Luck of the Irish

This Thursday is Saint Patrick’s Day, and Americans traditionally celebrate with two symbols for this special day by wearing green and enjoying the beauty of the “lucky clover,” better known as a Shamrock (Oxalis plant). The Shamrock was chosen as Ireland’s famous emblem because a popular legend of St. Patrick states the Shamrock was used to illustrate the Holy Trinity’s doctrine.

The common name for Shamrock plants is Oxalis. Clover plants will begin appearing in nurseries In early March. The plants have soft, thin, triangular leaves divided into three or four leaflets forming the clover. Oxalis crassipes, the green-leafed version, has small delicate white flowers and Oxalis Triangularis, or False Shamrock, has dark purple leaves with pinkish lavender flowers. Shamrocks can be grown both as houseplants and outside in the flower garden.

Oxalis crassipes make gorgeous mounds of light green foliage as an outdoor plant. It often begins blooming in late winter but flowers more heavily in the spring. Though Oxalis will invade the lawn, you can grow it along the edge of a sidewalk or flower border. It can also be grown in containers or a rock garden.

The Oxalis foliage dies back in the summer’s heat. Cut the leaves back severely when this occurs. In late summer, the plant will reward you by sprouting and adding new foliage, and blooming again. Clover is often used as a cover crop and is high in nitrogen to condition the soil.

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