The best way to Develop and Look after Oxalis Outside

Oxalis spp.

Should you’ve ever wandered across the backyard part of your native grocery or dwelling provide retailer round St. Patrick’s Day, then you definitely’ve in all probability seen cute little containers crammed with shamrocks.

They’re a whimsical piece of vacation decor on your kitchen desk. However as a lot as I really like these lovely vegetation, they solely start to scratch the floor of what the Oxalis genus is able to.

A close up vertical image of the green and purple foliage of Oxalis 'Iron Cross' aka lucky clover growing in the garden. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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Humble little oxalis vegetation are available in a number of completely different leaf sizes, colours, and shapes, together with flowers that may be adorably petite or huge and brilliant.

They’re edible, can be utilized to interchange lawns, and require little care when you plant them.

And in case you select a local species, you’re going to enhance the general well being of your backyard by inviting essential pollinators.

And if that doesn’t provide you with sufficient causes to fall for oxalis already, it’s additionally principally impervious to pests and ailments.

Even when a pest or pathogen is foolhardy sufficient to hassle a patch of wooden sorrel, this plant can simply shrug it off.

Isn’t it good to have the ability to focus in your fussier vegetation, understanding there’s an ol’ dependable on the market humbly chugging alongside?

There’s rather a lot to find out about this group of vegetation that always appear to fly below the radar. We’re going to go over the next so you may grow to be an Oxalis oracle:

A wonderful backyard options numerous focal vegetation.

You recognize those – the eye-catching roses, hydrangeas, and clematis. Nevertheless it additionally wants extra delicate background fillers, like grasses, creeping juniper, and, you guessed it: Oxalis.

Clearly, I’m already bought on these vegetation.

I’ve cherished them ever since I first began city foraging many years in the past as a result of they’re immediately recognizable they usually’re in every single place. And I’m going to transform you, too. Simply strive to withstand!

Cultivation and Historical past

There are a whole lot of species inside the Oxalis genus, in addition to six subgenera.

Oxalis grows wild on each continent besides Antarctica. They’re a kind of forms of vegetation that fill in unnoticed, quietly rising almost in every single place on the planet.

A close up horizontal image of a carpet of common wood sorrel growing wild in a forest.

Most varieties produce leaves divided into three leaflets, they usually’re typically confused with clover. However Oxalis species are actually numerous, and extremely adaptable.

Relying on the species, they will have taproots, rhizomes, or tubers (really corms) rising underground, and their leaves can differ extensively from single oval-shaped foliage to giant leaves composed of 5 heart-shaped leaflets.

All have a single flower per stalk and one set of leaves per stem.

A close up horizontal image of a single oxalis leaf isolated on a green soft focus background.

So, are they shamrocks? Technically, there’s no such plant.

Shamrock is a typical time period for a small tri-leafed inexperienced plant, and it might be used to refer to varied Trifolium, Medicago, and Oxalis species.

Oxalis vegetation are sometimes referred to as wooden sorrels, however don’t confuse them with sorrel or broad-leaf sorrel (Rumex acetosa).

These are one other kind of edible “weedy” marvel which you can forage throughout the globe or domesticate at dwelling, however they aren’t in any respect associated.

A close up horizontal image of the white flowers and green foliage of oxalis growing in the garden.

All Oxalis species are edible, however they differ of their palatability. You shouldn’t eat an excessive amount of abruptly, although, whatever the species. All species comprise oxalic acid, which binds to calcium, making it unavailable to your physique.

Folks with gout, kidney stones, arthritis, and/or hyperacidity ought to in all probability keep away from consuming oxalis altogether. The remainder of us can take pleasure in it each ornamentally and as a snack.

They’re full of fine vitamins like nutritional vitamins A and C, in addition to iron.

You probably have any cross-Atlantic crusing journeys scheduled, carry some alongside to recreate the historic expertise of ocean journey. The leaves have been as soon as a typical therapy for scurvy.

These perennials can reside for a very long time, they usually additionally unfold and create new vegetation fairly readily. Oxalis will self-seed and unfold underground.

Representatives of this genus haven’t been cultivated extensively.

O. tuberosa is the one species generally cultivated for meals and there are a number of species grown and bought for his or her decorative leaves or flowers.

