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Plant Informational Database

Soap Nut

Saponaria detergens

a.k.a. Ritha, Soapberry, Soapnut

A tropical Indian tree best-known for its grape-sized fruits which can be used as a detergent. The fruits contain a high amount of saponin and when added to water, suds up just like your household laundry detergent!

Seed Availability

Seeds are not available for the Soap Nut. Please visit our seed store to view current selections. Seeds were last available in February 2013.


A semi-deciduous tropical tree that can reach up to 50-60ft, though many specimens remain shorter. Leaves are arranged in leaflets, with up to 10 pairs per leaf. Fruits grow to 1-1 1/2" and ripen to a yellow-orange color. Each fruit contains a single large, hard-shelled seed.


Exact hardiness unknown. Some of its near relatives survive freezes, but this tropical native is probably not hardy to hard freezes or prolonged frosts.

Growing Environment

Grow in full sun. Provide regular water, particularly during warm months. Grow in well-drained soil.


By seeds. Seeds should be soaked in lukewarm water for 24hrs prior to planting. Seeds typically germinate in several weeks to a few months.


Dried fruits are used as soap. In recent years the dried fruits have been marketed for washing clothes. A couple of them added to a load of laundry in the washing machine works much like your favorite detergent.

Native Range

Native to Asia, concentrated in parts of India.

Related Species

Blighia sapida
Dimocarpus didyma
Dimocarpus longana
Litchi chinensis
Melicoccus bijugatus
Nephelium echinulatum
Nephelium echinulatum
Nephelium lappaceum
Nephelium maingayi
Nude Rambutan
Nephelium mutabile
Nephelium uncinatum
Hooked Rambutan
Nephelium xerospermoides
Hairless Rambutan
Paullinia cupana
Saponaria detergens
Soap Nut
Talisia esculenta
Belizian Genip