Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is a perennial herb that gets its name from it commonly being used to make soaps. This plant has many common names, including common soapwort, bouncing-bet, crow soap, wild sweet William, and soapweed.
With its pretty blooms and long blooming period, soapwort is a beautiful addition to any garden. Soapwort can grow anywhere from one to three feet high. It blooms midsummer to late fall with small five-petaled flowers. The flowers of the soapwort plant are extremely fragrant and tend to attract butterflies. The most common varieties of soapwort bloom pink flowers, but there are a few other varieties that have white or yellow flowers.
As its name implies, it can be used as a very gentle soap, usually in dilute solution. All parts of the soapwort plant can be used in making mild soaps and detergents. It has historically been used to clean delicate or unique textiles, especially woollen fabrics. A lathery liquid that has the ability to dissolve fats or grease can be procured by boiling the leaves or roots in water. Leaves are chopped, boiled, and strained; the liquid can then be used as soap. In the Romanian village of Șieu-Odorhei, natives call the plant săpunele. It is traditionally used by the villagers as a soap replacement for dry skin.
Soapwort will tolerate nearly any type of soil as long as it is well draining. The plants prefer a spot with full sun to partial shade. To plant soapwort, you may either start seeds indoors in late winter or sow seeds directly into the garden in the spring. Make sure to space plants at least a foot apart as they will spread. Though soapwort will put up with a fair amount of neglect, try to keep it watered during hot and dry months. The soil should be moist—but not soaked—and drain well.