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Oxalis triangularis: care guide

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We recently visited Shannon and learned that this purple beauty is her favorite houseplant. Sometimes referred to as “Purple Shamrock” or “False Shamrock”, they are native to Brazil rather than Ireland and are equally appealing as an outdoor plant or a houseplant.

Oxalis Triangularis are quite delicate in appearance but are a surprisingly hardy, low-maintenance plant. Hardy outdoors in zones 6-11, they are excellent in containers or borders where their eye popping purple leaves and delicate pink flowers provide a lovely contrast to the greens of other plants. They also make a perfect low-maintenance and long living houseplant.

Purple Shamrock are highly “photophilic,” which means that they open and close not just their blooms, but also their leaves in response to light. At night, neatly folded, oxalis triangularis looks like a cluster of little purple butterflies that then open wide to the morning light.

Like other bulb type plants, the oxalis triangularis has a dormancy period – which is it’s time for rest. They can go into dormancy after the spring and summer growing season which is noticeable when the leaves stop opening in daylight and it begins to look like it’s lacking vitality (this can also happen at other times whenever your plant chooses). They can also temporarily go into dormancy if temperatures become too warm (above 80°F – 27°C) or it’s lacking water and the soil becomes dry for a long period.
If the foliage begins to look withered and die off, stop watering and feeding and let the foliage die down. Once the foliage becomes brown you can remove it and await the next growing period, which could be anywhere from 2 – 4 weeks. Once you see new growth, start watering again.

As a houseplant, you will find the deep purple foliage really brings out the vibrant green of your other plants. This color contrast will make your other house plants seem to glow with health. Be aware that oxalis triangularis has developed a natural toxicity to protect it from foraging animals in its natural habitat, so take care with any pets that like to nibble on plant leaves. Place Oxalis Triangularis in a bright room away from direct sun. Placed back from a south-facing window is suitable, or like Shannon, place in a west facing window.

yellow petaled flower by elias sorey unsplash

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