Oxalis triangularis (Purple Shamrock, Purple Leaf Shamrock)
What a stunner Oxalis triangularis is! We’re absolutely captivated by their uniquely colored leaves of deep maroon-purple and unusual trifoliolate foliage! Small clusters of light pink to lavender flowers borne above the lovely foliage display a wonderful contrast too. It is truly impressive!
We’ve reintroduced a hanging pot of this plant to our tropical garden collection early last November and today the clumps have multiplied beautifully. The more, the merrier as eventually we would want to have more plants for free! ;)
In fact, we did plant Oxalis triangularis which we named Butterfly Leaves about 3 years ago. Unfortunately, in less than 3 months it just died suddenly, which we attributed to root rot. We must have over watered, thinking that the plant was thirsty when its foliage folded down – how ignorant! Hopefully now, with added knowledge from researching the internet, we’ll know how to care for these lovelies and they’ll stay happy and healthy forever.
Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation -:
- Botanical Name: Oxalis triangularis spp. Triangularis. (Oxalis is from the Greek word ‘Oxis’ meaning acid, which refers to the acidity of the leaves)
- Common Name: Purple Shamrock, Dark Leaf Shamrock, Purpleleaf False Shamrock, Lucky Shamrock
- Family name: Oxalidaceae (wood sorrel family)
- Plant type: An ornamental annual or perennial plant, native to Brazil, South America.
- Light: Filtered sun to light shade, preferably with morning sun and afternoon shade. Tolerates shade, but produces best foliage color and flowering in bright indirect light.
- Moisture: Moderate water requirement during active growing, but water sparingly during dormant periods which most bulbous, rhizomatous and tuberous plants undergo. Water directly onto soil as it does not like wet leaves.
- Soil: Well-drained medium, preferably a mix of coarse sand, tiny pebbles and potting soil. Soil must not be too rich otherwise foliage will prevail over flowers
- Propagation: By division of vegetative offsets from matured clumps or by rhizomes (bulbs). Plant the bulbs about 1-2 cm deep in moist potting mix and set it at a sunny spot. Water sparingly in the beginning and increase gradually but do not over water to avoid rotting. Plantlets will sprout in about 6 weeks. To get more plants from a single rhizome, just break it into smaller pieces and plant them sideways if unsure of which side of the broken piece is up or down.
- Features: Oxalis triangularis is a low growing clump-forming herbaceous plant that reaches a height of 7-10 inches with a spread of 10-15 inches. It forms clumps rather quickly and bears velvety heart-shaped trifoliate leaves like the Shamrock’s foliage, and are fabulously hued in dark maroon-purple with a central blotch of wine-red on each leaflet. The plant is thus called Oxalis triangularis, as an obvious reference to the three-sided leaves that are borne in clusters of 3 and held at tip of slender succulent stems, that can arch downwards due to the sheer weight of the leaves. The clove-like leaves will fold down from sunset till the morning light and even during times of water stress, extreme heat or wind, which is a characteristic of Oxalis. Clusters of dainty, light-pink to lilac or lavender flowers that are funnel-shaped, are borne above the mounds of foliage, creating a stunning contrast.
- Usage: Oxalis triangularis is popularly grown indoors as a potted houseplant or in green houses. In fact, it is the only Oxalis that does relatively well indoors. It is ideal to be grown outdoors too in hanging baskets or mixed containers at porches, patios and decks, or on ground at front of garden beds and borders, even shaded beneath shrubs in woodland garden. Its leaves, flowers and roots are edible, but beware that consumption of its leaves in large quantities is detrimental as they contain oxalic acid.
- Care: Best way of cultivating Oxalis triangularis is in pots or containers. Provide lots of light or sunshine all year round, as it requires excellent light to prevent etiolation. Water moderately and feed lightly during its growing periods, but withhold them during dormancy. Get to know more from other oxalis gardeners at Dave’s Garden.
- Oxalis Images: From Pacific Bulb Society and International Bulb Society.
Here are some subspecies (spp.) of Oxalis triangularis, with some images here:
- spp. Birgit : green leaves, pink flowers.
- spp. Cupido – beetroot-red leaves, pale pink flowers.
- spp. Fanny – mottled green leaves, pink flowers.
- spp. Francis – bright maroon leaves without markings, pinkish lilac flowers.
- spp. Gin-no-mai – blotched green leaves, light pink flowers.
- spp. Irish Mist – speckled green leaves, white flowers.
- spp. Marmer – blotched green leaves, white flowers.
- spp. Mijke – bright, burgundy-red shamrock leaves with red markings, pale pink flowers.
- spp. Papilionacea – green leaves with undersides flushed burgundy, pinkish white flowers.
- spp. Papilionacea ‘Atropurpurea’ – burgundy-maroon leaves with red central markings, pink flowers.
- spp. Sunny – bright, burgundy-red leaves with darker margins, pink flowers.
- spp. Triangularis – dark maroon-purple leaves with a central blotch of wine-red, light pink to lilac or lavender flowers.
There are a few species out of the many (about 800 species) in the genus Oxalis that are classified as invasive weeds in the United States, such as Oxalis pes-caprae, Oxalis corniculata and Oxalis stricta.
We’re so delighted to know that the species ‘triangularis’ and many other cultivated species aren’t classified as such! Hooray, we can continue to grow and enjoy their beauty all year round! :D
Update: 20080914 -
So wonderful to notice that our potted Oxalis have sparkled again with a vengeance, so to speak. We experimented with a couple of changes: 1) relocated to our courtyard where it is cooler with filtered sunlight and away from the harshness of the blazing morning to midday sun, and 2) water thrice weekly instead of everyday. Now, they’re looking so healthy, happy and sporting lots of leaves and pretty flowers as seen in these latest photos. Moreover, leaves do not fold down here in the day as they did previously outside, in hot sun. :)
Update: 20090301 – More recent photos here.
Last edited: March 5, 2012