Diary Of A Green Thumb
We are hoping that with Saint Patrick’s Day on the way, spring will be following shortly after. Until then we are still limited to enjoying our indoor potted plants. There couldn’t be a better time to give or receive an “oxalis” or “shamrock” plant, and bring home a bit of good luck!
The name “shamrock” derives from the Irish word, seamorg, meaning “little clover.” While the four-leaf clover symbolizes good luck, the shamrock has only three leaves. It is an Irish-Christian belief that Saint Patrick used its three leaves to symbolize the father, Son and Holy Spirit of the trinity. In the 19th century, the shamrock became a symbol of rebellion against the English, and was strongly associated with Irish identity.
Various members of the wood sorrel family, such as oxalis, are sold as shamrocks for Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. These clover look-alikes are easier kept as houseplants. Clovers have rounded leaves, while the oxalis plants have a more triangular shape. The oxalis may bud yellow, pink, white or purple flowers, and leaf color ranges from green to dark red. They respond best to moderate, indirect light and moist soil. I suggest watering the soil from underneath the leaves, rather than from the top of the plant. This helps to keep the stems from rotting.
In very cool temperatures, the oxalis plant tends to go dormant and keep its size. As it gets warmer, you will notice growth. The stems will get taller and leaves a bit larger.
Shamrock plants are cared for in a similar way. They like cool air and moist soil to keep them looking strong, although shamrocks are very hard to care for, and tend to turn fairly quickly. They go dormant two or three times each year. During dormancy, let the leaves die back, and stop watering completely. Leave the soil dry and store in a dark room.
At the end of a cycle, little sprouts will begin popping up. It is then time to divide the plant, if desired, and go back to regular watering, keeping the soil moist. Shamrock plants have simple root systems, which allow us to plant them close together, creating dense clusters for ground cover, or a full, lacey gathering in a ceramic pot. Whether it is a shamrock or an oxalis plant you will enjoy this Saint Patrick’s Day, it is all a matter of how lucky it makes you feel. To receive one from a friend makes you even luckier!
Please feel free to write to us with gardening questions or tips for our readers at: Danielle’s Rockaway Florist @ 436 Beach 129 Street.