The Shamrock plant can be a little bit confusing, not because the plant itself is anything special, but because there really isn't one plant that's officially the Shamrock. Some purists call the Black Medic plant the true Shamrock which, around here, is a weed. Others call members of the Clover family the true Shamrock. But if you want a nice houseplant that is also often called Shamrock, or sometimes False Shamrock then look no further than Oxalis.
Oxalis is a member of the Wood Sorrel family. They're perennials in warm climates, but not around Ottawa. Instead, they make a lovely houseplant for St. Patrick's Day. They can easily be used in the garden later on in the season so you can keep your Oxalis for the whole season. If you're really enthusiastic, you can actually dig them up in the fall and keep them over the winter.
It's most common to see two types of these lovely plants around St. Patrick's Day - the green-leaf and the purple leaf. The purple leaf is also sometimes called the Love Plant because of the two-toned leaves and heart shaped lobes. Both colours produce delicate little flowers that persist on and off almost all the time. The green-leaf one typically has white flowers while the purple-leaf more pink flowers. In both cases, the plants are nice and compact so they make great table-top plants, centrepieces, or windowsill plants.
When looking for a houseplant in March when you just want to see colour, Oxalis really are hard to beat. They're very tolerant of light since they naturally grow in slightly shaded areas in the summer. Even an Ottawa sunny window in March is considered shade to a plant. That means you can put them in any bright area of your home without worrying about burning your little friend. Care for a Shamrock in the home is super easy, too. Simply water it well and let it get a little dry in between watering. When they get too thirsty, the leaves start to hang down and fold up so they give you a great indication of when you've gone too far. If you water it right away when you see them fold, they pop back into life. A little bit of food helps them out, too.
Because Oxalis form a type of bulb, if you ignore them too long, they simply let all their foliage die off and go dormant. It's not really something I suggest tying out, but when the plant goes dormant, you can keep it dark to complete it's dormant cycle and then start them up again. A handy feature if you happen to go on vacation and forget about your plant. It's also handy if you decide to plant your Shamrock in your garden for the summer and then dig them back up in the fall for next year.
So when you're sitting at home, itching for green (or purple) in March, grab yourself a Shamrock or two. It's hard to beat the ease of care and pop of colour just when you need that little pick-me-up.