Soapwort – characteristics, cultivation and use

soapwort with white flowers
soapwort with white flowers

Soapwort is a pretty flower, which can also to be found wild. However, soapwort is not so common and you need some luck to find it. Where it can be found, it usually grows lush, but few know that you can use this herb. It is not only an excellent herb against cold and skin problems, but is also used in natural cosmetics and for washing clothes. Many gardeners give the soapwort a specific place in the garden due to the aesthetic flower splendor.

Profile of soapwort:

Scientific name: Saponaria officinalis

Plant family: pink family (Caryophyllaceae), carnation family

Other names: common soapwort, bouncing-bet, crow soap, wild sweet William

Sowing time / Planting time: October or March

Flowering period: May – October

Harvest time: April – August

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, roots

Location: sunny to full sun

Soil quality: permeable and slightly calcareous soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: cough, bronchitis, skin complaints, acne, flu, mucous membrane inflammation

Use as aromatic herb: no use

Plant characteristics and classification of soapwort

Origin and occurrence of soapwort

The origin of soapwort is not known exactly. Some sources suggest that the plant originates from the Near East, while others suggest the Mediterranean. It is certain that the plant has a fairly high site tolerance and could thus spread all the way to Northern Europe.

Today, soapwort is found in almost all European countries. It has such a high tolerance that it can be found even in parts of Siberia. As it spreads easily, you can now find the herb wild on the North American continent.

Soapwort grow in the wild close to rivers and streams, on brownfields, railway embankments and on many other meadows.

Plant order of Saponaria officinalis

The common soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) belongs to the pink family (Caryophyllaceae). The soapwort is related to other important herbs like the chickweed or the corncockle. In the narrower classification, the plant belongs to the genus of Saponiaria, which includes about 40 other soapwort species. Many of these species are found in the Mediterranean.

The name derives from an essential characteristic: when the roots are crushed and rubbed together in the water, they foam like soap.

Look and characteristics of soapwort


The common soapwort is a perennial plant that can reach stature heights between 25 and 85 cm (10 and 34 in). In the ground the plant always form strongly branched and usually finger-thick rhizomes, which externally have a reddish to brown color. The roots are so-called hibernating organ.


The leaves of soapwort show a mint green to olive green color and reach leaf lengths between 4 and 11 cm (1.6 and 4.4 in). The shape of the leaves is clearly lanceolate and slightly ovate. Partly the leaves are a bit wavy. The leaf nerves run like arches from the leaf base to the leaf tip. The leaves are each arranged crosswise and unlike the stems hairless.


The flowering period of soapwort is usually between late May to mid-October. There, the herb forms white to pink-colored flowers that exude a pleasantly sweet scent. Each flower has 5 petals and several white stamens. The flowers grow in the leaf axils of the leaves and are gathered there in a umbel-like shape.


After flowering, soapwort forms capsule fruits, each containing several tiny round dark brown seeds.

Soapwort – cultivation and care

If you want to plant soapwort in your garden, you do not have to pay much attention to it. The plant forgives many beginners mistakes and is very easy-care.


The optimal location for soapwort is a sunny to full sun location.


The herb loves soils that are well drained and slightly calcareous. A sandy to sandy-loamy soil, which conducts water and nutrient salts well, is therefore the best choice. If only very loamy soils or usual potting soil are available, it is recommended to loosen the soil with additives such as sand and fine expanded clay.


If you want to cultivate soapwort in the garden or on the balcony, sowing is the easiest. The seeds can be incorporated directly in the field or in pots or larger container. Since the seeds are cold germs, sowing is best done in late autumn or early spring. It is important that the seed is exposed for a longer time to temperatures between -4 and +5 ° C (25 and 41 ° F). The seeds should lie on the surface of the soil and only slightly pressed in. If the soapwort grows outdoors, a distance of about 30 – 40 cm (12 and 16 in) per plant should be kept, otherwise the risk of nutrient competition and plant diseases increases.


The soapwort has a high tolerance and forgives even longer drought. In the field, a separate watering is usually not required. Only when a long time very hot and dry days occur, the soil should be poured abundantly. If the herb is cultivated in the pot, more frequent watering cycles must be observed. If the soil is dry within a finger’s depth, it is essential to water.


Also in terms of nutrient supply, soapwort is very frugal. In the field, a single addition of fertilizer in spring is sufficient, but not at the time of sowing. Good fertilizers are compost or other organic fertilizers. Mineral fertilizers such as blue fertilizer should be strictly avoided as they contain too high a nutrient concentration. In potted cultures, fertilizer sticks or a good herbal fertilizer, which is added every 6 to 8 weeks during the growing season are suitable.


