Shamrock Plants – Luck’o the Irish!
This post is dedicated to the lucky Shamrock Plant! The official plant of St. Patrick’s Day!
You may call them Shamrock plant, but it’s latin name is Oxalis regnellii. These plants are part of the wood sorrel family, Oxalis, and you can even see other cultivars in the wild that are hardy in MN. For example, Oxalis stricta (Yellow Wood Sorrel) is a native wildflower. They look very similar to Trifolium repens L., the White Clover, which is the true shamrock plant. White clover is a beneficial pollinator plant and soil nitrogen fixing plant, as well as ornamental interest with its cute blooms.
The ornamental Shamrock Plant you see blooming in late winter in garden centers is known as the false shamrock because of the similarities of the three heart-shaped leaflets of clover, has small white blooms, and is a perfect plant for St. Patrick’s Day.
Oxalis typically grow to around 6″ tall and can grow quickly. The leaves will open and close according to the light throughout the day, called nyctinastic movement. The leaf colors vary between cultivars and typically the burgundy and green varieties are seen in garden centers.
Another plant you will see often is Oxalis tetraphylla, the Iron Cross, a.k.a as the Good Luck Plant. These plants have four leaflets, that are green with a dark purple blotch at the center. When you can’t find a four-leaf clover in the wild, just get yourself a whole plant with four leaflets!
How to Grow Oxalis
The Oxalis plant grows from rhizomes ( like a bulb ) in the soil. A big difference between these and other houseplants is that it can go dormant in the summer. Other ways that may promote dormancy is if the soil is dried out too many times, the inside temperature gets too cold, or it doesn’t receive enough sunlight. We will cover dormant care after the basic care of oxalis.
After you pick out your Shamrock Plant and bring it home, put it in bright indirect light. It can take full bright light during the winter months in the morning. The bright light will promote more blooms. Speaking of blooms, these plants are known to bloom on and off all winter and one of the easiest plants to bloom! Too dark and your plant may not bloom. It may also go into dormancy.
The soil of your plant should be lightly moist at all times. You can let the top of the soil dry before watering. Frequency will depend on the humidity of your home, size of the plant, and container it’s in. If you let it go completely dry multiple times it may signal to the plant that it needs to go into dormancy. If you water it again after it goes completely dry and the foliage keeps dying back, let it go into dormancy to avoid rotting the rhizomes.
As stated above, your plant may go into dormancy and is likely at some point during its life. If the rhizomes are not soft and squishy, an indication of over-watering, your plant is just taking a rest. Dormancy can last a few weeks to a few months depending on the environment and variety.
Clean up the dried up foliage and stop watering and put the pot in a cool dark place. The plant will naturally want to come out of dormancy when it’s ready. If it’s been dormant all summer or for a few months, you can bring it out to the light, give it a little water and it should promote new growth! Some people have been successful by letting it go dormant only a few weeks and then bringing it back out to the bright light.
Be sure the soil doesn’t get soggy before the foliage starts popping out because it could rot the rhizomes. You should start seeing new foliage in no time with the sunlight and light watering!