A close up horizontal image of a purple shamrock (Oxalis) plant with tiny pink and white flowers.

The 2 most typical are O. versicolor, which has showy blossoms, and O. triangularis, which has giant purple leaves.

We’ll discuss these and extra in a bit. However first, let’s focus on the way to propagate Oxalis to get began in your backyard.


No matter species you resolve to develop, I extremely advocate selecting a local one.

Until you’re rising Oxalis for the edible tubers or for flowers particularly, there are such a lot of choices to select from, and there’s no cause to not choose a neighborhood species.

Not solely is it higher for you, when it comes to how little care and time you’ll must dedicate to cultivation since these vegetation will do greatest inside their native vary, it’s additionally higher for native fauna.

Should you do wish to develop them as veggies or for his or her flowers, cultivation could also be a bit extra time-consuming, however you are able to do that too.

A close up horizontal image of a hand from the right of the frame pulling up yellow flowers in the garden.

Most are pretty obedient and keep the place you place them, although some can doubtlessly grow to be a nuisance. Just a few species have not too long ago began to invade wild areas, like O. pes-caprae in California.

Test native environmental laws to see if there are any species of concern in your space earlier than planting a non-native selection.

From Seed

To propagate Oxalis from seed, stroll by any remotely disturbed patch of soil within the spring and casually drop the seeds. There you go! You probably did it!

A close up horizontal image of a seed pod from a shamrock plant pictured on a soft focus background.

I’m joking, in fact, however this plant is a kind of fascinating species that shoots its seeds out of the pods.

They land close by and the cycle begins over again, and this technique of copy means it’s a straightforward plant for us to propagate from seed with out an excessive amount of fuss.

The key is to make certain you’re sowing or sourcing contemporary seeds. Older seeds gained’t germinate.

Gently rake the floor of the soil and sprinkle the seeds on prime, aiming to maintain them about an inch aside. Calmly press the seeds into the floor or barely cowl with an eighth of an inch of soil.

Sprinkle water onto the soil, and that’s just about it. Your largest problem will likely be holding birds away, as you’ll do with any kind of seed that you just sow on the floor of the soil. Tent some hen wire over the soil if birds are an issue.

From Corms or Tubers

For some species it’s greatest to propagate the bulbs (really corms, moderately than true bulbs) or tubers. You’ll typically discover four-leaf and purple shamrock oxalis corms on the market moderately than seeds.

A close up horizontal image of purple shamrock growing in a pot indoors.

To plant these within the backyard, look ahead to spring and dig a small gap for every corm in order that it sits about an inch or so deep, leaving about six inches of area between every one.

Lay the corms within the holes. It doesn’t matter in case you lay it sideways, upright, or the other way up, it can nonetheless develop.

Cowl the corms with soil and water them in.

By Division

As soon as a mature oxalis has began to develop and unfold, you may divide it.

Stick a shovel firmly into the middle of the plant to separate it in half and proceed midway across the exterior perimeter to dig it out of the bottom. Gently lever the loosened half up and out of the soil.

Plant the divided part in a brand new gap to the identical depth, and fill within the gap the place you eliminated the daughter plant with potting soil.

Transplanting Nursery Begins and Seedlings

You could find some species at nurseries throughout the spring, and naturally, you may at all times transplant these cute shamrocks you discover in shops round St. Patrick’s Day – simply be certain that what you’ve got is definitely an Oxalis species.

Specialty nurseries will seemingly carry not less than one native species native to your space if you wish to go that route.

A close up horizontal image of variegated purple oxalis growing in a pot outdoors.

You’ll be able to transplant seedlings at any time of 12 months, nevertheless it’s greatest to take action within the spring or fall. They’ll do greatest when the climate is cooler and rain is extra seemingly.

Dig a gap about twice as huge and the identical depth because the container the plant got here in. Take away the seedling from the pot and decrease it into the opening.

Fill in across the seedling with potting soil or well-rotted compost combined along with your native soil. The free, wealthy soil surrounding the Oxalis plant will give it head begin.

Spacing varies relying on the species, however on common these want about 9 inches on all sides.

The best way to Develop

Wooden sorrel can tolerate fairly crappy soil, nevertheless it wants good drainage. If the roots are caught in soil that’s always moist, the plant will die.

