September 11, 2015
By: Kathy Kinsey
Solomon’s Seal. Photo by Kathy Kinsey.
Are you looking for a stunning plant for your garden? A plant that just can’t be beat? Though I am always looking for something new to add to my garden, I sometimes end up with a plant that I already have in my garden.…but I have three plants that need to be in your garden or at least one of them…but why stop at one…get all three…they will get noticed and compliments will be coming your way by all your friends!
Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum) is a Native American woodland plant and thus likes moist, well-drained humus rich soil. Adding compost or other organic matter to the area where the plant is to be growing will get it off to a good start. This plant is just striking along with other green foliage but make sure you give it plenty of shade. The sun will cause some leaf damage and no plant carries that look off very well. It spreads by the rhizomes, but it is a slow spreader so you will not need to divide it often. But should you want to share it with a friend, carefully dig up a clump either in spring when new shoots pop up or in the fall when the plant is heading for dormancy. A great plant for your hosta bed or alongside some ferns, this plant is as versatile as it is graceful. The white flowers are a bonus in the spring, just a way this plant says thanks for taking such good care of it. The only serious pest of note is the slug which will leave long holes in the leaves of the plant. Solomon’s seal can grow from 8 inches up to 7 feet depending on the variety you decide on and anywhere between 1 to 2 feet wide. Plant is zoned 3-9.
Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium) is a plant that will brighten up any corner and will look fabulous while doing so. And like me, you will catch yourself glancing out from time to time to see it. It just makes a home for itself in a little corner and seems to get along with everybody. The name comes from the evenly spaced foliage which allows it to blend into any formal border. Flowers are vivid or subtle blues, creams and pinks in early spring while the foliage has different hues and variegations from purple and dark green to white, cream and gold. While it is growing, give it sun to part sun conditions and well drained, moist soil as they hate soggy soil but while in its dormant state, it will tolerate drier conditions. If it is planted in the garden, it does not need any extra nutrients, but keep it mulched so that the soil remains moist and cool – if it is in a pot, a slow release fertilizer should be applied in the spring. It measures in at 8 inches – with the flower spike, it can reach 3 feet with the width being anywhere between 6 inches to 2 feet. Polemonium reptans ‘Stairway to Heaven’ can be planted around black walnut trees as it is unaffected by the toxin juglone that is emitted by the roots. Deadheading is never a requirement but by doing so, your plant will produce more flowers as this plant tends to die back in the summer. Deer resistant! No serious pests have been noted and it is cold tolerate in zones 2 – 8.
The star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) is a true beauty and a sun lover. The name originated from the star-shaped flowers and from the star of Bethlehem that appeared in the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus. If you are searching for a special plant for your garden as I was, look no more for this one will become a most cherished member of your garden and one you will be anxious to show off.
The star of Bethlehem is a winter bulb that is native to Europe and Southern Africa and belongs to the Liliaceae family and blooms in late spring to early summer. The plant grows from a ½ to 1 ½ inch long bulb with leaves appearing as a tuft of shiny thick grass. You may want to mark this to make sure you don’t mistake it for a weed! The leaves, which are hollow and dark green with a white mid-vein, will grow upright initially but will fall to the ground as they lengthen. The flower stalks, which can be 6 – 9 inches tall, will rise up out of the center of the leaves. One flower is produced at the end of each branch tip creating anywhere from 4 to 20 flowers which are star shaped with six white petals, a yellow green center and are one inch across. The undersides of the flowers display a wide green stripe down the middle. Each of these flowers will produce a three celled oblong seed capsule that contains some black seeds. The seeds can be harvested for growing more plants but its principal method of growing is by the formation of several bulbets at the base of the mother bulb. Has been known to take over a bed so either give it plenty of room or keep it potted.
The star of Bethlehem produces a compound that is toxic to humans and livestock. The flowers and the bulbs can cause irritation to the lips, throat, tongue, severe intestinal trouble, arrhythmia of the heart and even heart failure. So while it is safe to grow, it is not a flower you can cut up on your salad. The bulb is below ground so leave it there….it does not need to be housed over the winter. Plant can be grown in zones 5 through 10.
I hope you can add all of these to you garden …. If not, maybe at least one of them. They would certainly be a great new addition to any garden. Each one just simply needs to be enjoyed, either in the ground or in that special pot that has yet to have a plant!
Kathy Kinsey is a Master Gardener volunteer with the UF/Leon County Cooperative Extension Office. You may also email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov with any gardening questions you may have.