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August 2010
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Climbing Soapwort (Botanical: Saponaria officinalis, Family: N.O. Caryophyllaceae)

Climbing soapwort is also known as Soaproot, Bouncing Bet, Latherwort, Fuller’s Herb, Bruisewort, Crow Soap, Sweet Betty and Wild Sweet William. It’s a native of Central and Southern Europe and its dried root and leaves are used. It is a multipurpose herb. It was used as water softener by Romans and as a remedy for skin ailments like rashes by American Shakers. It is an herbaceous perennial. Its stem can grow up to 4 or 5 feet high. Its leaves are slightly elliptical, lanceolate, acute, smooth. The leaves are 2-3 inches long and 1/3 inches wide.
The plant carries flowers that are pink in colour. They are often double in paniculate fascicles. There are five petals and its calyx is cylindrical and slightly downy. The top of the petals are linear and it has ten stamens, two styles. The flowering is from July till September. It has a persistent pungency and a numbing sensation in mouth but has no odour. The taste is bitter and slightly sweet.
Roots of the plant must be harvested in the fall. It is used as an ornamental plant and has highly fragranced blooms which add scent to the air.
Soapwort is known so because of its soapy sap. It is excellent for washing fabrics. The root is used to wash acne and psoriasis. It is a perfect hair-washing solution when boiled in water. It acts as soothing and cleansing for all skin types when boiled in water and used. Its decotion cures the itch. It is a good cure where mercury has failed. It cures jaundice and other visceral obstructions. It is a tonic, diaphoretic and alterative, a valuable remedy for rheumatism or cutaneous troubles resulting from any form of syphilis. It is also sternutatory.
It brews beer to create a foamy head. The part used in doing so is the flowers. They are used in garnishing fruit salads. It is important to note that its roots are poisonous if ingested. It constitutes of Saponin. Its root is found in 10-12 inches long and 1/12 inches thick pieces which are cylindrical, light brown in outside and whitish with a thick bark inside.

Growing conditions for climbing soapwort

• Needs fertile soils with a neutral pH of 6.5 to 7.0.
• Sow the seeds out after the last frost of the spring (for summer blooms) or at the start of the autumn (for spring blooms).
• Sow the seeds indoors about a month and a half before the last frost.
• The seeds should be put in the light of a temperature of about 20 degrees.
• Sprinkle the seeds on soil and cover with soil.
• Do not sow them deep; it is enough to cover the seed.
• Keep the top surface of the soil moist.
• The spacing of the seeds should be about 25cm apart.
• The germination time is about one to three weeks.
• Transplant the young soapwort plants outdoors following the last frost of the spring.

Care for soapwort

• Needs full to partial shade.
• Needs well drained soils.
• USDA Hardiness Zone is 3-9
• Water them in the summer and other prolonged dry spells
• They should be fertilized during the growing season.

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