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BONNIE'S GARDEN--The Luck of the Irish

The word “Shamrock” derives from the Gaelic “seamair ‘og” or field clover.  Botanically, however, no one is 100% sure exactly which variety of plant is the one referred to as shamrock. 

A 1988 survey done in Ireland by the director of the Irish National Botanic Garden found that about half the people surveyed thought of the native clover (trifolium dubium—a small yellow-flowered clover) as a shamrock while a smaller number thought of the native white clover as the shamrock.  Less than 1% thought of the native white oxalis (Wood Sorrel) as a shamrock.  Oxalis regnelli is the one most often seen in stores sold as a shamrock.  It’s not even native to Ireland—it’s native to South Africa.

Still, it’s the spirt that counts, so here’s how to take care of the “shamrock” that you just bought.  While it’s blooming, keep it in bright light—several hours of direct morning sun or afternoon sun (after 1:30 or so) is best.  Water when the soil is dry to the touch on top.  Feed with any good houseplant food (African violet fertilizer works well).  Because they grow from tubers, after they finish blooming, “shamrocks” often begin to look “tired.”  What this means is they are ready to go into dormancy.  At this point, withhold water and allow the plant to die back naturally.  Once it has, store the tubers in the pot somewhere dark and dry (a closet) for about six or eight weeks. 

After its “nap” bring the pot back out into a bright window and begin watering.  Once fresh new little leaves appear, begin feeding as usual.  

There are other varieties of “shamrock”  you’ll often find—some you can find very inexpensively in the  summer-flowering bulb section of your garden center.  Oxalis Triangularis or Purple Shamrock has pretty purple foliage topped with pale lavender-pink flowers.  It is winter-hardy here and can be planted outside.  Oxalis Deppei or Iron-Cross Shamrock has leaves with a burgundy blotch in the center, topped with rosy pink flowers.  It is also winter-hardy here.  Both of these should be planted in at least a half-day of sun and well-draining soil. 

Whichever variety you try, these all are easy and rewarding plants.  Whether these are the traditional shamrocks or not, we’re still pretty lucky they’re so easy to grow.
Posted: 3/14/2016 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: Bonniesgarden
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