Variegated Solomon's seal

Variegated Solomon's seal emerges in March and April and in late spring produces small, white, bell-shaped flowers that dangle in pairs beneath the plant's curving stems and graceful leaves. Photo by J. Reeves, courtesy UTIA.  Download image

UT Gardens Plant of the Month for April 2014:
Variegated Solomon's seal

Submitted by Jason Reeves, research horticulturist, the University of Tennessee Gardens, Jackson

Chosen by the Perennial Plant Association as the 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year for its dependable performance, variegated Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum') is a must have for any shady garden. It is one of the
finest and easiest-to-grow shade perennials. 

In March and April graceful arching stems spring forth from the earth, ultimately reaching 12 to 24 inches tall. The young stems are tinged with maroon and are adorned with alternating variegated leaves. The bright green leaves are parallel veined and are edged in pure white streaks.

In late spring it produces small white pendulous, bell-shaped flowers. They dangle in pairs on short pedicles at each leaf axil underneath the curving stems. They are said to be sweetly scented, but one must get down to their level to smell them. The flowers are followed by small spherical berries that mature to bluish black in the fall. The foliage turns a showy golden yellow in the fall.

Variegated Solomon’s seal grows well in average to moist well-drained garden soil, but it performs its finest when grown in fertile organic rich conditions. It is happiest in part shade but adapts well to full shade. Slowly spreading by shallow rhizomes it forms colonies that are easily dug and divided in the fall or early spring just as they emerge.

This plant has much to offer a woodlands garden, naturalized area, shady border or rock garden. The arching habit and pendulous flower also make it a great choice for growing on top of a retaining wall. It combines well with ferns, hosta, lungwort, trillium, heuchera and many other shade perennials. The stems make excellent cut stems and add graceful beauty to arrangements even when not in flower.

Variegated Solomon’s seal can be found growing in the shade gardens of the University of Tennessee Gardens in Knoxville and Jackson. It is hardy in zones 3 to 8.

Jason Reeves is a research horticulturist with the University of Tennessee Gardens, Jackson. The UT Gardens
includes plant collections located in Knoxville, Jackson and Crossville. Designated as the official botanical garden for the State of Tennessee, the collections are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. The gardens’ mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, educational programs and research trials. The gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public. For more information see



Jason Reeves
, UT West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, 731-424-1643