Oxalis Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#61
Oxalis looks very similar to a shamrock and this plant definitely has a ton of personality! The foliage folds up at night and moves with the light intensity while also sporting tiny, beautiful flowers.
Botanical Name: Oxalis triangularis, Oxalis spiralis, Oxalis tetraphylla, Oxalis articulata, Oxalis oregana, Oxalis gigantea, Oxalis vulcanicola
Common Name: Oxalis, False Shamrock, Purple Shamrock, Sourgrass or Wood Sorrel, Good Luck Plant, Lucky Shamrock
Most of the Oxalis you will find in plant shops are the varieties that go dormant in winter, similar to Caladium. If you notice a decline in foliage production in fall or winter, you can cut it back, place it a lower light position, and reduce watering significantly. Once you see some leaves starting to form again in spring, bring it back into more light and start watering normally.
Naturally, Oxalis is a shade loving plant, and in your home they do well in medium light. However, they really thrive in bright, indirect light. In bright, indirect light Oxalis will have fuller foliage and more blooms.
Oxalis need medium moisture to do well. If you leave Oxalis in a dry condition the leaves will start to wilt, so make sure to water it right away.
These plants do not require humidity to thrive. Mine has not had any extra humidity and it is doing very well. The moisture and light is more important than anything with these plants.
As I always say, there are LOTS of ways to fertilize plants. Unless you are extremely over-fertilizing your plant, there isn't necessarily a wrong way to do this. I currently use Fox Farm's Grow Big Liquid Fertilizer and I fertilize every 2 weeks (when I water my plants), and when I start to see new foliage producing. I stop fertilizing when I see foliage production reduced in fall or winter.
Practical Houseplant Book: "Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every month when the plant is in growth from spring to late summer. Stop feeding during dormancy."
There are MANY ways to fertilize and it is completely up to you! There are tons of products out there you can try but an overall rule of thumb for houseplants is that it is best to under-fertilize, rather than over-fertilize. Always use the recommended amount, or less, when applying your fertilizer to houseplants.
Oxalis can be divided and is the best way to propagate and produce new Oxalis plants. The least stressful time to do this is in fall or winter when the plant isn't as actively growing.
Part of the Oxalidaceae family.
Native to tropical areas of Mexico, parts of Africa and South America.
Oxalis foliage ranges from shades of green and purple, and sometimes with variegation. The flower color and size depends on the variety but usually come in orange, yellow, white, or pink.
Oxalis leaves are actually edible in small quantity for humans. Oxalis actually translates to "sour" and it gets that name from its oxalic acid content. Pacific Horticulture says the Oxalis tubers (similar to bulbs) is also edible stating, "O. tuberosa was initially cultivated in regions of the Andes for its potato-like roots or tubers. Oca, as it is known there, was introduced to Europe in 1830 as a competitor to the potato. In New Zealand, the tubers are so common they are simply known as New Zealand yams and grow in a range of colors. In Mexico, oca is eaten raw with salt, lemon, and hot pepper. The tubers are a good source of beta carotene and energy-dense carbohydrates."
Oxalis is technically poisonous to pets but here is what the ASPCA says "All parts of the plant have toxic potential, although the possibility of serious effects is usually limited to ingestions of large quantities. Consuming Oxalis species can produce colic in horses, and kidney failure is possible if significant amounts are eaten." While Pacific Horticulture reads "In very large amounts, it is considered lightly toxic, interfering with proper digestion. In truth, this compound is found in more commonly consumed foods such as grapefruit, spinach, chives, broccoli, and rhubarb, among many others. General scientific consensus holds that actual poisoning from oxalic acid in persons with normal kidney function is wildly improbable." If you are interested in learning about more pet friendly plants, check out Podcast Ep#31 for more info or the corresponding blog post!
I asked followers if they had any specific plant questions I could address in this podcast and blog. Here are the questions and answers for the Oxalis...
"I know nothing! How to care for...why are they linked with St. Patrick's Day?"
Basics of care are medium to bright, indirect light, medium moisture and allowing them to go dormant in winter.
The Washington Post did an article about Oxalis and St. Patrick's Day stating "The plants sold as shamrock in the United States are usually "little white clover," Trifolium repens. The official Irish shamrock used in Dublin is "yellow clover," Trifolium dubium. The characteristic three-parted leaves of clover are also common to the Oxalis genus and for this reason oxalis also is popularly known as shamrock. In fact, there are devotees of the Irish tradition who believe that the true shamrock is a creeping Oxalis species." So generally, since Oxalis looks similar to clovers, they are associated with the holiday too.
"What type of soil do they like"
A well-draining soil mix is best. Using an potting mix or houseplant potting mix is great. I use a regular potting mix combined with perlite as my soil mix.
"What gives it that unique leaf shape?"
Oxalis come in a few different leaf shapes. They all look very similar to a shamrock or clover with 3 leaves protruding from the end of a stem. Some are heart shape, triangular, rounded and there is even one that is shaped like a palm leaf!
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Love, Holly (Owner & Creator of Houseplant Homebody LLC)