How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Solomon’s Seal

Are you looking for a beautiful native plant for your shade garden? Solomon’s seal is showy, low-maintenance, hardy, and loves the shade. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen introduces one of her favorite spring wildflowers, Solomon’s seal, and how to help these plants thrive in your woodland shade garden.

Solomon's seal presents gracefully arching stems adorned with alternating, lance-shaped leaves and delicate, bell-shaped white flowers dangling beneath the foliage.

Contents

Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) is a spring-blooming North American native wildflower. It is typically found in moist hardwood forests and makes a spectacular plant for your shade garden. As long as you can provide shade, moist soil, and a favorable climate, you should have no trouble growing this beautiful foliage plant. 

The alternate leaves of Solomon’s seal grow along long, gracefully arching stems that emerge from the ground in sparse clusters. If you look carefully, however, you’ll discover that this is a flowering plant. The delicate, nodding flowers under the foliage for a unique springtime garden treat.

Solomon’s seal is surprisingly easy to grow in the home landscape. It will be right at home in a woodland garden, shaded native plant garden, or tucked under some trees at the edge of your yard. Solomon’s seal is highly valued for its attractive broad foliage, which has three-season appeal in the landscape. Grow it alongside any other shade plant for a complimentary and dramatic display.

Now let’s dig a little deeper into the details of cultivating Solomon’s seal, a lovely and fascinating landscape plant for your native plant garden, shade garden, or woodland wildflower garden. 

Overview

Characterized by its elegant, arching stems, the Polygonatum plant showcases glossy green leaves arranged alternately along the stem, with dangling clusters of small, white, bell-shaped flowers.
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Family Asparagaceae
Genus Polygonatum
Species biflorum
Native Area Eastern North America, Central North America
USDA Hardiness Zone 3 – 9
Sun Exposure Partial to full shade
Soil Type Organically rich, Well-drained, Moist
Watering Requirements Medium
Maintenance Low
Suggested Uses Native garden, shade garden, cottage garden
Height 1 – 3 feet
Bloom Season Spring
Flower Color Greenish white
Attracts Pollinators
Problems Poisonous
Resistant To Deer, rabbits, wet soil
Plant Spacing 12 inches

Natural History

The Polygonatum plant displays slender, arching stems with whorls of glossy, oval leaves and pendulous, cream-colored flowers hanging in rows beneath the foliage.
Native to moist woodlands, it thrives alongside spring wildflowers.

Solomon’s seal is native to moist woodlands throughout the eastern and central United States and Canada. It is typically found in lowland forests with other common spring wildflowers such as trillium, bloodroot, and trout lily. Unlike many other spring ephemeral wildflowers, however, Solomon’s seal keeps its leaves until frost sets in

There are a few varieties of the native species that are found in more localized regions, and you will find a few cultivars with showy, variegated foliage. This plant is not commonly found commercially, although you can occasionally find it at nurseries that specialize in native plants. There are Polygonatum species native to North America, Asia, and Europe. If you’re hoping to grow the native species, make sure you choose one that’s native to your region. 

Characteristics

With its slender, curving stems, the Polygonatum plant boasts glossy green leaves arranged in alternating pairs along the stem, culminating in drooping clusters of small, white flowers.
A graceful perennial admired for its charming foliage and flowers.

Solomon’s seal is an herbaceous perennial. It grows vigorously but not aggressively and maintains a robust appearance throughout the entire growing season, from spring through the first frost. While dormant, the tuber-like roots rest just below the soil surface, awaiting the next spring warming.

Most people grow Solomon’s seal for its attractive foliage. The leaves may be solid green or variegated with white and green striped patterns. In fall, the leaves turn a shimmering golden color. They grow in an alternating pattern along long, gracefully arching stems that emerge directly from the ground, so it will appear that a cluster of tall, upright stems all emerge from the ground in loose clusters. The stems are slightly crooked, creating a slight zig-zag pattern. 

Along the underside of the arching stems, take a peek in the spring to spot the greenish-yellow flowers. The small, nodding, bell-like flowers dangle in small groups from thin stalks. While very subtle, they do have a certain mystical appeal and attract some adventurous pollinators.

