Total Oxalis Genus Guide

22 Jun 2022

This genus is a very diverse group of small herbaceous plants. They are commonly used as garden ornaments, and so the diversity can be really nice if you choose to use several kinds in your garden.

Within this article, we’re going to teach you exactly how to care for the Oxalis genus so that you can achieve success if you decide to plant some yourself.

Main Characteristics

This genus is not always called Oxalis, but is commonly referred to as Wood Sorrels or Fake Shamrocks.

This garden ornamental can not only be used in a garden but can also thrive as a houseplant if you’re so inclined.

Commonly flowers from this genus will be easy to take care of, and their variety in size and colors make for some very cute combinations.


There are so many different varieties from this genus that it would be impossible to list them all here, there are more than 500 different kinds in fact. But these are some of the more popular ones…

  • Oxalis adenophylla: Or otherwise known as the “silver shamrock” is great for groundcover in gardens, and has beautiful silvery-blue foliage with pink flowers that show up in the spring.
  • Oxalis tetraphylla: This variety features leaves with four different leaflets that have purple blotches in the middle, and sport pink flowers. Because of its appearance it’s known as the “iron cross”.
  • Oxalis oregana: During the spring and summer the “redwood sorrel” will display white or pink flowers, and it has cute silver foliage all year-round.
  • Oxalis vulcanicola: Between this variety’s orange foliage and golden flowers that sprout in the spring and summer, it truly lives up to its other name “Molten Lava”.
  • Oxalis triangularis: Better known as simply “purple” oxalis, this variation has purple and burgundy foliage, and white flowers with a charming pink tint to them.

How Big Does It Get?

Although the size will vary slightly from variation to variation, most varieties of this genus will grow to be about 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) tall and about 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) wide as well. But some smaller varieties may never grow taller than 6 inches (15 centimeters).

How Fast Does It Grow?

If these plants receives proper care and plenty of lighting then foliage typically starts appearing around the 3 to 4 week mark. You can expect the flowers to arrive a bit later, around the 10 week point.

As far as the actually growth rate goes, growth will probably be at a speed of about 0.8 to 1 inch (2 to 2.5 centimeters) per week.

How Long Does It Live?

This genus is known for having a very long lifespan, and in fact these plants are often passed on from generation to generation. Although these varieties do go dormant from time to time, which makes it seem like they’ve died, rest assured that they haven’t!

Varieties from this genus or perennials which mean that they can live anywhere from 3-15 years, but closer to 15 if you take proper care of them.


Of course one of the main questions that people have when they get a houseplant is if it’s safe to have around children and pets. So we’ll briefly cover whether or not this genus is toxic.

Is It Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?

If ingested by a dog or cat, this genus could cause serious harm such as kidney damage to the animal. For this reason, you should place it somewhere out of reach of your pets just to be safe.

If you’re looking for a non-toxic houseplant option then the Hens and Chicks plant could be ideal for you.

Is It Poisonous to Humans?

This genus is also toxic to humans, and if it is ingested then the poison control center should be contacted immediately! It can cause serious harm, especially if large amounts were ingested.

Oxalis Care

Caring for an Oxalis is an easy task as long as you follow the basic guidelines. They are very low maintenance and as such, are very good for beginners to get the hang of gardening.

How Often to Water It

None of the variations need to be watered very often, and doing so could actually result in damaging the plant. So the best rule of thumb, is to water the Oxalis plant about every 1 to 2 weeks.

Most of the time, two weeks is best. But if you feel like your plant needs to be watered then check the soil, the top 2 centimeters (0.7 inches) of the soil should be dry before you water it.

And there are some exceptions that will change how often you water your Oxalis. It will need less water in low light and more water in better lit areas.


Since standing water is such an issue for these plants, drainage is important much like with the Eucalyptus plant. First and foremost, you’ll want to choose a well drained soil to use. And furthermore, Oxalis varieties tend to do well in pots that can be easily drained if need be.


The trimming and pruning process is very important to these varieties, given how much they grow. And during their dormant stages are the best times to do it in order to keep the plant thriving and looking healthy.

  • Trim off the flowers once they’ve died, clip them back to the stem’s base.
  • Trim the foliage once it has died and turned brown, leave about an inch (2.5 centimeters) of foliage above the soil. Or alternatively you could cut it back to the soil but make sure not to cut the crown of your plant.

How to Transplant It

If the plant grows to become too big for its current pot, or is no longer allowing proper drainage then you might have to repot it.

There are a few main steps for the replanting process…

  1. Take the plant out of its current pot.
  2. Remove any excess soil by gently shaking your plant.
  3. Take this opportunity to trim damaged roots off.
  4. Ready the new pot for your Oxalis and fill it with soil.
  5. Place your plant in its new pot.
  6. Water as necessary.
  7. Put your new pot back where your old pot was, unless you want to switch locations.

Environment Conditions

As any gardening lover will know, the correct environment is important to keep plants at their healthiest. So let’s take a look at what this genus needs to thrive.

Light Requirements

Ideally Oxalis would be kept in bright lighting, but that lighting needs to be indirect. So if you’re keeping your plant in front of a window then it can handle direct sunlight because the window will help filter some of it.

But if you’re keeping your plant outside then it needs to have access to some shade, direct outdoor sunlight will harm it.

Keep in mind that the Oxalis grows towards the light, so in order to ensure even growth you’ll need to remember to rotate your plant regardless of where you place it.

Best Soil

The key to finding the right soil for the Oxalis is to make sure that it is a well drained soil. Oxalis varieties do well in moist but not wet soil.

If possible, it would be best if you could select a premium indoor potting mix. But less expensive options will do.


For the majority of the time fertilizing an Oxalis is unnecessary, but you will need to fertilize it during the growing season about every one to two weeks.