Don’t fear an excessive amount of about sandy or clay soil. Simply work in some well-rotted compost or manure and it will likely be effective.

Or don’t! Actually, Oxalis can survive in all however probably the most excessive soil circumstances, however they gained’t be as compact or sturdy if grown in poor soil.

A close up horizontal image of a clump of Oxalis tetraphylla growing in the garden.

One other exception is in case you’re rising this Oxalis to reap the tubers. Then you definitely wish to you’ll want to plant in wealthy, free soil so the foundation system can broaden.

Oxalis can deal with a spread of soil pH ranges nevertheless it’s greatest to intention for one thing mildly alkaline, starting from 7.2 to 7.8.

Most species will survive in full solar however they do greatest in partial shade, particularly if that shade is solid on the vegetation throughout the hottest a part of the afternoon.

These will even carry on trucking in full shade however they gained’t look their greatest, and definitely gained’t be as colourful or dense as they may very well be with extra solar.

Relating to water, you’re going to should be extraordinarily cautious and stay always vigilant…

Haha! Simply kidding! As soon as once more, Oxalis makes issues straightforward on you. And in case you go along with a local species, it will likely be even simpler.

Native vegetation have tailored to the typical moisture discovered within the surroundings of your native space and also you’ll in all probability solely should water often, if ever. I watered my native vegetation a pair occasions this summer season as a result of we had an unusually dry one.

Should you select a non-native kind, familiarize your self with its necessities. Most must be watered when the soil is sort of however not utterly dry.

All can tolerate some occasional drought, however they’ll wilt and wrestle till they obtain the water they want, at which level they’ll perk again up.

Some are extra drought-tolerant than others, however once more, none of those do properly in soggy soil.

Feed your vegetation every year with a gentle, all-purpose fertilizer. Or, once more, don’t.

Any plant that takes over when different vegetation falter, as oxalis does, is a plant that doesn’t want wealthy soil. I simply toss some well-rotted manure round my vegetation within the spring and name it a day.

A close up of the packaging of Down to Earth All Purpose Fertilizer isolated on a white background.

Right down to Earth All Function Fertilizer

If you wish to go the much less lackadaisical route, seize a one-, five-, or 15-pound compostable field of Right down to Earth’s All Function fertilizer at Arbico Organics and apply it in line with the producer’s instructions within the springtime.

Rising Ideas

  • Plant partly solar or half shade.
  • Fertilize or facet costume with manure every year.
  • Don’t let the soil dry out utterly.


In case your plant begins to look a bit leggy or unkempt, go forward and prune it again. Go manner again, if you need!

You possibly can lower the plant again to the bottom within the fall and it’ll pop again up within the spring. Many species die again like this naturally, anyway.

Should you use this plant as a garden substitute, go forward and mow it along with your mower set on the best setting a few occasions a 12 months to maintain it compact and tidy-looking.

This isn’t vital, however in case you miss the uniform look of grass, it’s a great way to recreate an identical look.

Species and Varieties to Choose

There are dozens of species of oxalis. To make issues simpler on your self, go along with a local possibility or not less than one which grows in a local weather much like yours.

All species will be grown as annuals in the event that they aren’t suited to your specific rising zone.

Listed below are a number of beneficial varieties on your consideration:


4-leaf sorrel (O. deppei aka O. tetraphylla) is a species that stands out with its four-leaflet leaves.

A close up horizontal image of the variegated foliage of lucky clover growing in the garden.

‘Iron Cross’ has distinctive inexperienced foliage with a darkish red-purple-brown splotch within the middle.

It’s a wonderful possibility in case you’re searching for a St. Patrick’s Day shamrock, because of its eye-catching sample and distinctive leaflets.

Develop it as a perennial open air in Zones 7 to 10, or as an annual. 4-leaf sorrel grows taller than many different species, reaching heights of over 12 inches.

‘Iron Cross’

Fortunate for you, you may choose up 20 corms at Amazon from the Straightforward to Develop retailer.

Simply be careful, the remainder of this species generally is a little bit weedy, so that you may must put in some further effort to maintain them in verify.


Redwood sorrel (O. oregana) is the perfect Oxalis there’s in the entire huge world, palms down, and I’m under no circumstances biased simply because it’s native to my neck of the woods.

