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Low-Maintenance Houseplants: Oxalis Triangularis

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Low-Maintenance Houseplants: Oxalis Triangularis

If you don’t possess the greenest of thumbs, don’t worry! There are plenty of low-maintenance houseplants that thrive with just minimal care, and we’re happy to highlight some of them for you.

First up is the oxalis triangularis. The oxalis family is large and varied, including some rampantly invasive varieties than have given oxalis a bad rep as “garden thugs,” but don’t be too quick to judge all varieties by the bad behavior of a few relatives! Many oxalis varieties are entirely well-behaved and a delightful addition to your home and garden. With varieties hardy in all climates in the United States, there are two that are also good choices for growing indoors as long-lived houseplants – oxalis triangularis and regnelli. Though both are hardy outdoors in zones 6-11, they adapt well to indoor conditions and thrive indoors year round.  With its fanciful and intriguing purple foliage, let’s take a closer look at oxalis triangularis.

Oxalis Triangularis

Oxalis Triangularis Origins

Oxalis triangularis are often referred to as “purple shamrocks.” The plant’s history can be traced back to St. Patrick, who held a similar plant and used the three leaves to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Irish. Oxalis triangularis are not Irish natives, however – instead, they hail from Brazil.

Special Traits

Oxalis triangularis 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. Both the vivid purple color of its leaves and this constant slow motion seems to enchant all who grow it – even “non-gardeners” fall in love this charming beauty. To capitalize on its unusual coloring, containers in silver or chartreuse are especially effective.

Incredibly long lived, oxalis triangularis often become "heirloom plants" passed down from generation to generation within a family. We often hear customers’ stories of the plants becoming a cherished family tradition. One customer told us she was enjoying the same bulbs as their great, great-grandmother who harvested them as a child 107 years ago! Since oxalis triangularis are super simple to plant and grow, they are frequently given as gifts. Choose one of our many pre-planted oxalis gifts, or take it easy on your wallet and make a nice gift by planting four triangularis in an empty soup can with the label removed. Once these are growing, the look is wonderful between the metallic can and deep purple foliage! Let the gift recipient know that these plants have the potential to become treasured, living family heirlooms that will last for generations with little care.

Oxalis Triangularis Gift

Be aware that oxalis triangularis has developed a natural toxicity to protect it from foraging animals. This is a plant that bites back, so take care with pets and small animals.

Basic Care

Oxalis triangularis bulbs look like small, immature pinecones. When planting a container for indoors, go ahead and crowd your bulbs, spacing them just an inch apart for a full look fast. Just poke the bulbs into the soil – any way up is right. Water lightly just once every couple of weeks until new growth appears. In about 6 weeks from planting, your new purple shamrocks will begin to appear, and will fill in to become lush and full soon after. Weekly watering should be light. Too much water will send the plant back into dormancy.

Indoors, keep your oxalis triangularis in a sunny spot. You will find the deep purple foliage really brings out the vibrant green of other plants, and the color contrast makes your other houseplants seem to glow with health.

Please note that oxalis triangularis occasionally go dormant, looking like the entire plant has died. Because this happens generally during the summer every 2-7 years when the plant is indoors, it seems like a serious problem rather than a periodic event. There is no need to toss your beloved triangularis! Simply stop watering and let the soil thoroughly dry. Set the plant aside where it is no longer center stage, but where you will still see it. In a few weeks, you will see a new leaf emerge. That is the time to resume watering. Soon, your purple shamrocks will be lush and full again.

Oxalis Triangularis Purple Shamrock

Grow oxalis triangularis for a long-lived, easy care houseplant with extra charm. Enjoy your purple shamrocks!

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Comments 3
  • Vanessa
    Vanessa

    Hello. I’ve had my plants for 17 years and have propagated many giving to friends and family. They are a joy! I live in NYC and have plenty of light in my apartment. However, when the building recently changed the water tank (I believe is cedar) all my plants, including the oxalis started to get brown as if burned. I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions? I don’t know that the water is the issue because my neighbor’s plants are doing well.

  • thought bubble
    thought bubble

    I’m in southern ontario and dont think it will survive the winter so put it in a hanging basket to bring inside as a houseplant during the cold months. Let us know if you plant it outside and it survives.

    Great article thanks for the tips. Didnt know it was an heirloom plant. Kinda beautiful idea. My kids call it dragon baby plant

  • Linnea Lahlum
    Linnea Lahlum

    How are these outdoors in a garden? someone just recommend them to me when I said I was looking for a purple accent. I am in Zone 5b, Chicago area.

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