Oxalis Triangularis - How to Care for Purple Shamrock

Oxalis Triangularis – How to Care for Purple Shamrock

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With such extravagant appearance, those seductive and vibrant purple colors, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Oxalis Triangularis is a real superstar among indoor plants.

Native to Southern part of South America, this adorable plant is also known as Purple Shamrock, and besides being a beautiful ornament in houses and apartments globe-wide, this plant is edible as well.

Provided that you have solid knowledge about how to take care of „false shamrock“ (yes, that’s another nickname for this cutie), your home will be adorned with the most enchanting colors.

You’ve come to the right place to find out more about Oxalis Triangularis care, propagation, repotting, most common problems and how to fix them, and much more.

Stay tuned and enjoy it!

How to Grow Oxalis Triangularis

Oxalis Triangularis care

A successful development of a plant will mainly depend on your knowledge about it. The more of it you possess the better are the chances to have a healthy-looking and eye-catching plant that will brighten up your home.

This is a bulb type of plant, which means it has a dormancy phase, during which those fleshy leaves or their bases serve as food storage.

Watering, fertilization, repotting, propagation, are just some of the segments of plant maintenance that you need to have a thorough understanding about, and they will be addressed each in separate sections.

Besides these, you need to know what are the soil, temperature requirements for Oxalis, and adjust them accordingly.

Some of these will differ from one home to another, due to the location you live in, indoor and outdoor conditions, so I will give you some common directions you should follow.

Before I get down to thorough instructions, allow me to make one thing clear. There are multiple types of Oxalis, but only one type of Oxalis Triangularis.

For the sake of convenient explanations, I shall refer to Oxalis Triangularis as Oxalis in my text here, or as purple/false shamrock.

Let’s get started!

Different Names of Oxalis Triangularis

There are several widely used and popular names for Oxalis.

Some people refer to it as False Shamrock, the other call it Purple Shamrock, some name it wood sorrel, but if you ask me, the most beautiful nickname of them all is Love plant. (Purple’s my favorite color.)

You are surely curious to find out why is this plant called False Shamrock, aren’t you?

The reason is more than simple- so that people could make a difference between Oxalis and clover, which is commercially known as a true shamrock.

This plant is native to Ireland, and what it has in common with Oxalis is the resemblance in the shape (three petals), that’s all.

The true one is an annual plant while the false is perennial; clover cannot adapt to indoor conditions, Oxalis doesn’t have such a problem, they are different in colors, etc.

But allow me to share a special nickname I came up with- a purple phoenix! You see, this plant has some magic properties if you ask me.

Even if you forget to water it, or the temperature suddenly changes and becomes too low, it won’t die. It will hide into its very own personal refuge-bulb until the conditions become acceptable again.

Oxalis Triangularis indoors

Amazing, isn’t it?

Perhaps you didn’t know that but this extraordinary plant got an acknowledgment from the Royal Horticultural Society. It scored the Award of Garden Merit, for fulfilling multiple significant criteria.

The official name of the plant is quite self-explanatory, as it has triangular leaves. Them colored so vibrantly are surely the most exquisite feature of this plant, but surely not the only one. Oxalis also produces tiny pink or white flowers, shaped like trumpets, and these adorable blooms last for several weeks.

Watering Oxalis Triangularis

There are two types of plants- ones will be quite tolerable even if you forget to water them when you were supposed to do so, the others won’t forgive you that.

Jokes aside, but some plants won’t suffer any damages if you are late with watering one or two days, and Oxalis is one of them.

The level of moisture in the soil should be moderate.

In case it becomes too soggy, you risk spoiling the optimal living environment and your plant will start suffering soon.

When the soil is to wet, your plant will start to rot, it would be like you are killing it slowly.

When is the right time to water it?

Making some uniformed schedules is not always so simple, because every one of us has different indoor conditions, but as a rule of thumb- following common sense is always a good idea.

The best trick to check whether your plant needs water is to stick your finger in the soil.

If the top layer of it is dry, then it’s the right time to water it. Pour until you see water running from the drainage.

If you were to follow the natural phases of your plant, then the timetable would be like this:

When Oxalis plant is in its growing stage, it requires watering when the top layer of the soil is dry, that’s about an inch.

When the plant is in dormancy (fall and winter), then once about every two to three weeks is more than enough

The main reason for not so frequent watering during this passive (dormant) phase is that plant simply suspends the growth, and it doesn’t require so much water as during the active phase.

