them. St. Patrick’s Day is another one that has a particular plant as the chosen
one. We all know shamrocks or oxalis are for the “Luck of the Irish”. Especially
if you find a 4-leaf clover. Do we know why and when all this started? I do
believe almost everyone is Irish on St. Paddy’s Day. This has always been one of
my favorites since my birthday is the day before and I celebrate it on both
days. It really is the reason my parents named me Patty (I was suppose to be
Pamela Sue). The first year St. Patrick's Day was celebrated in America was in 1737 in Boston,
Massachusetts and had it's first official St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City in 1766.
The stories and lore have been numerous on this plant but the earliest story is from
the 5th century. It is said St. Patrick, the saint who brought Christianity to
Ireland used the shamrock as a teaching tool. He took the leaves to his
congregation. St. Patrick wanted to make the Trinity easy for them to
understand. He showed them that each leaf section symbolized The Father, The Son
and The Holy Spirit, explaining that they could exist separately but are also
the same entity or unit. We celebrate using the shamrock as a symbol on the
anniversary of his death not only to honor him on March 17th but also as the season of
rebirth and arrival of a fresh new spring.
The original “Good Luck” shamrocks are not the ones we find at our local garden
shops around St. Patrick’s Day. It is more likely the one in our lawns as a weed
“ White Clover” Trifolium repens. Which is also used as a natural cover
crop or “Green Manure” adding to a better soil quality and fertility but sorry
folks, that will have to be another column.
Shamrock in Celtic means “Trefoil”, three-leafed or little clover. There are over 800
shamrocks in the Oxalis family, one or two of them being what we purchase during
this Holiday. They are native to Chili and South Africa. They have many names,
Oxalis, Fourleaf Clovers, Shamrocks and are also known as Wood Sorrels.
These are the most asked questions I get about Oxalis regnellii and Oxalis regnellii
The green and purple varieties.
How do I
water this plant and do I need to fertilize?
Shamrocks/Oxalis carefully. They grow from a small corms or tuberous roots and can be over
watered easily. Water the soil around the plant never over the top of the
leaves. Let the soil dry slightly, in fact I let mind get very dry then I water
thoroughly. They should not sit in water. Fertilize with a half strength liquid
fertilizer every two weeks. I use an nutrient rich organic liquid fertilizer
once every other watering.
What are the light and temperature requirements?
Put your plant in a well lighted area, otherwise it will not bloom for you. It can
take a sunny window in the winter but backed away from that south window in the
summer. An east or southeast would be perfect. Keep them in a cool room at night
(50-65º) and try to avoid letting them get warmer than 70-75º during the day.
Warmer temperatures will encourage them to go dormant earlier. Their
leaves are light sensitive and close on cloudy days and at night.
Does my Oxalis need to go dormant?
Shamrocks and other Oxalis all need a dormant period each year in order to perform their
best. Some indoor gardeners keep theirs actively growing for years without a
rest period. This is how I grow mine. I have it in a southeast window year
round. Sometimes they will look tired and no matter what you do. If this is the
case, let it go dormant. This will usually be in summer. When this happens, stop
all water and fertilizer, store the plant 4 to 8 weeks where it is cool and
dark. After that period of time, you can either bring it back out, start
watering again and repot it.
Why aren't my Shamrocks blooming?
If the plant has already bloomed in the past year and hasn't had a rest period, it
may just be exhausted and need a few months dormancy. If it is young and hasn't
begun to bloom, it may need more light.
Are they toxic to pets?
Yes, always use caution with all plants whether they are toxic or not.
I will leave you with the meaning of the 4 leaf clover:
the first is for hope, the second for faith, the third for love and the fourth
for luck. Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day.