Growing Shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day

The shamrock is the traditional symbol of Ireland and of the saint celebrated on March 17th. National Geographic describes the legend of the shamrock saying that St. Patrick, while teaching, used the three leaves of a shamrock from the ground to illustrate the Trinity, which is the Christian belief in God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. St. Patrick’s Day is often celebrated now by wearing green and decorating with the shamrock. Live shamrocks are a fun, green gift to give friends and family on St. Patrick’s Day or to use as decoration in your home or work space. They are easy to grow and will live well beyond March 17th.

Oxalis

Shamrocks can often be found at nurseries and florists as St. Patrick’s Day approaches. It is still debated exactly which species of shamrock should be traditionally worn on St. Patrick’s Day. The shamrocks sold in stores are part of the genus Oxalis which come in a variety of sizes and colors including dark green, light green and even dark purple. Shamrocks also have flowers that vary according to the species. These shamrocks are different from the Trifolium found growing wild in Ireland and traditionally worn on St. Patricks Day (National Geographic.) Oxalis are easier to grow and maintain in containers. To keep a healthy shamrock growing indoors there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Dormancy

According to the University of Vermont Extension, shamrocks go through several periods of dormancy per year. When the plant begins to lose leaves and appear sick it is not dying, it is moving into dormancy. Once this begins, discontinue watering and move your plant to a dark, cool space. The dormancy stage typically last about three months. Once the shamrock starts to show a little new growth, you can resume watering and move it to a location that will receive a good amount indirect sunlight. If placed in direct sunlight the new foliage could burn, damaging the plant.

Repot

Garden Guides suggests that shamrocks be repotted every year. The roots of a shamrock do not grow very deep and prefer to be pot-bound. Therefore, you may not have to transfer to a different pot. Just clean out the container you have been using making sure to wash it thoroughly to prevent disease and replace the potting medium. Use a regular potting mix, mixed with one-quarter sand. This will allow the soil to drain faster. Then plant the rhizome barely below the surface. Repotting is best to do after a dormant period.

Don’t Share Space

The University of Vermont Extension warns that if your plant was received as part of an arrangement with other plants, separate the shamrock into its own container. It will not grow well with other plants. It is important that you do this before the plant moves into its dormancy period. If you wait until the plant begins to look sickly, you will not be able to remove the roots from the other plants without damaging them. Follow the same directions for repotting above to start the shamrock out on its own.
With a little bit of care you can enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day Irish spirit year round. Good amounts of indirect sunlight, moist soil, and attention to the dormancy periods will keep your shamrock looking great! Have you raised a shamrock indoors? What were some challenges you faced?