The Purple Shamrock

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The Purple Shamrock, A Lucky Clover

Each year around St. Patrick’s Day the Purple Shamrock, Oxalis triangularis, appears at many local florist shops and grocery stores. The charming merlot colored leaves of this handsome plant can grace a modestly lit place in your home throughout the cold season, and sometimes they can come to the table. Should I mention that they have the endearing habit of closing up their leaves at night, and reopening each day ? Makes them seem very alive.

While clearly decorative for the holiday, one might not know that it can also have
a starring role as a versatile garden plant all year round
.

This is an ever  pleasing and easy to please plant
that I would not want you to be without. oxalis triangularis purple shamrock 3In spring, when it is suitable weather for tender plants to go outdoors, the St. Patrick’s Day clumps go into outdoor planters or the open garden. One third to 2/3 light places are fine. Just plant them where they can enhance the greens around them by contrast.
They expand and multiply admirably throughout the growing season.

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If you have some in the garden, before the first frost, take the parent plant and pot it up in a container you will enjoy looking at in winter. It is not fussy as to light though it needs some, and it is forgiving in the watering department.

In the fall, by pulling apart the now abundant corms, I can provide the beginnings of a colony to a few more people each year by sending them home with a bit to embellish their winter and begin the cycle in their own place.

Using this in and out system, a client of mine put her winter ones as a centerpiece on a long shelf by a bank of warm windows. She found the corms multiplied so extremely well both winter and summer in this good spot that, after some years, the entire 8 foot shelf was filled with with lovely containers of this purple shamrock. This despite the fact she is very generous and always gives lots away. This plant will accept modest light in a less than ideal place in the house, it will just multiply slowly till it gets back into the true garden in the warm seasons.

Oxalis in planter with Tradescantia and Lablab

No Worries

Some clovers are not welcome in the garden due to their nuisance seeding and the difficulties of removal, but O. triangularis is an exception. In zone 5b it is not able to seed into the lawn or garden beds.

If, instead of local plants you need to start with little dry corms by way of the mail, don’t worry, they will still do fine.
I once attended a winter party where a barrel of hundreds of dry corms were nestled in wood shavings and set out for us to each take a pretty bagful home as a gift.
Funny looking little things ! But if you just pre-soak them in water, pot them up in premoistened  growing medium…and realise that it will be a bit of a wait, all will be well. Just water as needed so they don’t dry out again. With minimal water and care, they will flourish. It is easy to succeed, so growing her is a way of growing your own good fortune.

An artist friend who loves this plant did a cherishable portrait.Oxalis triangularis………………………………………………………………Racket Shreve

ELLEN COOL
STONE GARDEN DESIGNS INC.
stonegardendesignsinc@gmail.com
A Reasoned Landscape.com
Landscape Composition.
Stonework and Garden Design.

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