Common names: Common Soapwort, Bouncing-Bet, Crow Soap, Wild Sweet William, Soapweed
Scientific name: Saponaria officinalis
Plant history & use:
Common Soapwort is, as the name suggests, used as soap, shampoo and detergent. S. officinalis is a useful plant of Eurasian origin that in traditional Europe was often used both for washing textiles and for personal hygiene. Today it is used in cures for acne.
The whole plant is useful, ie. flowers, leaves, roots and stem. All plant parts contain degreasing substances that lather together with water. The highest concentration of the fat-dissolving substances is found in the root. When mixed with water, the foaming liquid can then be used to wash fabrics, as a shampoo & soap or as an all purpose cleaning solution.
Saponaria officinalis, despite its toxicity, is utilized in culinary applications. It serves as an emulsifier in commercial tahini production and helps create a foamy head in brewing beer. In the Middle East, the root is added to halva to stabilize the oils and give it the unique texture that halvah is known for.
The flowers emit a sweet fragrance in the evenings and are effective when it comes to attracting pollinators.
As the Common Soapwort is naturally adapted to the European climate, there are no difficulties in growing it outdoors here. It thrives in most soils, slightly clayey soils are most favorable. Areas with Sun/Part shade are good placements. It grows 30-100 cm high depending on the surrounding circumstances.
S. officinalis can spread well via underground shoots. So choose carefully where you plant it.
Sow seeds directly on the plant site or pre-cultivate indoors before planting out. Sow seeds 1 cm deep. Keep the soil moist when growing indoors. If germination has not occurred within a month, place the seeds in a pot in the refrigerator for about a month.
Alternatively, sow outdoors in pots or in open ground Sep-Nov. The seeds will germinate next spring.
Location: Sun/Part shade
Height: 30-100 cm
Germination Time: 1-3 months
USDA Zone: 4-8