Silver Dollar Plant
A Quick Guide to the Silver Dollar Plant
The silver dollar plant (Lunaria annua)-sometimes referred to as the honesty or money plant is gorgeous in bloom with its purple or white flowers, simply unbelievable as the papery silver dollar-like seed pods develop, and if this is not enough bringing the stems in and peeling the dried layers off the thin wafer-like pods as they dry will result in a shiny, pearl colored ’silver dollars’ that will be a wonderful everlasting additions to any dried arrangement-winter or otherwise.
These plants are biennial, blooming the 2nd year in most cases, and for those in warmer climates-twice a year. The seeds can be sown indoors (in April) under plastic and a cool light or outdoors (in May) in prepared soil (best in nursery beds). Sow seeds sparingly in rows-about 1/2 inch deep, leaving 12 inches between each row. Seedlings should be thinned shortly after sprouting if crowded, so they have plenty of space to develop.
Though for the most part, the silver dollar plant is easy to grow, at this time keeping the rows free of weeds is helpful. Though it is best to choose a site in full sun with an average, well-drained soil, these plants have thrived in poor soil, partial shade and/or drought.
For areas in zones 8-11 seeds can be sown in the fall for blooming the following summer. Cover the seeds with about ¼ inch of fine soil. Keep the soil moderately moist and they should germinate within two weeks. When the seedlings are roughly three inches tall they should be thinned thin to a foot between plants. In these zones the blooming season is from April to July.
Typically, the silver dollar plant reaches a height of 1½-3 feet with large leaves with tooth-like edges, looking good in all stages of growth. They are usually grown for their translucent silver dollar like seed pods which make beautiful dry arrangements. Their blossoms are lightly scented and pinkish purple in color. The plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or hummingbirds and has been known to escape their beds, sprouting throughout the yard or along side the road.
To grow as an annual the silver dollar plant should be sown in early spring as if growing biennially, though they never get as big or as brightly colored as those who come up the second year. When autumn arrives-September/October, and the one inch seed pods have been cut and brought in for drying, the plant can be dug up and disposed of. Leave a few plants in the garden as they generally self sow for a crop of flowers and/or ‘silver dollars’ the following spring without further care.
Preserving plants by drying has been considered an art form as far back as written time. The most fragrant of the herbs were dried and sealed in tombs with mummified bodies in Egypt. Monks dried herbs, during the Middle Ages, as well as flowers and foliage for decorative designs. They also used them for making dyes, which they used as ink for transcribing, etc. Dried arrangements using everlastings such as the silver dollar plant were popular through out Europe long before the early Colonists used them to brighten their homes during the long winter months in those first years in the New World.
To dry the seed pods of the silver dollar plant for winter or other decorative arrangements, gather the stalks as soon as they start turning brown as they tend to rot if left out during wet weather. Simply rub off the outer dried layers of the pods to expose the inner disks. Hang upside down (best in a dark, dry ventilated place) as they cure.