Polygonatum (Solomon's Seal)
The best garden additions are those that serve many roles in the space and provide multi-season interest, showcasing something new and exciting throughout each month of the growing season. Polygonatum odoratum (Po-lig-oh-NAY-tum oh-DER-ay-tum) is a fantastic hardy addition to any shady space, deriving its common name Solomon’s Seal from the scars left on its rhizomes by the previous year’s growth which resemble a pair of inverted triangles akin to King Solomon’s Seal.
Native to Japan, unlike its large eastern North America native cousin P. biflorum, or Smooth Solomon’s Seal, and a member of the asparagus family, Asparagaceae, Solomon’s Seal provides interest through its beautiful broad foliage, unique arching stems, delicate and fragrant flowers, showy berries, and striking fall color. Polygonatum grow from underground modified root storage organs, called rhizomes, producing a single unbranched arching stem in the spring from each rhizome. The rhizomes themselves do branch underground over time to produce a beautiful multi-stemmed mound of foliage of 24-36” round over several seasons, the name Polygonatum itself taken from ancient Greek roots translating to “many knees” in reference to their jointed rhizomes.
Blooming from late spring to early summer, Solomon’s Seal produces a pair of fragrant, pendulous white bell-shaped flowers on the underside of their stems beneath each leaf pair. After blooming, flowers develop into attractive clusters of blue-black berries, a favorite of birds and other local wildlife.
Preferring moist, well-drained soils in areas of part sun to shade, Solomon’s Seal is available in many gorgeous appearances including the stunning red stems of ‘Ruby Slippers’ and the attractive variegated white and green foliage of ‘Variegatum.’ Polygonatum continue their show into the fall, with their stems and foliage taking on a fantastic golden yellow coloration as cooler fall temps settle in.