Shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day

Kelly Heidbreder
Kelly Heidbreder

I couldn’t help myself. I had to toss pots of tulips and hyacinth that were just starting to bloom in my cart when I visited my favorite garden center.


And who can pass up the adorable shamrocks? I snagged a couple of those too. I just feel better having a small pot of luck on my desk to get me through the day with a smile.


The odds of you finding a four-leaf clover in a big patch of turf are estimated at 10,000 to 1. I can lay on my stomach for hours without spotting one, usually giving up on my search and giving in to a nap.


My daughter, Hannah Jo, is the one with the keen eye that can pluck a four leaf clover from the turf. She can find a couple within minutes. I think they are magnetized to her fingertips or she has superpowers. Hmm…


St. Patrick’s Day


St. Patrick gets the credit for making the shamrock popular. Back in 432 A.D. he used the symbol of the shamrock as a symbol for the church. One leaf of a shamrock is for faith, hope, love and the last one is for luck. Some Irish traditions believe the three-leaf clover represents the Holy Trinity for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the special fourth leaf symbolizes God’s Grace.


He died over 1,500 years ago on March 17, and that day still holds his memory with that three or four leaf lucky charm. It has been a tradition in Ireland since 1903, first at the Church. Then in the 1960’s the celebration spilled over into the local pubs.




All four-leaf clovers are shamrocks, but not all shamrocks are four-leaf clovers. Irish luck comes in many colors like green, green and white and even purple. My favorites are purple shamrocks. I think it is because I grew up in Blissfield, Mich., and our school colors are purple and gold.


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


Some plants like pepperwort, water clover and oxalis always grow four leaves. But some historians say these are not the original shamrocks.


The original shamrock of Ireland is trifolium repens forma minus, also known as white clover. Trifolium repens clovers are bright green with faint white ring near the base of the leaf. The fourth leaf is usually a little smaller than the rest. Their stems are also smaller than their cousins. Marsilea quadrifolia is similar in color, but the plant will usually produce four leaves on each stem and all leaflets will be the same size.


Braided roots


The roots are like bulbs, but they 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.


If your shamrocks start to look weak, try replanting them in fresh soil. This happens if they are left in the same pot 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.


Give them a rest


When the blooms start to die off, your plant is ready for some time off. Pull off the brown leaves and let it dry out and rest for about a month. Stop watering it and put it a dark spot. Once you see a few sprouts start up again, 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.

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