Okay, I’m solely biased. However I feel it’s awfully cute, even when it isn’t as showy or tasty as among the different species on the market.

A close up horizontal image of a pink flower of redwood sorrel surrounded by green foliage in the background.

This plant has distinctly heart-shaped trifoliate leaves and produces a single rose-colored flower on every stalk. The blooms hang around all summer season, making for a beautiful present.

The explanation this species is a standout, past the brilliant flowers, is that it types a particularly dense carpet solely about six inches tall.

It’s appropriate for changing lawns, significantly in shady areas. Plus, it gained’t go weedy in the correct surroundings and soar out of your yard to unfold elsewhere like among the different species are likely to.

Develop O. oregana as a self-seeding perennial in Zones 6 to 9.


O. triangularis is arguably the most typical decorative species within the US, for cultivation both indoors or out.

A close up of a large Oxalis triangularis plant growing in a container outdoors with white flowers amidst the purple foliage.

You’ll see this six- to 12-inch-tall plant adorning tables, bars, and cabinets in Irish eating places and shops round St. Patrick’s Day.

The leaves can vary from medium inexperienced to darkish purple. They’ve white or pink flowers, and this plant likes it heat. It’s hardy in Zones 8 to 12.

Purple Shamrock

Should you’re enthusiastic about including this perennial fave to your backyard, seize 20 corms from the Straightforward to Develop retailer at Amazon.


Sweet cane sorrel is native to South Africa and, in contrast to most different species, it’s grown for its putting flowers.

A close up horizontal image of candy cane oxalis growing in the garden pictured in light sunshine.

Every blossom has 5 petals which might be white on the within and white with purple borders on the surface.

This species grows in Zones 7 to 9 and blossoms from September by means of early winter.

Managing Pests and Illness

One of many causes that individuals use Oxalis as a substitute for conventional turf, along with the entire no-mowing factor, is that it’s one robust cookie.

Although there are pests and pathogens that will assault these vegetation, the possibilities of any of them changing into sufficient of an issue that gardeners should resort to therapy are slim to none.

Listed below are a number of to maintain a watch out for, that you could be encounter:


Aphids are the one widespread pest that you just’re more likely to see on wooden sorrel, however they shouldn’t pose an issue.

They will grow to be a priority in giant numbers on indoor vegetation, however don’t fear your self an excessive amount of open air.


It’s uncommon to see illness with these vegetation.

It’s simply not one thing that occurs typically, significantly when rising native species in appropriate environments. However in case you do spot indicators of an infection, don’t stress.

You often gained’t should do something, although illness is nearly at all times a sign that the environmental circumstances aren’t splendid.

Enhance the rising space as wanted on your vegetation they usually’ll handle themselves.

Be looking out for:

Leaf Spot

Leaf spot is the most typical difficulty when rising Oxalis, and it’s attributable to Phyllosticta guttulatae, Ramularia oxalidis, and Septoria oxalidis fungi.

When this illness seems, it’s nearly at all times an issue with vegetation which might be affected by an absence of sunshine in circumstances which might be too shady, and which might be watered by sprinkling the foliage moderately than irrigating on the soil stage.

Should you present your vegetation with the correct amount of solar, water solely on the soil stage, and don’t overwater, it’s unlikely that you just’ll encounter this difficulty.

Should you do run into leaf spot, relocate your vegetation or do some pruning to extend airflow and lightweight publicity. All the time you’ll want to water on the soil stage.

You don’t must deal with your vegetation in any manner in case you take steps to enhance the environmental circumstances, however you’ll want to take away and get rid of any closely contaminated leaves.


All species of oxalis are prone to rust, which is attributable to the fungus Puccinia oxalidis.

The leaves will likely be lined in yellow-orange fuzzy spots on the undersides, and the higher sides will look curled and discolored.

The fungus favors moist circumstances, which is why watering at floor stage is greatest.

You’ll be able to deal with a rust an infection with copper fungicide, however in case you scale back the quantity of water allowed to build up on the leaves by utilizing drip irrigation or a directed watering nozzle and irrigating within the morning, this illness ought to resolve by itself.

If a plant actually appears to be struggling, spray it with a liquid copper fungicide as soon as each different week for six weeks.