As for the temperature of the water, room temperature is the ideal choice. Both overly cold and too hot water can damage the plant.

Soil requirements for Oxalis Triangularis Care

This segment is in close connection with both watering and fertilizing, so I shall tell you more about this right here.

As you can see, Oxalis Triangularis is not a type of plant which has excessive needs for frequent watering, so the type of soil should be well-adjusted to this fact.

Never choose an overly wet soil, they thrive in a well-drained potting mix. Premium indoor potting mix is quite a nice choice. This type of plant can be grown in either alkaline, acidic or neutral soil.

There’s a cool trick to evaluate whether the soil is suitable or not. After you water the plant, if you notice the water is still on top of the soil, perhaps drains too slowly or simply won’t drain at all, the mix is too heavy.

You need to lighten it, otherwise, your plant won’t develop. This is the situation where perlite helps, as it ensures proper drainage.

Light and Temperature Requirements for Oxalis Triangularis Care

Among other aspects that will have a significant impact on the frequency of watering are light and temperature, particularly those inside your home.

Looking for the ideal place to put your purple shamrock, just avoid direct sunlight. It can seriously harm your plant.

Okay, it IS by nature, a plant that grows outside, and the glass from the window DOES filter the light a bit and reduce the intensity, so it’s hard to burn it- but still, it’s preferable to avoid direct sunlight.

A bright and moderate, partially sunny location is the best option. If the room is too dark, the plant may become leggy, and it may ruin its adorable appearance.

Oxalis Triangularis light requirements

Moderate is the best option for temperature as well, because if it’s too hot, the beautiful foliage may wilt. Between 60°F to 75°Fis just about the right one.

Special attention needs to be paid during winter, as artificial heating can cause the temperature to go up, and interfere with the conditions. If your plant is somewhere near the heating vent, you’ll have to relocate it.

Fertilizing Oxalis Triangularis

You will be glad to know that false shamrock is not a demanding one when it comes to feeding. As a matter of fact, you only need to do so during its active phase. During dormancy, you can stop feeding it.

Having in mind this life cycle of an Oxalis Triangularis, slow-release fertilizer is the best choice, and if your soil already has it-bingo!

The mixes which contain this type of fertilizer have the supplies for about four months, which means during that period you don’t have to feed it at all.

As for the new plant, it doesn’t require fertilizer at all. In case the soil is older than a year, you should feed your plant approximately every two months.

Just follow the instructions on the package, and don’t go all crazy with fertilizers. An excessive amount of it won’t make your plant grow faster, it will harm the roots and reverse its progress.

If you want to continue feeding your Oxalis with this type of fertilizer, what you need to do is scatter those granules over the soil, and add water afterward. This should be done every couple of months.

What about liquid fertilizer?

Yes, you can use this one as well. Since wood sorrel is a plant with no specific nourishing requirements. An all-purpose water-soluble mix will do just fine.

If you opt for this type, it should be added every three to four weeks, and during the passive phase, you can stop feeding your shamrock plant.

Again, don’t add more than the instruction says, it can make the same damage just like the granular one. Also, after you feed it, water it as well, so not to shock your plant.

Oxalis Triangularis Pruning

Some plants are highly demanding when it comes to pruning, and if you want them to develop properly, this segment must not be neglected. Lucky for you, the wood shamrock is not one of them.

When your plant is preparing to enter the dormancy phase, you will notice the foliage turning brown, and it looks withered. This is normal, it’s not a sign that your plant is ill.

What you should do is remove those dead leaves and wait for the new ones to appear. During this phase, you shouldn’t feed or water it, just leave it be someplace dark until it starts growing again. That’s when you will resume the regular schedule.

As simple as that!

So, no need to buy any special pruning tools or whatsoever, you simply pinch those dead leaves off with your fingers and that’s all. I mean, you can use some small scissors if you want, but it’s not necessary, fingers will do just fine.

A quick tip: The only essential detail to pay attention to here is the place where you cut. Never cut the shamrock’s crown where the stems and the root system connect. You can freely let them die and regrow again, that’s how they work.

Oxalis Triangularis Propagation

There are two ways to propagate wood sorrel- through division and through cutting and I’ll give you the directions for both options. The best time to propagate is when in the active phase, so during spring.

1. Propagation by Division

So, you take a parent plant and divide it, but let’s see how the entire process looks like. The first thing to do is take it out from the container, to expose the roots and bulbs.

