Solomon's Seal

Solomon's seal is a classic shade garden plant that adds an architectural component to garden beds, thanks to its arching stems. In spring, these stems become lined with small, bell-shape, white blooms on the undersides. These blossoms later give way to bluish black berries that are adored by wildlife. The spreading and clumping habit of this plant makes it a great groundcover for shady spots.

Solomon’s Seal Overview

Genus Name Polygonatum
Common Name Solomon’s Seal
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Shade
Height 6 to 6 inches
Width null to 2 feet
Flower Color Green, Pink, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Colorful Fall Foliage, Spring Bloom
Special Features Cut Flowers, Fragrance, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Drought Tolerant

Colorful Combinations

These plants, with their clean green foliage, make great backdrops for other shade-loving perennials in the garden. New sprouts of Solomon's seal emerge in early spring and are ornamental in their own right, resembling green wands that wave playfully in the breeze. In some varieties, this new growth is flushed gray purple, which enhances the whole effect.

Solomon's seal blossoms come in only a few colors. The most common is white with green tips. A few obscure species offer unique blooms in purple, pink, or orange. The flowers are often pleasantly, but lightly, fragrant. Once the blooms have finished, berries take their place. These berries begin green and age to a purple-blue, then turn black. They're poisonous to humans, but birds relish them.

Solomon's Seal Care

It's fairly easy to grow Solomon's seals. They prefer rich soil with plenty of organic matter, lots of moisture, and a shady spot—think of woodland or shade gardens. Once they're established, they're able to survive short droughts fairly well. During longer dry periods, however, they do appreciate extra water.

Due to their love of shade, these plants are often found growing in the dappled light under large shade trees. They can take full shade, but may look a bit more spindly. In fall, Solomon's seal turns golden, which shows best where some sunlight can reach. If you plant them in some direct sun, they'll do better in cool morning sun than in hot afternoon sun.

Solomon's seals are steady growers and can form dense colonies over the years. These plants spread through underground stems called rhizomes. Rhizomes can be divided in early spring or fall to create more plants. Simply dig up the plants and carefully separate or cut apart the rhizomes, leaving several growing points on each division. The rhizomes make these plants easy to contain in case you don't want them spreading too far.

A Collector's Plant

There's a whole world of little-known types of Solomon's seal that make fantastic shade garden plants. A number of different variegated selections are truly unique, and a large variety of plant sizes are available. You can find dwarf forms that are less than six inches tall, and varieties up to 12 feet tall. These varieties can be pricey and typically aren't found at commercial garden centers, so check online or at local specialty nurseries.

More Varieties of Solomon's Seal

Common Solomon's Seal

Common Solomon's seal
Jerry Pavia

Polygonatum x hybridum has gently arching stems with dangling pairs or clusters of cream flowers in late spring. The stout rhizomes are drought tolerant and colonize well. It may reach 5 feet tall. Zones 3-8

Variegated Fragrant Solomon's Seal

Variegated fragrant Solomon's seal
Peter Krumhardt

Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum' has creamy-edged alternate leaves, and usually pairs of hanging creamy bells. It may grow 3 to 4 feet tall, is very drought tolerant, and is hardy in Zones 3-8

Solomon's Seal Companion Plants

Bleeding heart

Bleeding heart
Peter Krumhardt

Once you get a look at bleeding heart's pink or white heart-shaped blooms, you know where the plant got its common name. Bleeding hearts grow best in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. Some types bloom only in spring, while others bloom spring, summer, and fall, provided temperatures aren't too high.

Lungwort

purple Lungwort blossoms
David McDonald

In early spring, the brilliant blue, pink, or white flowers of lungwort bloom despite the coldest chill. The rough basal leaves, spotted or plain, always please, and continue to be handsome into winter. Planted close as a weed-discouraging ground cover, in borders as edgings, or as bright accent plants, lungworts are workhorses that retain their good looks. Provide high-humus soil that retains moisture. Although lungworts can tolerate dry conditions, be alert for mildew.

Columbine

purple, white, and yellow Columbine blossom
Mike Jensen

Perfect for cottage and woodland gardens, old-fashioned columbines are available in almost all the colors of the rainbow. Intricate little flowers, they are commonly a combination of red, peach, and yellow, but also bloom in blues, white, pure yellow, and pink. They look almost like folded paper lanterns. Columbines thrive in sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. Plants tend to be short-lived, but they self-seed readily, often creating natural hybrids with other nearby columbines. If you want to prevent self-seeding, deadhead them after blooms.

Coralbells

pink Coralbells in garden
Peter Krumhardt

Exciting selections with incredible foliage patterns have put coralbells on the map. Once enjoyed mainly for their spires of dainty reddish flowers, coralbells are also grown for the unusual mottling and veining of different-colored leaves. The low clumps of long-stemmed evergreen or semi-evergreen lobed foliage make coralbells a fine ground cover plant. They enjoy humus-rich, moisture-retaining soil. Beware of heaving in areas with very cold winters.

Garden Plans for Solomon's Seal

Beginner Garden for Shade

beginner shade garden plan illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

This low-maintenance, foolproof shade garden is attractive in three seasons, but particularly throughout late winter and spring. Witch hazel and astilbe light up the early season with their cheerful blooms. The striking leaves of hosta and Solomon's seal ensure that the garden is attractive even when the flowers aren't in bloom.

Download this plan.

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