this Saponaria officinalis
(sap oh NAR ee uh)
Zone 7 Height: 1 foot tall until flowering, then 2 feet or more
Bloom: Summer bloomer
Bouncing Bet is an interesting perennial that is well adapted
to most of
Texas and the Gulf South. It spreads by rhizomes, has lance-shaped
leaves about 3"-4" long, and bears fragrant, pink, phlox-like
flowers from late spring until fall. It is a tough plant that
tolerate a wide variety of growing conditions. I first saw it
a dry, rocky area on the former homesite of General Sam Houston
Independence, Texas. I have also seen it on an abandoned homesite
near San Antonio. The foliage makes an attractive, dense ground
cover, and the flowers are quite showy. The deer will not eat
S. officinalis has long been used as a cleansing agent, for in
to its supposed medicinal properties, the roots contain a lather
serves as a soap substitute. The name 'Bouncing Bet' is said to
have originated in England where barmaids, often called "Bets",
cleaned ale bottles by filling them with water and a sprig of
this plant. When the shaking was begun by these buxom beauties
and the Bets got to bouncing, the term 'Bouncing Bet' was born.
Propagation is by division, or by cuttings taken at almost any
season. Bouncing Bet is a lush, green plant that is very drought
tolerant, though the foliage burns in very sunny areas during
the hottest days of summer--thus a morning sun with afternoon
shade is best. Flowers appear in abundance in late spring or early
summer, to repeat occasionally during late summer and early fall.
Shearing old blossoms and stems keeps the plants looking better,
and stimulates rebloom later in the season. It can be pruned to
the ground with a lawnmower in the fall.
The plants are resistant to insects and diseases. It tolerates
dry or rather wet growing conditions.
Bouncing Bet is native to Europe and Asia but is reported to
have naturalized in North America.
From Botanica on CDROM:
Saponaria officinalis; Family name: Caryophyllaceae
Common name(s): Bouncing bet, Soapwort
While this species' pink flowers on their 24 in (60 cm) tall
not in the first rank of beauty, they make a pretty show in their
summer season and the plant grows almost anywhere; it is a very
nice old-fashioned flower for a cottage garden. It has oval, smooth,
mid-green leaves. Keep an eye on adjacent plants, as it spreads
Hardiness zone from 5 To 10;
Plant Height approx. 60 cm;
Flowering colors: Pink;
Flowering season: Summer;
Garden type: Dry Garden, Rockery/Bank, Small Garden;
Position: Partial Sun to Shade
Cultivation is easy, as plants are tolerant of poor soils--wet
Roots have been used medicinally and juice can be used for forming
a lather with water. It has dark green leaves. Loose clusters
of inch-wide summer flowers in red, pink, or white. Roots crushed
in water produce a sudsy, detergent-like lather. This is a tough
plant; before the days of herbicides, it could be seen growing
in the cinders along railroad rights-of-way. From Poisonous Plants
of North Carolina: Poisonous Part: Roots and seeds. Severity:
CAUSES ONLY LOW TOXICITY IF EATEN.
Saponaria officinalis L.
Family - Cayophyllaceae
Stems - Single or multiple from base, erect, herbaceous, from
and rhizomes, branching, hollow, glabrous, to 1m tall, terete.
Leaves - Opposite or in whorls of 3 or 4, sessile, connected
at bases by
thin tissue, oblong-elliptic, entire, slightly wavy to crisped
margins, glabrous, acute, with 3 main veins, to +7cm long, +/-3cm
Inflorescence - Terminal and axillary cymes. Peduncles slightly
at the base, glabrous. Ultimate pedicels to 3mm long, glabrous.
Flowers - Petals 5, long-clawed, white to pink. Claw to +1.5cm
glabrous, winged. Wing of claw forming a 1-2mm appendage at base
limb. Limb to +/-1.5cm long, notched at apex, to 8-9mm broad,
Stamens inserted in folds of claw wings, 10, exserted, distinct.
Filaments white, glabrous, to +2cm long. Anthers white to pale
-2mm long. Ovary superior, green, glabrous, cylindric, to 9mm
flower, 1.5mm in diameter, unilocular. Placentation free-central.
many. Styles 2, white to pink, glabrous, 1.4cm long. Calyx light
or with some red, glabrous, cylindric, +1-2cm long, 5mm in diameter(in
flower), 5-toothed. Teeth acute, triangular, to 3mm long, short
aristate. Base of calyx saccate around pedicel.
Flowering - June - October.
Habitat - Gravel and sand bars along streams, ditches, waste
Origin - Native to Europe.
Other info. - This species can be found throughout Missouri.
previously grown as an ornamental but has escaped and is well
established in much of North America.
This species contains saponin glycosides and will foam if crushed
rubbed. The plant can be used as soap and is being studied for
medicinal uses also. Formerly the plant was used by Indians and
Europeans for a host of ailments.