Greatest Makes use of

There are a number of methods to make use of Oxalis – and I like to recommend you make the most of utilizing the vegetation you’re rising your self in a number of methods!

A close up horizontal image of the white flowers and green foliage of shamrock growing in the garden.

A standard veggie in lots of elements of the world, even in case you don’t develop the tubers, you may eat the leaves of any species. Some are extra tart than others, however all of them have one thing to supply.

The tubers ought to be prepared for harvest within the fall. You’ll comprehend it’s time when the foliage begins to die again.

Dig down beneath the foundation zone and gently carry the plant up with a backyard fork. Shake any free soil off the tubers, and wait to clean them till you’re prepared to make use of them within the kitchen.

The tubers are incredible roasted in oil or butter. Toss in some garlic, spinach, kale, lentils, and carrots, and you’ve got a meal!

Use the leaves in salads, soups, sandwiches, cocktails, and pasta dishes.

A close up horizontal image of an oxalis plant with green foliage and pink flowers growing in a stone wall.

Simply keep in mind to not eat an excessive amount of at a time or repeatedly for an prolonged interval as a result of oxalic acid consumption can affect calcium absorption.

Should you have been to eat an oz of the leaves in a single sitting, you run the chance of creating your self really feel extraordinarily sick.

You can too develop oxalis as a low-maintenance decorative, in beds and borders, or in containers.

A close up horizontal image of an iron cross shamrock plant growing in a container outdoors.

Lastly, use it as a garden substitute. Although oxalis isn’t robust sufficient to face as much as a soccer match, it could actually deal with common foot visitors, and the flowers are prettier than something a grass garden may give us.

Plus, there’s at all times a profit to native fauna while you ditch the monoculture and embody extra selection in your panorama. Choose a local species for even higher profit.

Lots of people spend money and time attempting to push this plant out of their garden. However I say, embrace it! I’ve by no means seen a grassy entrance yard blossom all summer season lengthy.

Fast Reference Rising Information

Plant Sort: Herbaceous perennial Flower/Foliage Colour: White, pink, purple/inexperienced purple
Native to: All continents besides Antarctica Tolerance: Some shade, some drought
Hardiness (USDA Zone): 3-12, relying on species Upkeep: Low
Season: Spring, summer season, fall Soil Sort: Reasonably sandy, loamy, reasonably clayey
Publicity: Partial Shade Soil pH: 7.2-7.8
Time to Maturity: 3 months from seed (foliage), about 5 months from seed (tubers), relying on species Soil Drainage: Properly-draining
Spacing: 1 inch (seeds), 9 inches (transplants) Companion Planting: Ferns, hostas, vinca vine, wooden violets
Planting Depth: Floor (seeds), 1 inch (corms), identical depth as container (transplants) Makes use of: Decorative, vegetable, garden substitute
Peak: As much as 2 toes Order: Oxalidales
Unfold: Indefinite Household: Oxalidaceae
Progress Price: Quick Genus: Oxalis
Water Wants: Average Species: Acetosella, corniculata, corymbosa, deppei, oregana, purpurea, regnellii, triangularis, tuberosa, versicolor
Widespread Pests and Ailments: Aphids, caterpillars, crickets, fungus gnats, slugs, snails Varieties: Atropurpurea, corymbosa

Oxalis Is an Unsung Surprise

I feel an increasing number of gardeners are realizing at present that there’s loads of worth in among the extra humble vegetation like wooden sorrel.

Possibly sufficient of us are simply sick of babying our lawns with heaps of fertilizer and weekly mowings, or fussing over ornamentals that appear to have the singular purpose of dying as quickly as doable.

A few of us are additionally loopy about lesser-known edibles, particularly ones we are able to forage out of our personal yard.

A close up horizontal image of an Oxalis tetraphylla 'Iron Cross' plant growing in a garden border.

I hope you are feeling like an Oxalis oracle (trademark pending) after studying this information. I can’t wait to listen to about how you propose to make use of your marvelous vegetation.

Which species are you going with? What is going to you do with it? Tell us within the remark part beneath. Recipes are significantly welcome!

Really feel such as you haven’t gotten sufficient of those multipurpose wonders? Listed below are a number of different articles about herbs to take a look at subsequent:

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