This species is different from our native species in a few ways. The most striking difference is the variation of the leaves; the native species has solid green leaves, whereas this plant has white tips and margins on its leaves. P. odoratum also sports reddish-colored stalks, as opposed to the green ones of the native species. Our native Solomon's Seal can grow 3 feet tall or higher, depending on how happy it is. P. odoratum'Variegatum' grows only to 2 feet. As the scientific name suggests, P. odoratum also has sweet-smelling, fragrant flowers.
Solomon's Seal is a great plant for shady or woodland areas. This plant is low-maintenance, requiring little work beyond digging up and dividing the roots every few years (and that isn't really required). It has virtually no serious insect or disease issues and can thrive in a variety of situations. The plant can live in partial to dense shade and prefers well-drained, moist soil (though it can tolerate dry conditions).
Its choice of habitat makes it an easy companion for hosta, astilbe, heuchera, ferns and other shade lovers. It is hardy in USDA zones 3-8. Most of West Virginia is zone 6.
These plants also naturalize very easily, spreading to fill in large areas. This, combined with its low-maintenance attitude, makes Solomon's Seal an excellent candidate as a taller ground cover for shady areas under trees, on wooded hillsides and more. Since they aren't picky, Solomon's Seal would make a great addition to shady spots in rain gardens.
My friends at the West Virginia Herb Association are preparing their upcoming Lavender Fair. The fair will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 15 at Fish Hawk Acres in Rock Cave, Upshur County. Come learn how to grow, cook, craft and use lavender in many ways around your home.
Vendors and speakers will provide all kinds of lavender throughout the day. Lunch will be available for a fee, but admission is free. It's a family fun event. Call Melissa Dennison, 304-364-5589, or Ann Nye, 304-842-6385, for details, or visit www.wvherb.org.
John Porter is the WVU Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources in Kanawha County. He may be reached at john.por...@mail.wvu.edu or at 304-720-9573.