Oxalis is a genus name for a group of plants full of weed foes and ornamental friends.
The well-behaving ornamental members of this plant group are known for having vibrant colors and are believed to bring good luck. Meanwhile, the pesky weeds are known to be a nuisance and may make your blood boil when you try to eliminate them.
Read on to learn how to identify the plants and weeds, how to control the weeds, and the interesting benefits of friendly Oxalis plants.
Oxalis is the genus name for many plants from the Oxalidaceae family, with some sources saying there are as many as 900 in the genus and others saying there are as few as 550.
Sources are also mixed when trying to determine the exact origins of this genus. It’s believed that many of these plant and weed species originated in tropical areas like Africa near the Mediterranean Sea, and South America. Today, it’s found worldwide except in Arctic zones.
The most common type is the Wood Sorrel, which is a common name used to identify all Oxalis plants, although many plants have names of their own.
It is also called by an abundance of other names, including False Shamrocks (because they often are mistaken for clovers and sold as Shamrocks) and more.
House Plant or Weed?
Oxalis can be a friend or foe, depending on which species you are encountering. You will find many plants under the genus name in nurseries, though you may meet some unexpectedly in your lawn. Here are some common plants and weeds:
Common Oxalis House Plants
Oxalis trangularis (Purple Shamrock or Love Plant)
A beautiful purple-leaved houseplant known for its astounding purple flowers. Check availability.
Oxalis deppei (Iron Cross)
Also called the Good Luck Plant, Iron Cross is a popular ornamental plant known for its distinctive four-leaf flower shape. Check availability.
A green-leafed shamrock plant that produces small, white flowers later in the summer. Check availability.
Common Oxalis Weeds
Buttercup oxalis (Bermuda buttercup)
A yellow-flowered plant, also sometimes called Sourgrass, is considered a weed in many parts of the world.
Oxalis dillenii (Southern Woodsorrel)
Also sometimes called the slender woodsorrel, it’s known for having yellow flowers and heart-shaped leaves.
Oxalis corniculata (Creeping Woodsorrel)
Sometimes called Sleeping Beauty, this common lawn weed is known for its yellow flowers and clover-like leaves. Although it’s considered a weed in many areas now, this weed has surprising health benefits, so don’t be quick to pull and toss it.
Oxalis stricta (Common Yellow Woodsorrel)
This weed is found throughout North America and is identified by its yellow flowers and three-parted leaves.
Identifying Oxalis Weeds
Each species of Oxalis has its characteristics and growing patterns that make it unique for identification purposes. It has upright, erect, and slightly hairy stems.
They appear in leaflets of three that are heart-shaped like clovers. The leaves often will fold and hang down during intense heat, light, and cold.
How They Spread
Oxalis is a heavy producer of seeds in spring and summer, but seeds can be produced at any time during the year.
Although it spreads primarily by seed, it can also spread under the ground by horizontal growing stems called rhizomes. That’s why areas of your garden can quickly become consumed by the weeds!
Problems Caused By the Weed Varieties
Due to how quickly they can spread, it can quickly take over your home garden or lawn, making it difficult for other plants to grow. These weeds can become very difficult to control
They also pose a health risk to animals who consume them. The plants have been linked to tremors and kidney issues in dogs, cats, horses, and other animals.
Some people also are allergic to the weed, which often causes skin irritation when touched.
Maintaining and Removing Oxalis Weeds from Your Lawn
The best way to prevent Oxalis weeds is regularly to maintain your yard by feeding it with fertilizer two to four times a year. A thick lawn helps crowd out the weed and prevents seeds from germinating.
Keeping your lawn at the ideal length for your lawn’s type of grass helps to keep these weeds at bay. Longer lawns have the potential to develop a deep root system to fight off the weeds.
Avoid bagging your grass clippings because leaving them on the lawn helps release nutrients back into the soil.
Do not overwater your lawn. Overwatering (and underwatering) leads to bare spots for weeds to take advantage of. Your lawn only needs one inch of water per week.
Dig the weeds up with your hand, hoe, or spade, making sure to remove the entire root system, to get them out of your lawn quickly before they spread. Do not add these weeds to your compost bin for reuse because that will just bring them right back!
Apply a glyphosate spray like one of the following to young weeds before the flowering stage for best results:
- Ortho GroundClear Year Long Vegetation Killer
- Martin’s Eraser Maxl
- Hi-Yield Super Concentrate Killzall Weed & Grass Killer
Well-behaving Oxalis plants like the Purple Shamrock and Iron Cross are gorgeous and have the potential to add ornamental value to houses.
Some species, like the Oxalis corniculata, albeit a weed, are edible with nutritional benefits to humans! This plant is known to aid digestive health and improve the overall immune system.
Caring for Oxalis Plants
The plants prefer a humid environment, so you should use a humidifier if the air is dry in your house. The ideal room temperature should be between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants cannot tolerate room temperatures above 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Your Oxails plant will need to be fed once a month during spring and summer with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer. These plants store energy under its bulbs, so if you forget to water it, that doesn’t mean the plant is dead–it can still grow back!
Wrapping up Oxalis
Now you know the gist of Oxalis plants and how to identify a few of them.
If you feel like you need to learn more about these pesky garden tenants, check out our weeds page to learn all about different weed varieties, treatment options, and surprising information.
- About the Author
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Nicole Kinkade considers herself blessed to have grown up with fresh garden vegetables and fruit readily available. Both sets of grandparents were avid gardeners, and she spent many hours helping them collect the fruits of their labor.
She is passionate about healthy living and loves learning and sharing about nutrition facts. She is also always experimenting in the kitchen and finds joy in writing about what she’s been cooking.
With a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and an Associate’s in Media Communication, she is a passionate writer who loves sharing her knowledge online.
Nicole can be reached at email@example.com