Solomon’s seal spreads slowly to form loose colonies. The tuberous roots branch out a little each year, allowing new stems to develop. You can sometimes observe the thick root rhizomes just at or below the soil surface.

Propagation

Solomon’s seal is easiest to propagate by division of its creeping rhizomes. It can also be propagated by seed, but this is time-consuming and not very reliable. Although it forms colonies in its natural habitat, Solomon’s seal typically reproduces primarily by rhizomes rather than self-seeding.

Seed

The Polygonatum plant features gracefully arching stem adorned with whorls of elliptical leaves and small round seed berries suspended beneath the foliage.
Growing from seed requires cold stratification and patience.

Seeds of this plant require a period of cold-stratification and a lot of patience. In late summer, collect seeds from the ripe fruits and place them in the refrigerator or freezer for at least two months. When you’re ready to germinate the seeds, you’ll need to place them in a pot or tray with moist soil. Keep the pots in a warm place and keep the soil moist while you’re waiting. You’ll need to have patience for this stage, as germination can take multiple months or more. 

Once the seeds sprout, continue to keep the seedlings warm and moist until they have grown several inches tall and developed at least two or three sets of true leaves. At this point, they can be transplanted to a permanent location outdoors. When growing Solomon’s seal from seed, you can expect your plants to require at least two years until they start to flower.

If you want to try a more natural approach, simply allow the fruits to fall naturally from the plants. Keep watch the following spring to see if any tiny new seedlings appear. If so, you can carefully dig these up and transplant them to new locations. Some wildflowers freely self-seed, but Solomon’s seal rarely sprouts new seedlings in the vicinity of the parent plant. 

Division

Exhibiting slender, graceful stems, the Polygonatum plant showcases glossy, lance-shaped leaves with variegated white edges arranged alternately along the stem, with clusters of small, bell-shaped white flowers dangling below.
Propagate by dividing rhizomes for quick, easy plant multiplication.

Dividing the rhizomes is the quickest and easiest way to propagate Solomon’s seal. If you carefully scrape the soil away from the base of your plants, you’ll clearly see the chunky rhizomes. Plants that are several years old will have developed several branching rhizomes and multiple stems from each. 

In early spring or late fall, use a knife or sharp shovel to separate the rhizomes into two or more separate pieces. Each piece should have a couple of stems and healthy roots. Carefully remove the mass you want to transplant and place it into a prepared hole. These divided rhizomes will soon grow their own healthy stems. 

Transplanting

Close-up of a young Solomon's Seal plant presenting arching stems and bearing pairs of glossy, lance-shaped leaves surrounded by mulched soil.
Plant out with care, ensuring proper soil, depth, and hydration.

Solomon’s seal is easy to transplant. Ideally, do your transplanting on a cool, overcast day in the spring or fall. First, identify the location where you’d like a Solomon’s seal plant to grow. Next, prepare your site by digging a hole slightly larger than the root mass or the pot in which it’s growing. If the soil is very dry or sandy, this is the ideal time to amend it by adding some rich, organic compost. 

For container-grown plants, carefully remove the plant from its pot. Set the base of the plant into the hole so the rhizome sits just below the soil surface. Make sure the roots are facing down and the stems, if visible, are facing upwards. Then, backfill the space around the rootmass with fresh soil. Finally, water your new transplant well and keep it moist for about a week to help it settle into its new home.

How to Grow

Solomon’s seal is easy to grow if you can provide a shaded location with generally moist soil conditions. These plants are typically quite hardy and have few problems with pests and disease, so you should have a very trouble-free growing experience! 

Sunlight

Close-up of a flowering Polygonatum plant under the sun in a garden, showing glossy green leaves arranged alternately along the arching stem, adorned with creamy-white, bell-shaped flowers drooping gracefully below.
This plant thrives in shade; avoid intense sunlight to prevent leaf burns.

Solomon’s seal is a shade plant that is adapted to grow in the forest understory. It grows best in partial to full shade with no more than two or three hours of bright sunlight each day. The leaves are sensitive to intense direct sunlight and will quickly burn if planted in full sun. If your plant is getting some full sun, it will prefer a gentle early morning sunny exposure as opposed to a harsh, late afternoon exposure.

