Spotlight On: Oxalis
Common Names: Shamrock, Clovers
Scientific Name: Oxalidaceae
Plant Type: Annual, Perennial, Houseplant
Sun: Part Shade
Water: Evenly moist soil, but be careful to not overwater
Bloom Time: Early Spring, Fall
Bloom Color: White, Lavender, Yellow, Pink
Height: 4 to 12 inches
‘Tis the season for shamrocks. Throughout the month of March you can find these plants everywhere in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. These beautiful plants, however, can be great houseplants during the winter, as well as accents in your container gardens throughout the summer.
Oxalis describes a huge family of bulbous plants that includes about 900 varieties. The ones you will find in garden centers typically come in three colors of foliage, green, red (look more like a purple) and maroon. There are some varieties with large leaves and other with much smaller leaves, all in the shape of shamrocks. There are also varieties that are known as weeds, invading your lawn or popping up in your garden bed, but there are others that are not as invasive.
Oxalis foliage not only vary in color and size, but their blooms vary in color as well. You can find oxalis with white, lavender, pink or even yellow blooms. These plants typically bloom best during the cooler months, like early spring or fall. They can, however, keep blooming sporadically throughout the summer, especially when they are fertilized. Their beautiful flowers and unique foliage make for great container plants, with lots of texture to add to you pots.
Much like their habits vary, so do their hardiness. Certain varieties are not perennials in our area, while others can tolerate the Midwest winters. Those that can make it through a winter here are often called woodsorrels. These include the weed variety that we all see in our lawn and garden.
Most oxalis that you’ll find for sale at garden centers around here do best in part shade, with well-drained soil that is kept evenly moist. While they don’t love the heat of the summer, they will do okay as long as they only get a few hours of sun or filtered sun. You’ll notice on really hot summer afternoons, in the evening, or in a heavy rain, that the leaves fold down, appearing to be wilted. No worries though, the plant is supposed to do this.
These charming little plants make a great gift or decoration during this time of year, but shouldn’t be forgotten about during the remainder of the season. Adding one to your container garden in the spring or to your home in the winter will add texture and color.