The true shamrocks are plants of the genus Trifolium and have three-lobed leaves. They are believed to bring good luck in Ireland and are worn on St. Patrick's Day. Trifolium plants are not easy to cultivate indoors and most plants sold as shamrocks in gardening centres are wood sorrels of the genus Oxalis. Oxalis plants produce leaves with three lobes that look similar to true shamrock leaves. There are some Oxalis species and cultivars with purple leaves, and there is also a species of trifolium with purple leaves.
Known as the purple shamrock or love plant, this Brazilian native has purple leaves with three, triangular lobes. It grows from small corms and produces pink or white flowers. The purple shamrock can be grown as a house plant or planted outdoors after the last frosts. It requires moist, well drained soil and bright, indirect sunlight to thrive. Purple shamrock plants die back after flowering and go dormancy for up to three months. Oxalis triangularis leaves close at night or in low light conditions.
Oxalis regnellii atropurpurea
A small purple leaved wood sorrel native to South America, the purple shamrock has purple, three-lobed leaves. It produces lilac flowers during the spring and grows from underground corms. Purple shamrock can be grown outdoors in light shade or indoors in a bright location. It will go dormant and lose its leaves up to three times per year. Do not water during dormancy until the plants shows signs of new growth.
Trifolium repens atropurpureum
Trifolium repens is known as white clover and is a widely grown forage plant. It is a small, creeping plant up to 4 inches tall with green, three-lobed leaves and white flowers. The cultivar T. repens atropurpureum has chocolate-brown to purple leaves with a green outer fringe. It thrives in well-drained but moist soils and light shade.
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