How to Plant and Grow Solomon's Seal

This groundcover is perfect for shady, moist locations.

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

There's a world of little-known types of Solomon's seal. Some variegated selections are unique, and many plant sizes are available. You can find dwarf forms less than 6 inches tall and varieties up to 12 feet tall. These aren't usually found at commercial garden centers, so check online or at local specialty nurseries.

Common Solomon's seal
Jerry Pavia.

These plants make great backdrops for other shade-loving perennials in the garden. New sprouts of Solomon's seal emerge in spring and are ornamental in their own right. In some varieties, this new growth is 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 species offer blooms in purple, pink, or orange. The flowers are often lightly fragrant. Once the blooms have finished, berries take their place.

Although birds and other wildlife relish them, the berries are toxic to humans.

Solomon’s Seal Overview

Genus Name Polygonatum
Common Name Solomon’s Seal
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Shade
Height 1 to 6 feet
Width 1 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
Problem Solvers Drought Tolerant

Where to Plant Solomon's Seal

Solomon's seal thrives in moist, rich, well-drained soil and shady areas, often under trees—think of woodland or shade gardens. Cool, humid, and shady locations are best.

How and When to Plant Solomon's Seal

Solomon's seal plants are best planted using rhizomes in spring or fall. If the rhizomes are large, cut them into smaller pieces (each with growing nodes) for multiple plants. Position them horizontally about 4-6 inches deep in moist soil and space them 3 feet apart because they will spread. A dappled shade location is best. Rhizomes can be dug up from an existing plant in spring after new growth appears.

Solomon's Seal Care Tips

Light

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.

Soil and Water

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. Once they're established, they're able to survive short droughts fairly well. During longer dry periods, however, they appreciate extra water.

Temperature and Humidity

Solomon's seal is hardy in Zones 3-9. It handles cold temperatures better than hot ones— another reason to plant them in shade.

This plant flourishes in humid areas, although a fungal disease that discolors the leaves sometimes occurs in locations with very high humidity.

Fertilizer

These plants like plenty of organic matter, so incorporate it into the soil when you first plant. After that, feed the plants with compost or an organic fertilizer once a year.

Pests and Problems

Solomon's seal sawfly is a serious pest. The gray-white larvae are voracious eaters capable of stripping the leaves from the plant. A vigilant gardener can pick the sawfly caterpillars off the leaves before they do much damage or apply a commercial product that contains a mixture of nematodes that kill sawflies.

How to Propagate Solomon's Seal

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. Dig up the plants and carefully separate or cut apart the rhizomes, leaving several growing points on each division. Replant the rhizomes horizontally at 4-6 inches deep or the same growing depth as the original plant. The rhizomes make these plants easy to contain in case you don't want them spreading too far.

Types 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 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 a 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 in 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 groundcover, 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. The intricate little flowers are commonly a combination of red, peach, and yellow, but they 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 they bloom.

Coralbells

pink Coralbells in garden
Peter Krumhardt

Exciting selections with incredible foliage patterns 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 groundcover 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What wildlife does Solomon's seal attract?

    Bees, bumble bees, and hummingbirds feed on the nectar of the flowers. In some areas deer eat the foliage, chewing the plant down to about 6 inches from the ground. Chickens and woodland birds eat the berries.

  • How long do the flowers on Solomon's seal last?

    The plants bloom for about three weeks in late spring to early summer. After that, they develop berries.

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  1. Polygonatum biflorum. North Carolina State University Extension

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