How To Grow & Care For Oxalis


Oxalis, often referred to as “wood sorrel” or “false shamrock,” is a fascinating genus of plants known for their unique clover-like leaves and vibrant flowers. These plants are part of the Oxalidaceae family and comprise over 800 different species. Many are native to South America, but they can be found in various climates and regions around the world.

Some Oxalis species are cultivated as ornamental plants, while others grow wild. The leaves of some Oxalis are edible and have a tangy, lemon-like taste, used in small quantities in salads or as a garnish. However, the oxalic acid content in the leaves means they should be consumed in moderation.

Oxalis is also known for its photophilic nature, meaning the leaves open and close in response to light. This movement can be observed throughout the day as the leaves open in response to light and close at night or during cloudy periods. The attractive appearance and unique behavior of Oxalis have made it a popular choice among gardeners and houseplant enthusiasts.

Common NamesWood Sorrel, False Shamrock
Botanical NameOxalis
Plant TypePerennial herb
Mature Size6 to 12 inches tall
Sun ExposurePartial shade to full sun
Soil TypeWell-drained, fertile soil
Hardiness Zones6 to 11
Native AreaSouth America, various regions

Oxalis Care

Oxalis is a versatile plant that can be grown both indoors and outdoors. When grown outside, it often prefers a partially shaded spot, while indoor plants thrive in bright, indirect light. The soil should be well-draining and kept moist but not soggy.

Feeding Oxalis with a balanced fertilizer in the growing season will support its growth. If growing Oxalis indoors, it’s worth noting that some species may go dormant in the winter, losing their leaves before regrowing in the spring. During this time, reduce watering and allow the plant to rest.

Light Requirement for Oxalis

Oxalis prefers bright but indirect sunlight. If grown indoors, a north or east-facing window is usually ideal. Outdoors, a spot with partial shade, especially during the hottest part of the day, will keep the leaves from scorching.

Soil Requirements for Oxalis

Oxalis thrives in well-draining, fertile soil that retains some moisture. A mix of loam and sand, along with some organic matter, can create an ideal growing environment. A pH level of 6.0 to 6.5 is generally preferred.

Water Requirements for Oxalis

Water Oxalis regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Reduce watering during the winter months, especially if the plant goes dormant. Overwatering can lead to root rot, a common problem with Oxalis.

Temperature and Humidity

Oxalis enjoys moderate temperatures, ranging from 60 to 75°F. It can tolerate cooler temperatures but should be protected from frost. Indoor Oxalis benefits from a humid environment, so consider using a humidity tray or room humidifier if the air is dry.


Feed Oxalis with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer during the growing season. Applying fertilizer once a month is usually sufficient. Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to leggy growth and fewer flowers.

Pruning Oxalis

Pruning is not typically required for Oxalis. However, you can remove dead or yellowing leaves and spent flowers to encourage more blooms and maintain a tidy appearance.

Propagating Oxalis

Oxalis can be propagated through division or by using the small bulbs (bulbils) that form at the base of the plant. Simply separate the bulbils or divide the plant and replant them in suitable soil. Water lightly until established.

How To Grow Oxalis From Seed

Growing Oxalis from seed requires patience. Sow the seeds in a seed tray with well-draining soil and cover lightly. Keep moist and in a bright but indirect light. Germination can be slow, often taking several weeks. Transplant the seedlings once they are large enough to handle.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases


Aphids can be washed off with water or treated with insecticidal soap.

Root Rot

Caused by overwatering, ensuring proper drainage can prevent this issue.

Common Problems With Oxalis

Leaf Drop

This may occur if the plant is overwatered or exposed to cold drafts. Correct the watering and protect from cold to resolve the issue.

Failure to Flower

This can result from insufficient light or over-fertilizing. Adjust the light and reduce fertilization as needed.

Pro Tips

  1. Rotate potted Oxalis regularly to ensure even growth, as the leaves will lean towards the light.
  2. Allow Oxalis to dry slightly between waterings to prevent overwatering.
  3. If growing Oxalis as a houseplant, provide extra humidity during winter months when indoor heating can dry the air.
  4. Be patient if your Oxalis goes dormant; reduce care and wait for it to return in spring.