Shamrock plants

By Kathi Mecham

You may be tempted to purchase a “shamrock plant” in the coming weeks or you may receive one of these attractive plants as a gift. What is sold as shamrock is actually a plant from the genus Oxalis, a member of the wood sorrel family. Oxalis regnelli is often the plant sold in March that resembles clover with three triangular shaped leaflets. It is an eye-catching plant that produces small white flowers. Oxalis triangularis, a striking purple leaf plant with pink flowers is usually available around this time too.

As houseplants however, there are some things to consider. Oxalis grow from tubers and requires cool conditions and bright light. If the plant does not receive enough light, the stems become leggy and weak. The good news is that it also does well outside and can be moved outdoors in partial shade when the chance of frost has passed.

Like most plants, the shamrock plant will not tolerate overwatering. Overwatering can lead to root rot and will eventually kill the plant. In late fall the foliage can yellow and start to die, this signals dormancy. Stop watering and fertilizing and store in a cool dark location. When new growth begins, return to a sunny location and resume water and fertilizer.

An interesting characteristic of Oxalis regnelli is the leaves’ response to light. The leaves open in bright light and close at night or on an overcast day. For a plant lover, this is what we call fun to watch.

When I was in southwestern Missouri, I had the Oxalis triangularis overwinter for years. I planted it in a well-protected partially shaded area, and it came back year after year. When the temperatures were really high, the stems became leggy and weak but recovered with cooler temperatures.

Oxalis plants can live for years with the proper care. They are a fun and attractive plant to add to your collection. They do not require much attention but do bloom easily and add beauty indoors and out.

Questions about this plant or other gardening and horticulture questions, contact Kathi at mechamk@missouri.edu or call 660.532.1972.

Kathi Mecham is a field specialist in horticulture for MU Extension NW Region.