Now separate several bulbs and fill the empty container (with a proper drainage hole) with appropriate potting mix, and put the new division in it.

Accommodate it someplace with indirect sunlight and moderate temperature. Mist the plant once a week but don’t water it too much.

It takes several weeks for the plant to fully establish and develop as an independent one.

2. Propagation by Cutting

The process is similar to division just slightly longer, but there’s less loss of leaves. Take the parent plant and look for the bulbs (tubers) which are towards the bottom of the soil. This is approximately one to two inches below the surface.

When you spot them, make cuts above the bud and repot the newbies. Again, mind the light, water, and temperature, and success is expected after a few weeks.

Bonus tip: Do keep in mind, before you decide to replant or propagate it, you need to allow the foliage to die naturally. If you cut it off too soon, the bulbs will get too weak (as it won’t acquire enough nutrients from the foliage), and won’t be able to develop adequately when repotted.

Oxalis Triangularis Repotting

oxalis triangularis repotting

Before I tell you how to repot it, the first knowledge you need to acquire is how to pot the bulbs. So, once you prepare the bulbs (naturally!), the soil, and the container with an adequate drainage hole, here are the steps to take:

  1. Fill the pot with approximately three-quarters full of adequate potting mix and add water so that the soil can settle well.
  2. Put the tubers on the top of the soil, making sure there’s a space of several inches between. Depending on the size of the container, you can put two, three, or sometimes even four bulbs.
  3. Put the soil over the tubers, inserting them about 1 to 1.5 inches deep and water it again. This time do so until you see it running out the bottom of the container.
  4. Find the right place for your plant, a bright one, and wait for about two to three weeks. That’s when the newbies will start to grow.

Be careful with watering during this period. The soil needs to be moist but not too wet, or the bulbs will rot.

And yes, don’t be surprised if you see the newbies appearing after a week. This happens if the bulbs you planted already started sprouting.

Repotting ABCs

One more stage where you can be at ease because repotting wood sorrel won’t give you so much headache.

The main reason why this plant needs repotting is to accommodate it to a more comfortable container, as it developed so much that the current one is too tight for it. Moreover, it is also done to refresh the soil or when you want to start a new plant.

As for the next container to select, it should be one size bigger compared to the one your Oxalis is in at the moment. Don’t plant it in an overly large one, because your plant won’t be able to grow properly, as it will have too much space around (I mean the part of your plant in the soil, the roots).

Then the ideal moment for repotting is the plant’s dormant phase, and you follow the same order as when you plant new bulbs.

Oxalis Triangularis Problems and Solutions

Every plant has its ups and downs, it’s only natural, and cannot be avoided.

But, what we can avoid is a total disaster out of it, by familiarizing ourselves with the most common issues related to any plant.

Good thing is that none of these happen too often if you take good care of your plant, and the majority of them can be fixed by simple relocation.

Here are some of the scenarios that your Purple shamrock may end up in, along with useful solutions on how to fix them.

1. Oxalis has rust, what do I do?

This is one of the most frequently seen diseases, and you will usually spot it in the lower half of the leaves.

To stop the spores from multiplying, you can use rust sulfur copper powder. However, do know that this won’t heal the plant, it will just prevent further spreading.

The only way to cure the diseased spot is to cut off that affected part and let it regrow.

2. Ring spots and what to do?

Oxalis Triangularis ring spots

If your plant seems like it’s suffering from nutrient deficiency, and you are positive that you are feeding it regularly, then something else is the problem.

Should some chlorotic rings start to appear around healthy spots, then you can be sure it’s a virus.

It is often called plant lice because there are plenty of aphids present.

This virus is spread mechanically and when two plants intertwine their roots- the healthy one will become infected by the diseased one.

There’s no particular cure for this, other than to observe the plant and maintain it properly.

3. The leaves on my Oxalis turn yellow – how to fix?

The most common cause of yellowing leaves in Oxalis is too much water. I told you and I will repeat it- don’t over-water your purple shamrock, you may kill it.

Also, check if the drainage pot is suitable. Sometimes, even if you are sure that you are not watering it too often, the plat will keep on yellowing because the soil is to wet.

This happens because the drainage hole is too small, and can’t drain well.  In this situation, the best would be to repot the plant or widen the drainage hole, if it’s possible.

4. Other pests trying to invade my Oxalis

Similar to numerous indoor plants, Oxalis is a delicious treat for those nasty pests like mealybugs and spider mites. If you don’t pay attention to time and let them infest your plant severely, they can kill it. They do the same to Jade plant and many others.

