March 13, 2012



The shamrock (Oxalis tetraphylla) is the most recognized symbol of the Irish, especially on St. Patrick’s Day, when all over the world everyone is Irish for a day! According to legend, the shamrock was a sacred plant to the Druids of Ireland because its leaves formed a triad, and three was a mystical number in the Celtic religion. St. Patrick used the shamrock in the 5th century to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as he introduced Christianity to Ireland. In the 19th century it became a symbol of rebellion, and anyone wearing it risked death by hanging. It was this period that spawned the phrase “the wearin’ o’ the green”.

I love specialty plants like this! It only comes around once a year and has such a powerful history. Plus it’s so darn cute! Believe it or not there are 500 varieties of shamrocks. The most common are the solid dark green with a little silver patch in the middle of each leaf, and the deep burgundy colored variety. Shamrocks typically come in 4”and 6” pots and do well with low to moderate light and water. Though we may sometimes find shamrocks as pesky little pests in our lawns, they are not a ground cover plant. In the pot, a shamrock plant will grow upwards- becoming a bushy mound with new sprouts at the top. Some varieties of shamrocks also produce tiny pink and white flowers. 

I’ll bet a pot of gold that you didn’t know that the shamrock was a bulb plant! After you’ve had your potted shamrock for a couple months it will appear to be dead or dying. Don’t throw it out! It is moving into its dormant stage. Leave it in low light with minimal water for 2-3 months then harvest the bulb for re-planting. If you live inUS zone 3 you can plant it outside, otherwise it’s best to keep your shamrock indoors. Oh, and one more tip: even though I have a customer who swears her cats love shamrocks for its “catnip qualities” it is on the ASPCA list of plants poisonous to pets. Maybe she has Irish cats!