Herb: Tumbling Ted

Latin name: Saponaria ocymoides

Family: Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family, Starwort Family)

Description of the plant:


10 cm
(4 inches)

July to

Habitat of Tumbling Ted:

Sunny slopes and rocks, usually limestone, in foothills up to about 2300 metres in the Alps.

Other uses of the herb:

All parts of the plant are rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute. The saponins are extracted by simmering the plant in water. Plants can be dried for later use. A gentle and effective cleaner. Plants make a good carpeting ground cover when spaced about 60cm apart each way.

Propagation of Tumbling Ted:

Seed - best if given a short cold stratification. Sow autumn or late winter in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates within 4 weeks. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, it can be successfully done at any time in the growing season if the plants are kept moist until they are re-established. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Sunny slopes and rocks, usually limestone, in foothills up to about 2300 metres in the Alps.

Medicinal use of Tumbling Ted:

None known

Known hazards of Saponaria ocymoides:

The plant contains saponins. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.