Celebrate St. Patrick's Day by Planting a Shamrock Plant (Oxalis) in Your Garden
Photo Credit: Kurt Stuber
With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, so is the Irish green invoking thoughts of the Emerald Isle and Irish shamrocks. The Oxalis puts on a beautiful show and is referred to as the “false shamrock” as it has leaves that are divided into three to ten leaflets. The three-leafed Shamrock you see during St. Patrick’s Day is considered to represent a religious symbol of the Holy Trinity.
The “false Shamrock” or Oxalis is from the Greek word “oxys” or meaning sharp. This refers to the plants sharp taste. People living off the land in the 1600’s ate this plant for its nutrient- rich leaves and flowers to help their diet when greens were in short supply. The Oxalis was only second to potatoes in popularity during this time.
With over 900 known species of the Oxalidaceae it is the largest genus in the wood-sorrel family, with 800 species being found in the US. The majority of the species have three leaflets which many times causes it to be confused with clover. It has beautiful color with plenty of blossoms and is definitely an easy to care for plant.
Photo Credit: Nzfauna
From the traditional Irish green with white flowers to candy cane colors the Oxalis have many fun ways to display themselves.
When planting Oxalis you will want to consider a location where the soil drains well. You also will want to make sure they are in a spot that gets all day sunlight they will grow in light shade but the more light you provide the more flowers the plant will produce.
Photo Credit: Jeff DeLonge
Plant Oxalis bulbs 1” – 1 ½” deep and 3”-4” apart. You won’t need to worry about which end is up as they will grow from any position. After they have been planted you will want to make sure that they are watered well and your beautiful foliage should appear in 6-8 weeks.
Water regularly about a 1” of moisture per week is a good estimate. After the blooms have finished for the season you will want to leave the foliage in place don’t cut it off. Wait to cut back until late in the fall when the leaves are yellow and die back and the plant slips into dormancy resting to prepare for another great show in the spring.
If you have the room in winter you can bring them inside as a house plant or you can bring them inside, hold back on watering and allow them to stay in the cool, dark place in an unheated basement to prepare for spring.
May the luck of the Irish be with you and you enjoy Oxalis in your garden as we celebrate spring’s arrival!