Saponaria officinalis Perennial to Zone 3. Also known as Soapwort. Bet is not a dye plant, but is included in the dye garden because its saponin-rich roots and leaves can be used to wash wool gently when some lanolin retention is desired. Museum conservators use it to wash delicate fabrics and textiles, especially of grease.
This charming sweetly scented pink perennial is often seen around old homesteads in Maine. It has always been appreciated for the late-July colors of its dense clusters of 5-petaled flowers and their faint clove scent that attract pollinators. The 3' plant thrives in moist, partially shady areas but should not be planted next to ponds with amphibians or fish since saponins can be toxic. Choose your planting spot carefully, because, as one customer warned, “Bet has taken me years to get out of my garden, it bounces everywhere.” Stratify seed. About 600 seeds/g. Especially attractive to pollinators.③
Susanne Grosjean, of the Wednesday Spinners group in Downeast Maine, says, “You need only three dye plants: indigo for blue, madder for red and weld for yellow. Three primary colors, all excellent color-fast dye plants.”