Shamrocks (Oxalis species) are small trifoliate (leaf structure having three parts) plants with delicate little flowers that bloom on a nearly continual basis.

They grow well in containers and make excellent houseplants that can be placed either indoors or out, depending on the season. These plants are a true pleasure to own and their popularity is on the rise.

It seems to me that five or six years ago, it was a rare treat to see a shamrock in a retail setting, but now they are at every garden center and farmers' market I visit.

I am not surprised at how popular these plants have become. I got my first shamrock when I was 20 years old, as a gift from my grandmother, and it is one of the most visually appealing plants I have ever owned.

During the daylight hours the leaves stand erect on slender stems that lean aggressively towards the light.

At night the leaves fold downward and stay closed firmly together. My first shamrock has been with me for eight years and four houses and I now have two plants, one green and one purple.

When the shamrocks start to get crowded in the pots, I simply split them up and give some away as gifts. It's a fun and easy way to share the plant with friends or even sell them at a place like a farmers' market.

Propagation Shamrocks

Propagation of a shamrock can be done one of two ways. They can be started from seed, but asexual reproduction is the method most growers use.

Asexual reproduction (a mode of reproduction by which offspring arise from a single parent) of a shamrock plant is done by dividing or separating the rhizomes from one plant and then replanting them.

Rhizomes are similar to plant bulbs and are found just beneath the soil. This is a relatively easy procedure that doesn't take very long to complete. First, carefully remove the shamrock, rhizomes and all, from its current pot.

Remove any excess growing medium that may still be attached to the rhizomes and gently separate them. The rhizomes are not connected to one another and will separate easily.

Prepare new containers with your choice of growing medium, provide shamrocks with a well-draining soil for the best results and plant the separated rhizomes with the pointed ends facing upwards.

Be sure the rhizomes aren't planted too deep and leave only the top of each uncovered. Lightly cover the exposed part of the rhizome with more growing medium and water thoroughly.

If the newly planted rhizomes still have shamrock stems and leaves attached, they will droop until the rhizomes begin to root and establish themselves.

I would advise removing any remaining top growth prior to replanting the rhizomes. New growth should appear in a few days after planting.

When caring for a growing shamrock, pay attention to a few key conditions. The first is light requirements.

Shamrocks prefer moderate to bright sunlight. If the stems appear to be stretching and the leaf growth is stunted, this may mean that the plant needs more light.

When watering, be sure to keep the shamrock's soil continuously moist but not soaking. Shamrocks do not grow well during prolonged dry periods.

A well-drained growing medium will allow the grower to water frequently while avoiding the potential of over saturation, which can cause serious problems in the root zone.

When watering a shamrock, allow the water to drain thoroughly from the holes in the bottom of the container. Never let the shamrock sit in standing water. Shamrocks grow best when fertilized once a month. A general purpose fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 will work just fine.

Like other bulb plants, shamrocks can have a dormancy period. About twice a year the leaves can become wilted and the plant may look like it is dying.

When this happens, the grower can cut back on watering, remove the dying leaves, and soon enough the plant will be growing strong again.

Personally, I don't allow my shamrocks to go into their dormant stage and they grow well all year round.

Growth may slow down at times but it doesn't seem to affect the overall health and vigor of the plants. It is up to each individual grower as to whether to allow the dormancy stage or not.

Growing and propagating shamrocks is a great way for novice plant owners to get used to dealing with a plant that can be split apart to form new ones.

Shamrocks should be divided about every year or two. They make wonderful gifts and can also be sold for profit. They are great plants to own and can live for many years.

Shamrocks make an excellent addition to any plant collection. They are both elegant and whimsical at the same time.

As I stated earlier, the leaves close tight together when the sun goes down: a pleasurable event to witness in the evenings.

And, in honor of these great little plants, I would like to close with an expression of mine: "When the day is done and out of sight, they close their eyes and say good night."