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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here


this Saponaria officinalis
(sap oh NAR ee uh)


Family: Carophyllaceae

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 will
tolerate a wide variety of growing conditions. I first saw it growing in
a dry, rocky area on the former homesite of General Sam Houston at
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 it.

S. officinalis has long been used as a cleansing agent, for in addition
to its supposed medicinal properties, the roots contain a lather that
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 stems are
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 rapidly.

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 or dry;

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 a taproot
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 on
margins, glabrous, acute, with 3 main veins, to +7cm long, +/-3cm broad.

Inflorescence - Terminal and axillary cymes. Peduncles slightly swollen
at the base, glabrous. Ultimate pedicels to 3mm long, glabrous.

Flowers - Petals 5, long-clawed, white to pink. Claw to +1.5cm long,
glabrous, winged. Wing of claw forming a 1-2mm appendage at base of
limb. Limb to +/-1.5cm long, notched at apex, to 8-9mm broad, glabrous.
Stamens inserted in folds of claw wings, 10, exserted, distinct.
Filaments white, glabrous, to +2cm long. Anthers white to pale yellow,
-2mm long. Ovary superior, green, glabrous, cylindric, to 9mm long in
flower, 1.5mm in diameter, unilocular. Placentation free-central. Ovules
many. Styles 2, white to pink, glabrous, 1.4cm long. Calyx light green
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 ground,
roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to Europe.

Other info. - This species can be found throughout Missouri. It was
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 and
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.