If you want to use the herb for healing purposes, both the leaves and the roots are used. The harvest should best be done during flowering. The leaves of the herb should be dried in a sheltered and sunny place. If the roots are used, it is sufficient to dry them in the air. Higher temperatures (over 60 ° C / 140 ° F) should be avoided, as otherwise the medically active ingredients would be lost.


Soapwort is an extremely robust plant that has a very high frost tolerance. For overwintering of the herb, therefore, no separate measures are required.

soapwort with pale pink flowers
A soapwort with pale pink flowers

Soapwort and its use

Soapwort in the kitchen

The plant is not used as a kitchen herb or spice herb. Since it is also slightly toxic in higher doses, it has therefore no use in the kitchen. In the food industry the herb is used as an additive for foaming up.

The flowers are edible and are suitable as decoration.

Soapwort as a medicinal herb

Soapwort is used today mainly as a medicinal herb. The ingredients contained in the leaves and in the root are especially suitable for cold symptoms and minor skin diseases. Responsible here are mainly the containing saponins.

How and in what way soapwort was used in antiquity and in the Middle Ages can not be deduced exactly today. There are only a few sources that point to a use and an exact plant representation. A first traditional use was described in the early days by Arab physicians, who used soapwort for eczema, ulcers and lepra.

In many standard works of the Middle Ages soapwort was not mentioned. Nor with Hildegard von Bingen or Paracelsus. First descriptions in well-known herbal books can be found in the mid-16th century. There, the plant was used internally for unspecified liver and spleen complaints and for bronchial complaints (wheezing people with heavy breath). Externally, soapwort was used against scab, for eye complaints as well as against fever bumps.

Traditionally, the root is used for jaundice, metabolic diseases, rheumatism, eczema and fungal skin diseases.

Preparation of a soapwort tea

For the cough and supportive treatment of severe mucus diseases of the upper respiratory tract, a tea is prepared from small-cut, dried root pieces:

Time needed: 12 hours and 5 minutes

This is how to prepare a soapwort tea by yourself

  1. put 1 teaspoons of root with in a tea strainer in a mug

  2. dash with cold water

  3. let stand overnight

  4. boil, leave to draw for 5 minutes

  5. do not drink more than two cups a day

The tea can also help outwardly with chronic skin conditions. For this purpose, affected skin areas are washed with the tea or wrapped in tea-soaked envelopes. Soapwort tea is not suitable for open wounds.

Use of soapwort in the household

From soapwort a soft cleaning detergent and stain remover can be made. These agents are particularly suitable for sensitive textiles made of silk or wool. The laundry is pulled through the broth in the sink with water and rinsed out.

Body care with soapwort

You can make soft liquid soap or shampoo, which can also be used for skin problems.

This is how you prepare it:

  • boil 100 g (3.5 oz) of cut root and crushed leaves with 300 ml (10 fl oz) of water
  • simmer for 20 minutes in an open pan
  • after cooling, strain and place in a bottle
  • this liquid can be used like soap or shampoo

Note: Soapwort should not get in the eyes.

Soapwort can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • chronic skin disorders
  • cronchitis
  • cough
  • digestive
  • dry nose
  • pancreatic stimulating
  • portal stasis
  • stimulating metabolism

Medicinal properties

  • blood purifier
  • diuretic
  • digestive
  • expectorant
  • fungicide
  • laxative

Side effects

Rarely, gastric and intestinal irritations occur, which in most cases result from overconsumption. People with very sensitive stomach and irritable stomach should refrain from using the soapwort drug. In too high a dose, soapwort is poisonous. For some animals, like rodents or amphibians, the plant is already toxic in small doses. Insofar as there is no experience with the use of soapwort preparations, a doctor or pharmacist should be consulted.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Soapwort – What to pay attention to?

In the trade, soapwort is specially for people who want to use alternative and natural products. In addition, the plant enjoys growing popularity among many gardeners who do not want to miss the herb with their flowers and fragrance.

Soapwort plants are hard to find in hardware stores or plant centers. Occasionally one finds the plants on perennial markets. Some online retailers also sell soapwort, but it can happen that these are other types of it that have a different flower color and scent. If you want to buy the common soapwort, then you should pay attention to the botanical name Saponaria officinalis. The price per pant is about 4-6 EUR/$.

If you do not find a plant, you can also use seeds. If you pay attention to the instructions when sowing, cultivation is not a problem. The prices for soapwort seeds are about 1.50 EUR/$ per pack (300 seeds).

For remedies numerous herbalists also offer dried products. The choice is between dried leaves or dried roots. It is always recommended to buy the root as it contains more saponins. In addition, instructions for use can be better understood, since these are usually available only for the root application.

For use as detergents or cleaning agents, some manufacturers also offer stain sprays or detergents with soapwort. Many of these products are from produced vegan.

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