it resembles a Hebrew character and that because Solomon was a plantsman, he had set his seal upon this plant as a medicinal plant.
- Bloom time: Mid-spring
- Height: 24” to 30”
- Sun needed: Shade
- Bloom color: White
- Planting space: 12 to 18” apart
- Soil preferred: Rich woodland
- Propagation method: Division of roots
Recommended varieties and description
After the species, P. hybrida ‘variegatum’ is the most commonly available plant in nurseries. This form grows to 3’ tall and has a green-and-white leaf. If someone tells you it has spring-blooming flowers, they’re just trying to sell you the plant because the flowers are small and inconspicuous and you’re growing this plant for the wonderfully arching-foliage effect and not the pale-white flowers.
The flowers are also reputed to be slightly fragrant but I confess that every time I’ve gotten my nose next to them, I’ve been disappointed to find only a clear garden smell and no perfume. Perhaps it’s my nose.
This plant grows quite well just about any place in my garden with the possible exception of hot sunny spots. Give it some shade from the high heat of the day and a bit of moisture and it will easily live for years. It will also thrive in wetter soils as long as water does not stand on it during the early summer and fall. It is not hard to plant – simply stick it in the ground so the root is just below the soil surface. And, it is equally easy to divide and move. Use a shovel to cut off a chunk and pop it out of the ground without worry about a delicate or easily damaged root system. If all this sounds easy, well, it is.
Potions and Poisons
The roots have been used throughout the centuries (would Solomon lie to you?) for a variety of human ailments ranging from broken bones to “female complaints” according to one herbal.