When we think of St. Patrick’s Day, the first image conjured up in our mind is often that of the Shamrock. The three leafed plant used by St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, as a physical example to teach the Irish about the Holy Trinity. It became a fixed symbol associated with St. Patrick and today is often believed to be a lucky charm, by many.
Patrick was a 5th century Romano-British Bishop and missionary who travelled Ireland converting the pagan Irish to Christianity. He was never officially canonized, but was sainted by popular acclaim among the people. He died on March 17th, 460.
Irish began immigrating heavily into the US in the 19th century, bringing with them the folklore of their ancient homeland. They settled thickly in the Appalachian Mountains and became legendary for their love of music, dancing and colorful stories. They brought with them many traditions of their beloved Ireland, including the Shamrock, which is really a three leaf clover.
The tradition began when St. Patrick used the three leaves of young clover to represent The Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit as one. The metaphor became an everlasting symbol for the Irish. Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated worldwide and is observed in more countries than any other national holiday.
The name Shamrock, usually refers to Trifolium dubium (lesser clover), or Trifolium repens (white clover), but today also refers to Medicago lupulina (black medick), Trifolium pratense (red clover) and Oxalis acetosella (common wood sorrel).
The Genus Oxalis encompasses approximately 900 known species. Among those, is the familiar family we see in garden centers today, sold as Shamrock. There are a variety of about 24 plants to choose from and two of the most popular varieties sold for St. Patrick’s celebrations is Oxalis triangularis and Oxalis regnellii. These are commonly found in plant centers and grocery stores around the country.
Oxalis triangularis boasts deep purple triangular foliage and bears lavender colored blooms. Oxalis regnellii bears a green triangular foliage with more rounded corners and white blossoms. These two popular plants are often passed down from generation to generation, mother to daughter and are a cherished plant among enthusiasts.
However, with so many to explore, we are seeing more and more varieties appear in garden centers, each with their own distinct characteristics. The Shamrock plant makes a lovely hostess gift for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, or pick one up for yourself and bring home a little luck of the Irish! It is an easy to care for plant and practically kill-proof even for the most neglectful gardener.
With several varieties to choose from, you can find a nice diverse selection ranging in color from deep red foliage with lavender colored blooms, to light green foliage with white blossoms. The Shamrock plant has three leaves, some slightly rounded or more heart shaped and some offering triangular leaves such as is common with the Purple Leaf Shamrock.
If you find a plant simply called Shamrock Plant, it is most likely Oxalis regnellii. It is one of the most popular Shamrock plants sold at St. Patrick’s Day and can be found in grocery stores around the country. It features green triangular leaves with slightly rounded corners and bears white blossoms.
If you summer your Shamrock outdoors, turn the pot on its side in the fall. Let it dry out and stay outside for the first couple of frosts before bringing it in. Spread the contents of the pot out on a tray and dry completely until around Christmastime. Repot with new soil and resume care and it will be ready for bloom for Sat Patrick’s Day.
Even though you may not think about Shamrock plants as anything other than a St. Patrick’s Day decoration, you may be surprised at the attachment you can form with these plants. They are grown primarily for their foliage, which can be quite striking, but they also add a point of interest with their blossoms and photophyllic nature. Seeing your little shamrock plant closed up at night does nothing but add to their charm.
Grown in the house, care is very easy, with good potting soil, proper drainage, and bright light but not intense sun. Don’t be alarmed when you see your shamrock plant leaning toward the source of light or when you see stems drying out. It is what the plant does periodically and is part of the natural process of this plant. A typical houseplant fertilizer, monthly will benefit the shamrock during the spring and summer growing seasons.
Even in Ohio, gardeners often use the Shamrock plant as a border plant and in window boxes during the summer. The bulbs can then be dug up in the fall and dried out over the winter to replant in the spring for summer long blooms.
Shamrock plants come from warm climate regions where their dormant period comes from the dry season as opposed to our cold season. Experts claim that you cannot kill a shamrock plant from under watering and all you need to do is start watering it again and it will begin to grow. Keep in mind tough, that you can kill it by over-watering so good drainage is a must.
The shamrock plant is known to be passed down from mother to daughter as tradition among enthusiasts and brings a sense of mystery and delicacy to any indoor garden. St Patrick’s Day comes but one a year, the shamrock plant brings joy year round. So go ahead, grab yourself a little pot of gold and watch it bring you lots of joy and perhaps a little luck!
This year you will be able to find Ruby’s Burgundy Shamrock at Hook’s Greenhouse when we open in April. This variety is especially suited to fairie gardens with its compact size and tiny foliage. Yellow blooms against deep burgundy foliage makes a striking scene and will add color and interest to your fairie world. This lovely plant will live happily among your succulents and other miniature plants. Need tips on creating your own fairie garden? Stay up to date with our blogs and Facebook for more information, we will be readily posting helpful tips on many gardening ideas. We have much in store for our customers this year and opening day is right around the corner.