Water

Polygonatum with slender, arching stems adorned with glossy, lance-shaped leaves and white, bell-shaped flowers, covered with water drops.
Established plants appreciate moist soil, tolerating occasional drought.

These plants like moist soil. Young Solomon’s seal and new transplants will require more regular watering. Once they are established, however, they will tolerate brief periods of drought and also brief periods of wet soil conditions. You shouldn’t need to offer them extra watering in most shaded locations with average-quality soil, except during periods of prolonged drought. 

Soil

Close-up of a female gardener in blue jeans and a plaid shirt holding a handful of fresh, loose, dark brown soil.
For optimal growth, cultivate organically rich, well-drained, slightly acidic soil.

Solomon’s seal thrives in organically rich, moist, well-drained soil. If you have challenging soil conditions, try improving sandy soil by adding organic compost and enhancing heavy clay by improving drainage and mixing it with some lighter, humus-rich soil before planting. The soil pH should be neutral to slightly acidic. 

Climate and Temperature

The Polygonatum plant showcases gracefully arched stems adorned with glossy green leaves arranged alternately along the stem, along with pendulous, fragrant white flowers dangling below.
Choose suitable varieties for optimal growth in your climate zone.

Solomon’s seal performs well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 9. These wildflowers are perfectly well adapted to natural environmental conditions. They withstand both freezing temperatures and summer heat and humidity. You will find that different species and cultivars prefer slightly different climates. Make sure you know what your plant hardiness zone is so you can choose the best varieties for your zone. 

Fertilizing

Solomon's Seal exhibits gracefully arching stems adorned with alternating glossy green leaves and delicate, bell-shaped white flowers.
Enhance soil with organic compost for healthy growth annually.

There’s no need to fertilize your Solomon’s seal. Each fall, add a layer of natural biodegradable mulch, such as leaf clippings, to protect the roots from temperature extremes, preserve soil moisture, and improve soil quality. As the compost breaks down, it slowly adds more organic matter to the soil, eliminating any need to add synthetic fertilizers.

Organic compost is better than mulch or fertilizer, however. Solomon’s seal loves a very organically rich soil. If you have access to compost, particularly if you work your own compost pile, add a few handfuls of compost around your plants each year and allow this to break down into the soil. Your Solomon’s seal will get a good nutrient boost and will not be burned by any harsh chemicals. 

Maintenance

Lots of Solomon's Seal plants with lance-shaped leaves and clusters of pendulous, creamy-white flowers, surrounded by soil mulched with dry leaves.
Simply plant, mulch, and enjoy the low-maintenance beauty.

Solomon’s seal plants are low-maintenance perennials. There really isn’t much you’ll need to do with your plants except plant them, watch them grow, and enjoy their natural beauty. Annual mulching with a biodegradable organic mulch can help improve growing conditions. If your plants become too crowded, you can also thin them, but this generally isn’t necessary.

Garden Design

Characterized by its slender, curving stems, Solomon's Seal displays glossy green foliage and dainty, drooping white flowers beneath among a blooming garden with various plants.
Craft a woodland oasis with versatile shade-loving perennials.

One of the best things about growing Solomon’s seal is that you can incorporate it into your landscape in places where many other plants fail to thrive. Do you have a shaded woodland garden? This is the perfect place to start some Solomon’s seals! Grow them alongside any other woodland plants for a very diverse and visually appealing woodland garden. 

You don’t need a huge space for these plants, but they will spread a bit, so don’t crowd them. You’ll also want to set them apart from other leafy plants so you can fully see and appreciate all the different foliage types. Hostas, ferns, and Solomon’s seal are all leafy and green, complement each other very well, and all love the same growing conditions. 

If you have some spring ephemeral wildflowers in your garden, plant these adjacent to long-season foliage plants, such as Solomon’s seal. As the spring ephemerals are dying back and going dormant for the summer, the Solomon’s seal will be reaching its peak and just starting to bloom. This keeps your shade garden looking great as the seasons progress. Their medium size also blends well with both smaller and larger shade plants.