As far as the type of fertilizer you need, a balanced liquid fertilizer would work well but make sure to dilute it to half strength before you use it, otherwise it might be too strong. The best part of using liquid fertilizer is that you can slip it right in the with the water.

Best Pot

There are two main requirements for the type of pot you plant your Oxalis in, and they are fairly simple to keep in mind.

  • Don’t put another plant in the pot with your Oxalis, it will need all the space to itself.
  • And don’t choose a shallow pot, Oxalis varieties do the best in deeper pots.

Optimal Temperature Range

In general, these plants do the best in warmer weather rather than in cold. If temperatures drop too much and your Oxalis is outside, then you should consider putting your plant into storage until the weather warms up.

But as far as comfortable temperatures go, the Oxalis will perform its best in temperatures between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-21 degrees Celsius).

If temps go up past 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) then there could be potential issues, and the farther the temperatures go up the more likely it is that your Oxalis will force itself into dormancy in order to protect itself.

Humidity Level

Oxalis plants are very easy to please when it comes to humidity, aside from extreme conditions your plant will probably be happy in most humidity levels. But it isn’t able to thrive in places with high humidity such as plants like the Begonia.

And especially if you’re keeping your Oxalis indoors you have nothing to worry about, a typical room’s humidity will be perfectly suitable which is about 30-50% humidity.

Indoors vs. Outdoors

If you wish to plant your Oxalis outdoors then you’ll need to live somewhere with zones between 6 and 11.

Otherwise your plant would be better off indoors, and it would best if you kept it either in a greenhouse or inside your home.


It’s hard to say when you will see the very first bloom because there are so many varieties of the plant and each variety will have its own unique timeline.

But some of the most popular varieties will bloom yearly during the spring, fall, and winter. These cheerful little white flowers will help give spaces a more springtime feel during the winter.

As was mentioned before, varieties of this genus will be dormant during the summer, so you can’t expect any flowers around that time. So if you’d like an option that flowers in the summer then you could consider getting a Hosta.

How to Grow It

But now onto what may be the most important part of this guide, the information on how to handle growth in your chosen Oxalis variety.


In the springtime after you’ve noticed that your Oxalis is growing, you’re going to need to divide the plant so that it doesn’t go wild within its pot.

You can do this by simply removing the plant from the pot as if you’re going to repot it, and then separate the small bulbs from the large bulbs. Because the small ones will be the new growth.

Make sure to put your original plant back in its own pot, and then you can plant all of your new Oxalis growth in different pots if you’d like to.

How to Plant the Bulbs

Propagating is fairly easy to do with these varieties plants so these steps will be very simple.

  1. In order to propagate your recently divided plant you should place the newly removed parts in its own pot and cover it with the soil of your choosing.
  2. Then choose a place with the proper environmental conditions, keep it watered, and soon you’ll have yet another healthy Oxalis growing.

Growing from Seeds

If you’d rather not propagate from a mature plant in the way that was listed above then you could instead choose to grow your plant through seeds. This should be fairly simple to do.

  1. Firstly, sow the seeds. Make spaces for them wherever you choose to plant them, with 1 inch (2.5cm) in between each seed.
  2. Cover them with the soil, you only want about 1/8 of an inch (0.3cm) of soil left above the seeds.
  3. Keep them watered properly, and soon you’ll see the beginning sprouts springing out of the soil!

How to Revive It

No matter how well you take care of your houseplants, it’s always possible that something will go wrong and the plant will become ill. In that unfortunate case, here are some tips on reviving your sick Oxalis and information on common ailments.

Root Rot

Overwatering can be a big issue for plants in this genus, and sadly it can lead to root rot which can result in the death of the plant. Root rot is caused by overly soggy soil or water logging.

Other than being careful about how much you water it, you can also take some others steps to prevent root rot such as putting your plant somewhere the sunlight can dry the soil faster.

But if your plant does contract root rot then it might not be too late, check to see if all the roots are mushy and if they aren’t then you can still save it through replanting.

Getting Yellow

There are many reasons why an Oxalis would have its leaves begin to turn yellow and possible even wilt. Most of the reasons aren’t overly dangerous for you plant though, so as long as you’re on top of things it should be fine.

  • Overwatering is one reason why leaves might be turning yellow, and you can prevent this by having well drained soil and holes in the pot. But if you think your yellow leaves are caused by this, then cut back on the watering until the soil is dry.
  • Aging is another potential cause, and if this is the case then you will probably notice the yellowing the most in the large leaves at the bottom of the plant. The best way to combat this is to pluck the dying leaves off the plant.
  • And during the dormant period, all the leaves will turn yellow or brown and fall off but this is perfectly normal. At this point you should remove the leaves and set your plant in a cool, dark for around 3 months to let it have its rest.

Spots On Leaves

Fungal leaf spots are unfortunately fairly common in these plants, particular varieties like the purple shamrock. These are commonly seen when the area is too moist and the leaves are wet for extended amounts of time.

But fungal growth can happen when you overwater nearly any plant, take the Calathea as another example.

Why Is It Drooping?

If you begin to notice drooping then it could be one of two things. Number one, is that its slipping into dormancy and the other is that you’ve overwatered it.

If it’s becoming dormant then you can put it into storage and wait for it to revive itself, or you could put it in a room with a chilly temperature to speed up the process. But never let the temperature drop below freezing.

If you’re overwatering it then take the necessary precautions that have been mentioned: check the soil for extra moisture, put the plant in the sun, and make sure not to overwater it again.


A variety in this genus can be a great houseplant or addition to your outdoors garden, and with all the different varieties it is easy to find one that fits your tastes.

Although it can be susceptible to certain issues, overall it is a very easy genus to take care of and it grows very efficiently. So especially if you’re new to gardening, this would be an ideal option for you.

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