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Oxalis Plant – Care, Growing, Watering, Flowering, Propagation

The shamrock or wood sorrel, as the oxalis plant is also known by, is grown from small bulbs and spreads easily once it’s placed in a good environment.

Besides the vividly colored deep maroon leaves, the oxalis plant also has vividly colored blooms that come in white, pink, yellow, or rose.

Come late spring, you too can enjoy this display of colors in your own garden, or even in your home, if you read my oxalis plant care tips below.

Oxalis Plant Care Tips

The oxalis plant looks a lot like a tree-leaf clover and it’s believed to bring good luck to its owners.

It’s an easy care plant that doesn’t pose any difficulties in cultivation. The only potential issue with this plant is its toxicity to pets. But given the bitter taste of the leaves, even pets are usually kept at bay.

Plant Size

Wood sorrels are dainty little plants that don’t get any taller than 12 inches. They’re also about the same size in width.

The oxalis plant is as happy in a pot as it is in your garden, so the care tips below apply regardless of whether you want to grow them inside or out.

Light Requirements

There are two versions of this plant with different adaptability to light, and none are fussy about it.

The variety that has green leaves tends to require a bit more light than its purple-leafed variety.

While indirect light is best for both varieties, they can take a bit of direct light as well, just make sure it isn’t excessive.

The leaves of shamrocks will close up at night only to open themselves again in the morning light.

This process is called nyctinasty, and if your wood sorrels aren’t exhibiting it, it may mean that they’re not getting enough light.

Watering

The oxalis plant enjoys slightly moist soil, but you should allow the top 1-2 inches of soil to dry out before each watering. Then water the plant deeply and thoroughly.

This method will ensure that the plant receives enough moisture without the soil becoming soggy and without the rotting risks associated with overwatering.

The plant can take a bit of neglect in terms of watering, without throwing a fit, especially in cooler months.

When it’s very warm, you do need to keep a better eye on its watering regiment, otherwise the plant will die back.

Temperature & Humidity

The best temperature range for the oxalis triangularis is 60 F to 75 F. This means that standard indoor temperatures are ideal for this plant.

If themperatures go above this range, the plant will quickly age and look ragged.

Come winter, however, these plants are not going to survive frosty weather outdoors.

As far as humidity is concerned, there are no special requirements.

Normal humidity levels are acceptable, although the plant may appreciate a gentle misting here and there to keep the leaves dust-free.

Soil Type

If grown in containers, the wood sorrel enjoys good drainage and compost-rich soil.

Adding perlite to the potting mix will improve drainage.

During the growth phase, the plant has higher watering requirements, but soil that becomes waterlogged easily is not appreaciated by the plant.

Potting & Repotting

Because slightly moist soil is favorable to the plant, plastic pots are fine for these plants, because they better retain moisture.

Pots should have good drainage and repotting is only ever necessary if the plant has filled the pot and has spread to all sides.

Since the shamrock plant is fairly compact, repotting will only ever be needes every few years, and even the most likely to refresh the soil.

Fertilizing

Oxalis triangularis does not have any special feeding requirements. Feeding with an all purpose houseplant fertilizer every few months is more than plenty.

Oxalis Plant Propagation

Propagating wood sorrels is also easy, and it’s best done during repotting when you inspect the bulbs.

You can divide smaller bulbs and the plant sections attached to the bulb and transfer them to a separate pot.

The new pots will be filled gradually by the transplanted clumps.

Once you see the new bulbs producing new shoots, you can rest assured they have taken to their new home.

It’s best to spread out the bulbs instead of planting them close together. Use the same well draining soil mix you use for the mother plant.

Different Types of Oxalis Plant

I mentioned two versions of the oxalis plant that are distinct in term of the color of their leaves.

Here are a few types of oxalis plants that have distinctly colored blooms:

– Windowbox Wood Sorrel (Oxalis articulata)

This variety produces dense leaves resulting in a clumped littled bush. Its flowers are few, small and pink.

– Three-leaf Wood Sorrel (Oxalis trilliifolia)

This oxalis variety is similar to the three-leaf clover, has soft, light green leaves. It produces white blooms.

– Californica Wood Sorrel (Oxalis californica)

This variety has smaller leaves and larger blooms. The blooms are yellow, making it an attractive color combination between leaf and bloom.

– Crimson Wood Sorrel (Oxalis incarnata)

This variety has solid green leaves and white dainty blooms.

– Charmed Wine Oxalis

Possibly the most eye-catching oxalis variety. It has purple leaves, shamrock-shaped leaves and small, white flowers. It also the most sought-after oxalis variety.

Oxalis Plant FAQs

The oxalis plant is an elegant and compact choice for gardens and indoors, and they’re especially enjoyed for their low requirements.

Here are some further tips and troubleshooting info on them:

What are the white spots on my purple shamrock leaves?

A range of issues can cause white spots to appear on your shamrock plant including fungus, pests, sun damage and viruses.

Fungi such as Powdery Mildew can produce white spots, although these will usually cover large areas of the leaf and look dense.

Pests such as aphids will also produce spots, but only on areas where the infestation occurs. Some pests will carry viruses that can also leaves white markings on the leaves.

Crusty white spots that crumble if touched are usually the result of sun damage.

Fungal issues and pest issues can be dealt with by using fungicides and pesticides.

Viruses can only be preventes and so is sun damage.

Are Oxalis plants toxic to pets?

Yes, all parts of the oxalis plant are toxic to pets. While the bitter taste of the plant can act as a deterrent for most pets, some pets may not be put off by the taste and may come back for seconds. Therefore, it’s best if you keep this plant out of the reach of pets.

Should you prune the oxalis plant?

If you want to do some maintenance on your oxalis plant, you can. It’s easy and quick.

It’s unlikely that your oxalis will need any extra maintenance as it grows fairly compact and stays rather small. Use clean and sharp pruning shears.

Cutting back the plant is a different story, and you will need to do that in preparation of the dormancy phase of the plant.

Once blooms fade, you can remove flower stalks that look spent, and remove other stalks down at the base of the plant.

How long do oxalis flowers live?

The blooms on the oxalis plant can last for several weeks.

The plant will die back after it blooms and enters into a dormancy period that can last a few months.

When you see the leaves drooping, you can cut the plant back and stop watering. It’s important to stop watering, otherwise the bulbs will rot.

Keep the plant in a cool and dry area. Come early spring, move it to a sunny location and resume watering.

If you really want to go the extra mile, remove the bulbs from the pot and freshen up the soil. This way, you can check for any signs of rotting or other issues.

Why do oxalis leaves close at night?

An interesting aspect of oxalis plants is that the leaves are responsive to changing light conditions. Pale pink and white flowers of oxalis plants also tend to follow this pattern.

This is a phenomenon called Nyctinasty and can be observed in other plants as well such as daisies, tulips, and waterlilies.

There are several explanations for this including that plants do this to conserve energy, reduce their risk of freezing, or to prevent pollen from becoming wet, thereby reducing their chances at reproduction.

Another explanation is that this is a defense mechanism against predators.

Conclusion

Oxalis plants are not widely popular houseplants despite their appealing look and ease of care.

Perhaps this is because they’re considered an invasive weed in some areas, or because of the toxicity to pets.

Of all the oxalis varieties, the purple shamrock is possibly the most appealing because of the strong contrast between the dark purple leaves and the chalky white flowers.

Whichever variety you choose, you’re going to have an easy time cultivating and propagating this plant.

Who knows? Perhaps you’ll contribute to spreading the word about this dainty-looking plant that adapts just as well to indoor or outdoor conditions.

Updated: June 8, 2020

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