Varieties

Hairy Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum pubescens

Polygonatum pubescens features arching stems with alternate, oval leaves and clusters of small, bell-shaped, greenish-white flowers dangling beneath the foliage.
Explore the petite beauty of northeastern woodland habitats.

Hairy Solomon’s seal is native to northeastern North America. It grows in cool, moist woodlands and commonly overlaps in the same habitat as the common variety (P. biflorum). Comparing these two, however, the hairy Solomon’s seal is smaller in stature, has fewer flowers, and has sparse hairs on the undersides of its leaves.

Giant Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum 

Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum presents gracefully arching stems adorned with pairs of lance-shaped leaves and clusters of small, fragrant, white flowers suspended beneath the foliage.
Embrace the grandeur of towering woodland elegance in your garden.

Giant Solomon’s seal is another native species found in many North American forests. This species is hard to miss because it can reach up to five feet tall in ideal conditions. Giant Solomon’s seal would be a dramatic addition to any moist shaded garden plot!

Dwarf Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum humile

Polygonatum humile displays short, upright stems with glossy, lance-shaped leaves and small, bell-shaped white flowers hanging delicately underneath the foliage.
Invite subtle elegance with the petite charm of Asian flora.

Dwarf Solomon’s seal is a smaller variety native to Asia. It is winter hardy in zones 5 through 8, and, like the other Solomon’s seals, it likes a shaded location with rich, moist soil. The dwarf version has more upright stems and a more pronounced zig-zag leaf pattern than some of the other varieties.

Variegated Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum ‘Variegatum’

Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum 'Variegatum' showcases elegant arching stems adorned with variegated green and creamy-white leaves.
Add a touch of allure to your shady garden oasis.

Variegated Solomon’s seal, also known as fragrant Solomon’s seal, is native to Asia and Europe. This handsome variety is popular with gardeners because of its beautiful green and white striped foliage and dramatic reddish stems. Variegated Solomon’s Seal is hardy in zones 3 through 8 and makes an excellent shade garden specimen.

False Solomon’s Seal, Maianthemum racemosum

Maianthemum racemosum displays slender, upright stems with alternating lance-shaped leaves and elongated clusters of small, white, star-shaped flowers.
Spot the subtle differences between these forest dwellers in spring.

The false Solomon’s seal is easily confused with the common variety unless you compare the two during the spring blooming period. False Solomon’s seal has similar-looking alternating leaves, but the tiny white star-shaped flowers appear in a dense cluster at the terminal end of the leafy stems. False Solomon’s seal is native to North American forests.

Wildlife Value

Close-up of a hairy orange and black bumblebee feeding from the bell-shaped white flower of the Solomon's seals plant.
Subtle flowers still beckon bees.

Solomon’s seal isn’t a pollinator favorite because the flowers are difficult for many pollinators to access. It still attracts some smaller pollinators, however, especially bees and some smaller insects. Birds and small mammals will come by in the fall to forage on the ripe berries and seeds. Deer and rabbits don’t bother these plants. 

Common Problems

Close-up of Solomon's Seal decaying lance-shaped leaves, pale brown in color with a dryish texture and irregular holes against a blurry green background.
Thriving in ideal conditions, they’re pest-resistant and low-maintenance.

A healthy Solomon’s seal plant growing in desirable conditions should be trouble-free. If grown in full sun, the leaves will burn and turn brown. Note this happens naturally in colder weather, too. These plants are generally not bothered by insect pests or fungal diseases.

In extremely wet and humid conditions, you may notice some fungal leaf spots, although this shouldn’t cause lasting damage to your plants. It should be noted that the fruits are poisonous to humans and should not be consumed. 

Final Thoughts

Shade gardeners can be grateful for beautiful plants like Solomon’s seal. These native wildflowers are hardy and low-maintenance, providing showy foliage for the shaded parts of your landscape. It may be one of the easiest native woodland wildflowers you can cultivate in your home garden! 

All you need is a single plant, and within a few years, you will have a healthy colony of spring-blooming wildflowers that are easy to divide and won’t ever be invasive. Grow them alongside some other shade plants like hostas and ferns for a delightful blend of vegetation to enhance your woodland garden from early spring through late fall. 

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