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Published: Wednesday, 3/14/2012

COMMENTARY

Endless search for shamrocks

BY KELLY HEIDBREDER
BLADE COLUMNIST

Have you ever found a four-leaf clover? We used to spend hours plucking through a patch of clover in the lawn on our bellies, looking for what we thought was magic. Unfortunately, I haven’t been lucky enough to find a shamrock, but my daughter has the gift and has found a few.

If you want to add more lucky clover to your garden, it makes a great ground cover where no other grass will grow. But, watch out. Lespedeza cuneata is usually planted for erosion control or to feed the cows and also can invade the rest of your turf.

Try another, less aggressive cousin — Lespedeza thunbergii. It also is known as small bush clover and is a beautiful flowering shrub with tiny green leaves. Thunberg’s bush clover is a small flowering shrub. The flowers are a rosy purple and it blooms from late summer through fall and looks like a flowering waterfall. Plant it with purple sage and silver-leafed artemisias for a show stopping combination.

Indoor shamrocks

According to Amy Stone, Ohio State University Extension Agent for Lucas County, there are hundreds of species of oxalis.

“Two that are commonly grown for gardeners to enjoy indoors are the Irish shamrock [Oxalis acetosella] and the good-luck plant (Oxalis deppei). Both have green leaves and small white or red blossoms. The good-luck plant has white streaks running along the leaf vein. When selecting an oxalis, look for a plant with flowers and lush, healthy foliage,” she says. “To do their best, shamrock plants require direct sun.”

Pot-o-shamrocks

Some plants such as pepperwort, water clover, and oxalis always grow four leaves. Some say these are not the original shamrocks. According to the Academic American Encyclopedia, the original shamrock of Ireland is trifolium repens forma minus, also

known as white clover. Trifolium white clover doesn’t always have four leaves, but when it does produce the fourth one, it is usually smaller than the other three.

Trifolium repens clovers are bright green with a faint white ring near the base of the leaf. The fourth leaf is usually a little smaller than the rest. Their stems also are smaller.

“While the ‘shamrock’ that St. Patrick plucked was most likely white clover [Trifolium repens], it can be difficult to grow indoors. Because of this, the shamrock plants that are seen in garden centers this time of year are usually species of oxalis or wood sorrel,” Mrs. Stone says.

Marsilea quadrifolia is similar in color, but the plant usually will produce four leaves on each stem and all leaflets will be the same size. Oxalis deppei has green leaflets with dark purple markings in the center of its leaves, longer stems, and all leaflets will be about the same size.

My favorites are purple shamrocks. Oxalis regnellii triangularis has three dark plum leaflets and long stems with lighter purple markings in the center of the leaflets.

Braided roots

The roots are like bulbs, but aren’t round or oval like a bulb. Their roots look like a braid of thick stems. Like any other houseplant, they like indirect sun and moderate moisture. Give them a little fertilizer in their water and they are happy. Their bulbs go into a period of dormancy usually in the winter and late summer.

Start over

You know they are ready for a rest when the leaves stop sprouting and the whole plant starts looking weak. Pull off the brown leaves and let it dry out and rest for about a month.

When you see a few sprouts start up, bring it back into indirect light and give it a bit of fertilizer in its water. They will reemerge in the early spring to leaf out for a few months. If your shamrocks start to look weak, try replanting them in fresh soil.

This happens if they are left in the same ot for many years. Be careful not to plant them too deep. The braids should be planted about a half inch to an inch below the soil surface.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at getgrowing@gmail.com.



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