The purple leaves and small flowers of oxalis triangularis are distinctive. It is often called the “false clover” because its leaves resemble those of clovers. It’s not a clover, though-clovers are a form of clover, and that’s anything but!
The almost heart-shaped or triangular leaves move depending on the ambient light. At night, the leaves of the love plant will bend like an umbrella, and the flowers will close. But as soon as the morning comes, they reopen and stretch out to catch the sun.
A variety of purple wood sorrel, this leafy plant is an excellent choice as a decoration. It is delicious both indoors and outdoors, and can be the perfect houseplant. It is easy to maintain as long as it has the right temperature, and it comes back year after year!
For those of us in warm climates, this plant works well both in xeriscaping and in regular landscaping. You will find that it is surprisingly adaptable, as long as you keep it mulched. It can also make an unusual ground cover plant in hot climates!
All About False Shamrock
There is a little confusion about the false clover-namely, what is its botanical name. Officially, it is oxalis triangularis. It is sometimes mentioned as its synonym, oxalis regellii subsp. triangularis.
But despite the confusion of the name, this is a glorious specimen of a plant. The leaves are formed by three distinct leaflets, each triangular in shape. When the sun rises, these leaves open wide to catch the sun’s rays. In the evening, they fold up like an umbrella.
The leaves can be purple, almost black, reddish or green. These differ depending on the subspecies or cultivar, but all show the same sensitivity to light. You can actually go to sunrise or sunset and watch the leaves “wake up” or “fall asleep”!
The leaves will also move in response to bumps or gusts of wind. By folding, the plant protects its foliage from damage.
Types of False Clover
In general, all false clovers belong to one of three subspecies. They are subsp. papilionacea, subsp. lepida, a subsp. glabrifolia.
The three subspecies are very similar, but the color varies. More generally, you will find them sold under specific cultivar names. There are a wide range of names, and many are specific to the company they come from.
We are now dealing with three of these cultivars. Know that this is not all there is! Some species are reddish, others green, and still purple to almost black. The color of their flowers also varies.
Oxalis triangularis ‘Francis’
This bright purple Clover is an absolute delight. One of the most popular cultivated forms, Francis oxalis is a bright purple. White to lavender pink blooms between the leaves during the flowering season.
Oxalis triangularis ‘Charmed jade’
Another false Clover, the Charmed Jade is a brilliant green. If you are looking for a variety that is not in the purple or red range, you are in luck! Although less popular than the dark varieties, it is still an absolute delight. Medium green color with white or ivory flowers.
Oxalis triangularis ‘Ebony look’
Ebony Allure is a delicious cultivar! Zone 7-9 is recommended. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves very quickly, so it is better in partial shade. The leaves can be so dark that they are mistaken for black. The flowers start as a pale pink and Fade to white.
Your love plant will stand. However, a few tips can help your plant really shine. Our care recommendations should help you keep your plant healthy and happy!
Light and Temperature
Your false clover can tolerate a wide variety of lighting conditions. Sun or partial shade are perfect for this beautiful plant. In cooler climates, look for full sun conditions to promote bright colors. Warmer climates should provide shade in the afternoon. Although it can grow in the shade, it requires bright indirect lighting.
It can be grown in zones 7-11, but works best in zones 8-9. Producers in Zone 7 should definitely opt for full sun conditions.
Where it is very tolerant to light variables, it is not as tolerant to temperature changes. Oxalis triangularis does not tolerate frost or extreme heat. Hot conditions can weaken the plant or put it into dormancy. Temperatures below 50 degrees also cause it to fail.
For better growth, keep a temperature range between 60 and 80 degrees for your plant. Never lower it into the 40s or lower without some form of protection. A cold frame can help you extend your outdoor growing season for this plant.
Water And Humidity
Although drought-resistant once established, oxalis triangularis needs water to start. Be sure to maintain an evenly moist soil when the plants are young. Once they have established deeper roots, they can tolerate less water.
Be sure to mulch around the base of these plants to prevent the evaporation of moisture from the soil. A good mulch of wood chips can significantly reduce the need for watering. Three inches of chip mulch can hold water and will help keep the soil moist.
Avoid muddy conditions for your oxalis plants. Stagnant water can create the right environment for the development of fungal ailments.
A well-drained, humus-rich soil is perfect for false clover. It should retain moisture well, but allow the excess to flow freely.
Although oxalis can grow in clay soil, it prefers loose materials that allow the roots to grow deep. Working compost in your soil can help. The addition of coconut can also help relieve the tightness of the floor. Perlite provides drainage in combination with compost and coconut.
If you have introduced compost into your soil, you do not need to fertilize much in the first year. For the next few years, remove the mulch layer. Spread compost on the surface of the soil, then cover it again with mulch.
As a rule, oxalis does well even in poorly fertilized conditions. There is little need to use a commercial fertilizer. You can opt for a slow-release fertilizer, but a quality compost will provide everything your plants need.
Growing Oxalis in containers? Don’t be afraid, repotting is as simple as possible!
Carefully remove the plant from the pot and brush the soil to reveal the roots. If desired, divide the plant. Examine the roots for signs of rot and cut off the damaged parts with sterile scissors.
Prepare your new floor. Make sure that it drains well and that a lot of compost has passed through it. Using the new soil, replant your plant to the depth at which it was planted before. Be sure to leave room at the top of the pot for mulch!
It is usually easier to divide overcrowded plants than to increase the size of the pot.
Pruning oxalis triangularis is actually very simple, and maintenance does not take long.
Remove the used flower stalks as soon as the flowers wither. With a clean pruner, you can cut the STEM at the base of the plant.
In the summer, your plant may begin to go into dormancy. Its leaves may turn brown and it may seem that it is dying. This is a normal reaction to hot weather! Cut the brown leaf about an inch from the base of the plant. If possible, move your plant to a cool, dark place and stop watering for 2-3 months. If you cannot move the plant, cut the leaf to the ground and leave the mulch to keep the base of the plant cool.
Most pests use only the sorrel plant family as a temporary food source. They contain small amounts of oxalic acid, which is an irritant for parasites rather than a benefit.
The few that still strike are very common. Often they appear due to other affected garden plants. If you can eliminate them on your other plants, they rarely strike oxalis!
Aphids are common irritants in gardens. Although these are less likely to strike oxalis plants than others, they can still feed on them. Unfortunately, they can also spread plant ailments. Use neem oil to keep it at bay. Insecticidal soap also works well.
Whiteflies are another nasty sucking pest. They are easy to recognize by the clouds of small white matures that appear in the garden. Neem oil and other horticultural oils can keep them away. An insecticidal soap or a pyrethrin-based pesticide finishs them.
For three of the following ailments, there are simple treatment options. The fourth is a little riskier, but fortunately also less common!