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What’s What? Oxalis, Clover, and Shamrock

Posted By Amy Heigel on Mar 16, 2020 | 0 comments


Are you looking for something to fill your mixed containers and summer window boxes or just need a little extra visual interest in your landscape? Look no further than Oxalis, commonly known as Shamrock Plant, which produces lush foliage mounds of clover like leaves and dainty flowers that add even more beauty to the display. However, Oxalis can sometimes be confused for clover or shamrock. What is the difference between clover, shamrocks, and Oxalis? Which plant is used in the garden and which is a houseplant? Which is considered lucky? We’re here to explain away the mystery. 

  • Clover is the common name for a ground cover plant often found in lawns and fields. It’s a member of the species in the Trifolium genus, with the word Trifolium meaning “having three leaves.” It will thrive in areas that are poorly drained or too shady for a conventional lawn. Clover is not always considered a weed. As a matter of fact, today, it seems clover is returning as an eco-friendlier lawn alternative. Since it is nitrogen fixating, it can supply its own nutrients to poor soil. The most popular is the white clover (Trifolium repens) because it is relatively low growing, tolerates close mowing, and outcompetes weeds.
  • A shamrock is the symbol we associate with St. Patrick’s Day. Traditionally, “shamrock” refers to a three-leaf clover. Why three leaves? According to legend, St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the holy trinity with each leaf representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The word shamrock itself comes from the Irish word Seamrog meaning ‘little clover’ or ‘young clover’.
  • Oxalis, which are often sold as “shamrocks,” is a genus of plants that are native to most regions of the world, though they’re most numerous in the tropics. The whole plant is photophilic, meaning the leaves and flowers close at night and open wide again in the morning. Oxalis can be grown outdoors in the spring and summer, but they also make for great houseplants all year round. They like bright, indirect light and tend to bloom in fall, winter, or spring.

Now that you know the difference you can add some luck to your landscape and plant low maintenance Oxalis in your garden.

Here’s a few tips and tricks from our experts on caring for your Oxalis:

  • You can grow it both indoors and outdoors! Makes a great landscape plant or houseplant.
  • Let it dry out completely between watering.
  • It will go dormant for a few weeks at a time and may look dead. Stop watering for a few weeks and begin again and it will grow back fuller every time this happens. The bulbs are restoring their energy.

Oxalis can’t be beat for its incredible foliage and easy-care habit. Their incredible ornamental appeal makes them the perfect plant for your rock gardens, borders, containers, or even as a houseplant. Check out the incredible varieties that our experts have sourced. Still have questions? Contact our horticulturalists.

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