Oxalis is by far the largest genus in the wood-sorrel family Oxalidaceae: of the approximately 900 known species in the Oxalidaceae, 800 belong here. The genus occurs throughout most of the world, except for the polar areas; species diversity is particularly rich in tropical Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

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Cultural Control

Oxalis flowers and produces seeds heavily in the spring and summer, but can produce both all year long. Small plants can easily be handpicked or dug as they appear before they flower or form seed. Removal of all vegetative portions of the plant, including roots and rhizomes, is important. Rhizomes can be easily removed when soil is moist. Do not place the weeds with seeds in compost bins for reuse in the landscape.

A light layer of mulch in landscape beds and around flowers and shrubs will aid in preventing further germination of oxalis seeds. The seeds require light for germination, so limiting light to the seedbed with mulch will reduce the numbers of new oxalis plants.

Oxalis forms a fruiting capsule that contains multiple seeds.
LayLa Burgess, © 2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Maintenance of healthy, dense lawns will create less space for oxalis to invade. Lawn maintenance should adhere to fertilizer and lime recommendations obtained from soil test results combined with proper mowing height and frequency requirements. For more information on soil testing, see HGIC 1652, Soil Testing.


A GUIDE TO GROWING OXALIS (SHAMROCK PLANTS)

Charmed® Wine Shamrock. Photo by: Proven Winners.

Oxalis, also known as wood sorrel or false shamrock, often gets a bad rap because of its weedy reputation. While it’s true that some native species can quickly overrun a lawn or garden, there are many ornamental varieties that are well-behaved and full of charm. With colorful clover-like leaves and dainty flowers, oxalis are superb accent plants in garden beds and containers. Many oxalis are also perfectly happy as house plants, especially in areas with colder winters.

Although you will often find oxalis sold in garden centers as “shamrock plants,” especially around St. Patrick’s Day, they are not true shamrocks or relatives of clover, despite the similarities in leaf form. Oxalis has a personality all its own, flaunting three-lobed, triangular leaves in rich shades ranging from emerald green to deep maroon and even variegated patterns. You’ll also find some varieties sporting an extra leaf for good measure, just like the lucky four-leaf clover.


Characteristics of oxalis

Type of Plant

Oxalis is grown from small bulbs. It is relatively a slow growing perennial which spreads easily in a garden bed.

Oxalis flowers

Depending on the color of leaves, the flowers can be white, yellow, rose colored or pink. The flowers grow on top of bare stems and are quite dainty, and thin, like the leaves.

The plant tends to bloom in late spring or early summer.

Leaves of oxalis plants

The foliage of this plant really pops at the garden centers in early spring. The deep maroon (almost black) leaves of oxalis triangularis stands out near other dark green foliage plants.

The leaves of the plant can be green or purple and have a three leaf clover look which gives it the common name “false shamrock”. In Ireland, four species of oxalis are associated with good luck.

Some leaves have a speckled appearance to them.

There are varieties with solidly colored leaves and also those that are variegated.


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