Basic information about Polygonatum. Includes Origin, Growing & Cultivation, Common Pests & Diseases, Interesting Facts & Uses, and Garden Design Tips.
The botanical name, Polygonatum, is taken from the Greek for ‘many knees’, since the rhizome (root) has many little joints and bends.
Polygonatum is widely known by its common name of ‘Solomon’s Seal’, which has two possible explanations. Some people say the little depressions or pits on the roots resemble royal seals, some people say the roots themselves look like Hebrew characters when cut.
This plant genus is large and native to most of the Northern Hemisphere, with many species concentrated in Asia and China in particular.
Growing and Cultivation
Polygonatum prefers partial to full shade; they enjoy cool, dappled shade similar to their native woodlands.
Solomon’s Seal likes moist to wet fertile soil, and can be used in shady rain gardens.
This plant can naturalize readily, spreading with slowly creeping rhizomes.
Common Pests and Diseases
Polygonatum can be susceptible to slug and sawfly larvae damage. Homemade or commercial slug bait/preventative can be used, as well as insecticide. Sawfly larvae look much like caterpillars, and can be picked off and disposed of if found.
Interesting Facts and Uses
Solomon’s Seal is eaten in a variety of ways in China – raw or cooked, the roots and stems are added to meat and rice dishes, sugared and fried as sweets, soaked in tea or wine to flavor beverages, and diced and ground to supplement flour.
Some species (P. cirrifolium and P. verticillatum) are eaten in India as leafy greens, and the American species P. biflorum‘s root can be eaten roasted like a potato or ground into flour. A few species’ young shoots can also be eaten like asparagus!
However, most species of Solomon’s Seal can cause irritation if ingested. Be very sure what species you are eating, if you choose to do so!
Polygonatum is also used medicinally in a few different cultures. In modern herbal medicine, it’s used to treat diabetes. Ayurvedic tradition maintains that it’s an aphrodisiac and used to treat pain, inflammation, and a few other ailments. In traditional Chinese medicine, it’s used in a mixture to strengthen organs and enhance qi, and is believed to be an enhancer of mental vitality.
Garden Design Tips
This plant is a favorite for shady woodland areas, borders and rock gardens where its slowly spreading/naturalizing properties are desired.
Its graceful arches and lines contrast more mound-shaped perennials like Hosta, Heuchera, Astilbe, Dicentra, and others.
To purchase Polygonatum varieties, please visit our Shade Companion Plants Page.