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St. Patrick’s Day Flowers

Growing of the green will add cheer to damp, cold March 

      I remember as a kid sitting in a field of clover searching for one with lucky four leaves. Finding one never failed to make me feel like I was about to come upon a pot of gold.
     To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day horticulturally, you can grow the traditional shamrock plant, Oxalis regnelli, which usually is found in grocery stores and nurseries around this time of year. Its bright-green color and white flowers are cheery on damp, cold March days.
     Oxalis regnelli likes to have a half-day of bright, indirect light. If you start with the funny looking little bulblet, bury it one to one and one-half inches deep, each bulblet three or four inches apart. Plant in well-drained soil-less media and give it about one-third cup of water per week. Let the soil dry out between waterings as it will rot if it is constantly wet. If you forget to water, let’s say for months, it will shrivel up. Do not despair as the little bulblets remain alive and will come back if you water them.
     There is a purple form, Oxalis triangularis, with three purple heart-shaped leaves at the end of the petiole (stem) and tiny, pale pink to white flowers that are perfect places for fairies to hide. These are great plants to use in the fairy gardens that are very popular with children today. The purple-leaved oxalis also goes by the name love plant, purple shamrock or false shamrock. As a houseplant, its leaves can be toxic to pets.
      You can plant this one outside in a very well drained soil that does not get soggy. Choose a microclimate in your yard that provides full sun to light shade. Help it approximate Zone 8 by planting near a rock wall, driveway or body of water like a pond or even a pool. The sunnier the location, the more flowers you can expect. After flowering, the leaves need to photosynthesize to promote better flowering for the next growing season.
      Another great flower for St. Patrick’s Day is Bells of Ireland. Beautiful, one- to two-foot-tall stems are covered in green bells all the way down the stem. A bouquet of Bells of Ireland along with an Irish beer will surely transport you to the green island where the fairies dwell. Your bouquet can be purchased from your local florist.
      Bells of Ireland can be grown from seed, started indoors at 55 degrees during germination. Germination can take as long as 35 days. Do not cover the seeds as light is necessary for their germination. They also can be sown in early spring when the soil is between 50 and 60 degrees. Bells of Ireland will grow in sun to partial shade. Remember to kiss the Blarney Stone when you plant them.
Maria Price founded Willow Oak Herb and Flower Farm and is now proprietor of Beaver Creek Cottage Gardens, a small native and medicinal plant farm.