Growing Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)

Growing soapwort may be a very nice way for you to incorporate some eco-friendly cleaning practices into your household chores while inviting an attractive and low-maintenance plant into your herb patch. When you press this useful herb into service as a mild detergent to clean your lace tablecloths, wool and silk, it's an economical choice too.

Back before phosphates, people used this nifty little plant for washing. It contains saponins, which cause boiled solutions made with soapwort to lather up. It's like nature's little bar of soap.

Where the phosphates in modern detergents hold dirt and oil suspended in water long enough to rinse your clothes clean, soapwort does something similar, only gently and naturally. It makes an effective shampoo too. (I'm not sure about the pH, but I'll check the next time I use it.) Heirloom quilts and other textiles are sometimes cleaned with soapwort as a precautionary measure. It's that gentle. You can also use it as a facial cleanser, wood soap and all-purpose, light duty cleaner.

Growing Soapwort in the Garden

Although there's a soapwort ground cover that goes by the same common name, Saponaria officinalis is a perennial that grows to about three feet (U.S. hardiness zones 3-9). Unlike many herbs, it needs well composted soil. Give it excellent drainage and good but not burning sun. Some afternoon shade is a good idea too. If soapwort likes its surroundings, it can be invasive, so keep an eye on it.

Soapwort will require a sturdy support to stay upright and looking spritely as it grows. It typically blooms in late July and has a very nice berry/spicy scent.

Using Soapwort

Harvest the leaves, stems and roots of this perennial to make liquid soap. Soapwort is effective (it'll foam up) both fresh and dried. For some recipes, visit my post: How to Make Organic Soap Using Soapwort.


Photo1 - By Karelj (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo2 - This very nice soapwort photo at the bottom of this blog was provided courtesy of: Steve Krahn. Visit this great pic and his other work at Flickr


  1. Thank you for this good informative post. I learned lots and just might be brave enough to plant some this season :)

  2. Sarah,

    I hope you do. Soapwort is a wonderful herb that can be useful and fun to experiment with. It gives a lot back for a little bit of space and some water. You can buy soapwort at Richters Herbs if you can't find them locally. I'm not affiliated with these folks in any way, but purchase from them occasionally:

    Good luck.


  3. Thank you for the info. I collected a couple plants from a near by lake just because they were pretty not knowing what they were and there useful purposes.Thanks for recipes. Just guess what everyone is getting for X-mas this year!!!!

  4. Hey Francine,

    Plants and homemade crafts are perfect presents in my book!



  5. Thank you I am excited to plant some and put it to use

  6. Tana,

    It's mild and fun to use. I think you'll enjoy it.

  7. will all varieties of soapwort work? How about the short, native dry climate plants? Or the rock garden variety ground cover type?


  8. Mona,

    Saponaria officinalis is the variety recommended for soap making, and it's the only one I've ever used. Maybe a reader can provide additional insight. You might also try boiling other varieties to see if you can get the distinctive soapy lather from them. A perusal of the plants' scientific names may help. If they are saponnarias, you may have some luck. Let us know how it goes.

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    1. Yes, you can grow soapwort in a container. Be sure to provide sandy soil and good drainage.


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