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How to care for purple shamrocks: watering, repotting and where to position them

·2 min read
 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

Each day as the sun rises, so too do the leaves of Oxalis triangularis, also known as the love plant or purple shamrock.

And as the light fades, the triangular leaves fold down neatly to rest until the next day.

Naturally found throughout Brazil to northern Argentina, Oxalis thrives in bright, indirect light.

How to care for a purple shamrock

Position them close to an east or west facing window, that gets light for about half of the day.

Oxalis grow rapidly, if you see leaves and flowers doing a Mexican wave towards the window, turn the pot 180 degrees, so the leaning growth points away from the window. This will encourage even growth of the leaves, and prevent it from getting too leggy.

When watering your Oxalis, a little care is needed.

The leaves and flowers grow from fleshy underground structures that are sensitive to overwatering.

Allow the first few centimeters of compost to dry out before watering again, and ensure that excess water can drain away — this is particularly important if you are using a cachepot that hides what is going on at the roots. Through autumn and winter, watering can be reduced to the bare minimum.

Depending on its condition, your Oxalis plant may keep its leaves all year, or may enter a dormant phase through the darker, cooler months of the year. In which case, leaves and flowers will start to recede and wither. If this happens, trim the leaves back to the base of the plant, keep the pot containing the bulbs in the same place, but don’t water again until early spring, when the plant will make a full recovery.

If your Oxalis has kept its leaves, you might need to water a little more frequently, but allow the compost to almost completely dry out between winter watering.

With the right care, your Oxalis should produce delicate star shaped flowers that poke above the foliage at least once a year, normally in mid spring.

Purple leaved plants have mauve flowers and green leaved plants white.

After flowering, the flowering stems can be cut back to the base of the plant.

How to propagate a purple shamrock

The purple shamrock can be propagated by division, best done in late autumn or winter when the plant is not in active growth.

A healthy plant that has been in your care for a while may have many tubers beneath the surface of the soil.

To make new plants, gently prise apart the bulbs into smaller clumps, keeping them intact, and repot using a peat-free, organic compost (we mix ours with horticultural grit to aid drainage).

Water well after dividing — for a few days the plant will sulk, but it will quickly pick up again.

George Hudson is Head of Plants and Education at Walworth Garden, a South London charity delivering workshops, courses, therapeutic horticulture and plants for sale in a garden open to all. Follow on Instagram @walworthgarden

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