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Oxalis in my garden

by Rebecca Sweet

I love Oxalis in my garden.

No, not the horribly invasive oxalis that has taken over my lawn, but the colorful and well-behaved hybrids available in nurseries everywhere.

Come and take a look….

My favorite Oxalis of all is ‘Sunset Velvet’.  This variety is an evergreen trooper, happily growing in my Zone 9 garden for many years. Planted in bright shade, it has survived the hottest days and the coldest nights (down to the high 20′s without a complaint!)

In spring, its delicate bright green foliage is beautifully complimented with its red stems.

As the temperatures warm up, the lime green turns to shades of terra cotta and peach, and the plant is soon covered with zillions of happy little yellow flowers (lasting for months.)  As fall and winter settles in, the shades intensify with oxalis putting on its best show yet.

One of the things I love best about this variety is the way in which is blends with just about any container you might have – terra cotta, ceramic, tile, zinc – you name it, it’s a natural companion.  And speaking of companions, plant ‘Sunset Velvet’ near tumbled bricks and you have a color echo made in heaven!

Another favorite of mine is Oxalis ‘Burgundy Bliss’, with its dusky shades of maroon and olive green.  I’m a sucker for the color maroon, and anything that falls within this color range, so this one’s a natural for me.

I love it most when its little yellow flowers are in bloom, as they add a whole new dimension to any planting scheme.I’m particularly fond of planting this variety in containers made of darker materials, like the faux bois one above, or the burnished copper windowbox.The dark plum foliage of Oxalis triangularis ‘Charmed Wine’ is much larger than the above varieties, and has more of a traditional shamrock shape.

The triangularis varieties tend to fold their leaves down at night, forming tight little clusters, only to re-open again in the morning giving them the common name of ‘Butterfly Shamrocks’.I’ve had many people tell me they’re not quite sure how to incorporate the vibrant (and somewhat garish) tones of the ‘Charmed Wine’ foliage within their containers.

I like to pair them with a plant that has similar (yet subtle) shades, like this plectranthus ciliatus, creating unexpected color combinations.   I can also imagine this oxalis planted with many of the different heucheras with similar colors under their leaves.

With such a wide variety of colors, combined with a tough and resiliant nature, what’s not to love about these plants?  These oxalis are welcome in my garden anytime! 


Rossie June 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Hi Rebecca, Thank you so much for everything – you are my inspiration to keep gardening! But you gave me a bit of a shock – oxalis, then I realized is not the one I hate. What a lovely combination, I’m off to the nursery today to buy one. A big fan of yours from Sydney, Australia

Rebecca Sweet June 22, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Hi Rossie – what a lovely comment. Thank you so much, you truly made my day! And yes, I hate that obnoxious weed just as much as you do, but I love its relatives!!

Cherie June 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Oxalis always reminds me of my grandmother, Rebecca. She had it lining all of her flowerbeds. Thanks for bringing up those sweet memories for me….. c:

Rebecca Sweet June 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Your grandmother used oxalis, Cherie? How wonderful! What variety – do you know?

Laura June 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm

The first winter we had in my home I was horrified when the oxalis started sprouting everywhere. The previous owner did nothing to control it so it was everywhere. Eight years later I have it under control, and every year there is less and less. When I first saw the ornamental oxalis I was horrified. It took me eight years to finally use it in my garden. I only bought two plants, a variegated variety, which hasn’t bloomed yet and a burgundy one that I haven’t planted yet.

Love your containers, and I have to confess that I love maroon too. The triangularis is so pretty.

Rebecca Sweet June 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Oh, Laura, I feel your pain. My lawn is completely overrun with oxalis. But since I don’t want to use chemicals I guess I’ll just live with it and learn to love the yellow flowers woven throughout! But when it’s sprouts through my groundcover of thyme, forget it. There’s no recovering from that hot mess and I just end up ripping the whole thing out and starting over. I hate that weed! But LOVE it’s cousins!!!

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