How to recognize them?

The white cotton-like substance is a group of mealybugs, and they feast on your plant’s juices until they suck out enough to weaken or kill it.

If there’s a fine webbing over the plant, those are spider mites, and they do the same like mealy bugs.

To treat them, you should spray both sides of foliage with a special product for this purpose. The treatment can be repeated if the plant is overly infected.

5. Burnt leaves and what to do?

Oxalis Triangularis burned leaves

This is quite different from the rust, which resembles mold a lot.

In this situation, the leaves will become dry and crispy, that’s how you will recognize it’s burnt.

The most common cause us excessive sunlight, so to make sure this doesn’t happen again, place your plant somewhere in the medium light.

6. White Spots on False Shamrock- why does it happen?

Funguses should be blamed for it, either rust or powdery mildew. Both occur when your plant is not in the optimal conditions- it’s too cold and too dark, and on top of all that too humid.

There’s a fungicide to deal with this issue, but what also must be done is plant relocation. If you leave it in such poor condition, no matter how good the product is, it won’t help.

Your plant needs a bright, moderately warm and not overly humid place.

7. My plant is rotting?

If this is the case, then you are watering it too much, or too often. An excessive amount of water leads to mushy bulbs which also turn black.

As a result, the plant starts to collapse and eventually dies. If this phase already occurred, it impossible to revive it so the best solution would be to start a new one.

And pay extra attention to watering this time.


Where to buy Oxalis Triangularis?

From what you have read here in my guide, I do not doubt that the first thing you’ve done is running to buy one immediately if you don’t have it already.

Is Purple Shamrock poisonous to pets?

Yes, it is, so it’s much safer to keep it out of their reach. Just like when you have smaller kids because many plants can be highly dangerous to humans.
However, if your furry friend does decide to nibble it a bit, don’t panic, nothing tragic’s gonna happen.
After all, nature did a great job here as well, and due to the awful taste the leaves leave, your four-legged friends won’t even think of returning for a second helping.

Is it necessary to mist Oxalis?

You can do so occasionally just to refresh the plant a bit and remove the dust from it, but it doesn’t have to be done regularly.

What does Oxalis do during sudden dormancy?

You probably know that more or less every plant has its active and passive phase, with the latter one happening during fall and winter usually.
So, what happens to be your first reaction if, out of nowhere, your plant goes to sleep IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER???
Believe it or not, it’s not a reason to panic, it happens to all Oxalises, every 2 to 7 years.
Even though it may seem like it’s dead, it is not, it’s just taking a rest so to say.
To wake it up, you should stop watering and put it in the darker corner. Let the soil dry, and leave it be about two to four weeks.
After that, you can put it in some sunny spot again, and wait for new leaves to appear.
The other most common reason why they may suddenly fall asleep is too hot temperature- over 80°F/27°C.

What to do with salt build-ups?

The continued usage of fertilizer can lead to acquired amounts of salt, also known as build-ups. If too much of it is in the soil, the foliage will get burned so you have to remove them.
It’s quite simple, and it’s how you fix the same issue in some other plants as well, for example, Spider plant and other dealing with this.
You need to flush the soil, and to do so, you have to put the pot in the sink, and let the water go slowly through the soil for several minutes.
Once the soil drains thoroughly, you can put the plant back to its place. To keep the plant safe from these, you should apply this process every four to six months.

Does wood sorrel close its leaves at night?

Oh, yes it does, it’s like the plant is preparing to tuck in and have a good night’s sleep. When the morning comes, the leaves reopen. Speaking of, morning light is just about perfect one for Purple Shamrock.

Is purple shamrock edible?

While it shouldn’t be served to pets (and it’s advisable to avoid it in livestock feed as well), humans can consume this plant. That is if they don’t have problems with its acidic taste.
However, as this plant by itself is not a typical edible herb, one shouldn’t consume it too often, as it binds the body’s supply of calcium. As a result, it will lead to nutritional deficiencies.
People who have issues with rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should avoid consuming it at all because it can worsen these conditions.
On the bright side, the level of oxalic acid significantly decreases when the leaves are not raw- so if you are dying to try false shamrock, then cook it.

Is this type of Oxalis invasive?

Believe it or not, the answer is positive. In South America, they even consider it a pesky weed, but this doesn’t refer to the one grown indoors.

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