Solomon's Seal

by Dr. Joey Williamson, Horticulture Extension Agent, Home & Garden Information Center, Clemson University, 2009



I'm Joey Williamson, and I'm a horticulturist with the Clemson Home & Garden Information Center. Today we're going to be looking at some species of Solomon's Seal in the woods of South Carolina.

Today we're going to look at several easy to grow Solomon's Seals. The first Solomon's Seal we're going to visit is the Fragrant Variegated Solomon's Seal. This is a Solomon's Seal that comes from different parts of Europe and Asia, and has very variegated leaves, creamy white on the margins of the leaves. True Solomon's Seal have very graceful, arching stems. Many can get up to 1-1/2 to 3, and even to 4 feet tall. The neat characteristic about this plant is that they have small white, bell-shaped flowers that dangle beneath the stems. These flowers will eventually turn into fruit that will be round, blue-black colored fruit that will resemble small grapes. These plants spread by rhizomes or underground stems, and we can see some that have come up onto the rocks here. Typically when you plant one or more Solomon's Seals they will spread, and eventually you will have a whole colony of Solomon's Seals. These are quite tough plants, and they are very drought tolerant once established. They would really prefer rich, well-drained soils, but they can tolerate a lot of heat and drought in the summer, and I have never seen them wilt.

As we see some of the rhizomes that have encountered the rock wall and have come up above, we find the scars from previous years stems that arose. These round scars give it the common name of Solomon's Seal because they are supposed to look like one of the six seals of King Solomon.

This next Solomon's Seal we're looking at is another true Solomon's Seal with arching stems: the Great Solomon's Seal. We see it has alternate leaves, and we can see the little flowers dangling below like little bells. They are yellowish-white colored flowers that will eventually turn into blue-black fruit that look like little round marbles or grapes, just like on the Fragrant Variegated Solomon's Seal. This plant gets 3, 4 or 5 feet tall, does like rich, woods soil, and can tolerate some drought once it's established.

This next Solomon's Seal we're visiting is the False Solomon's Seal, and even though this is in a different genus of plants from the true Solomon's Seals we just visited, this also is in the same lily family. Now what's uniquely different about this is the location of the flowers. We can see the flowers at a terminal, i.e., at the ends of the stems, rather than dangling beneath the stems. These are white or yellowish-white flowers that will persist for two or three weeks, and then toward the end of fall, will develop into nice, red fruit. They will be a red, mottled color.

All of these species of Solomon's Seals, the False Solomon's Seal here and the two true Solomon's Seals that we've talked about earlier, are all easily available for purchase from larger garden centers and mail order nurseries, so there is absolutely no reason to dig these from the wild. We don't want to deplete the natural populations. These can make a very good addition to your garden. They are very drought tolerant once they are established, and they look beautiful with both their flowers and their fruit.

Lists of nurseries selling Solomon's Seals, this False Solomon's Seal and the true Solomon's Seals that we saw earlier, are available on both the South Carolina and the North Carolina Native Plant Society websites. There are many companies listed there and the prices are very good. These will make wonderful additions to your garden.

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.