Red and green foliage plants

Oxalis (Purple Shamrock / False or Love Plant)

Purple Shamrock Care Guide

Light

Oxalis is not overly fussy with its light requirements. The species with purple leaves will take less bright areas than its all green leaf cousins.

However for a good looking plant you’re going to want an area which receives bright light, or even some sun for a few hours a day. Don’t overdo the sunshine though, too much sun will damage the leaves.

The leaves move throughout the day, often turning to face light sources. During the day with good light hitting the leaves, they should open wide and then as the day draws to a close the leaves close slightly. If you’re not seeing any movement with the leaves at all, then it could be an indication that the plant is in a dark position and needs a bit more light.

Watering

Ideally soak the soil and then allow the top inch or so to dry out before watering again. Although irregular and random watering is not a problem here, in fact the plant can often go months without adverse effects especially when it’s cooler.

If it’s very warm or it sits in a very bright spot you will need to make an effort to water regularly, because if things get too dry the plant will die back.

Humidity

A misting once in a while to help keep the leaves free of dust would be appreciated. But the Purple Shamrock is easy going when it comes to humidity levels and so there is no need to worry about it or mist on a regular basis.

Feeding

Feeding only needs to be done infrequently, so using an all purpose fertiliser at normal strength once every couple of months is plenty.

As a houseplant, you don’t need to worry about the temperature level very often. If given the choice they they do prefer cooler spots in your home, but will still do okay in warmer living spaces. However in very warm rooms, or spaces that heat up, like those near a window you need to be careful. If the temperature gets above 25°C (77°F) on a regular basis it will very quickly “age” the plant and make it look ragged and unattractive.

Sitting in a very warm room, will quickly “age” the plant

You might not think your house gets this warm, but window ledges with full sunlight beaming through can become serious heat spots pretty quickly so be careful.

Try to keep it in a location that has average levels of warmth. The plant will even do quite well in cooler places to like an unheated porch or hallway. Just don’t expose the plant to sub zero temperatures and it will be fine.

Repotting

Because the Purple Shamrock is reasonably compact, repotting only needs to be done every few years. Perhaps when the plant has spread to all sides of the pot or you want it to become more bushy. In any case, a general all purpose compost will be absolutely fine as long as it has good drainage.

Propagation

Creating new plants is really easy to do. In most pots there are many many bulbs of which a small section of the overall plant belongs. All you need to do is divide the “clump” and plant the bulbs up in different containers, the new “clump” will produce more bulbs and gradually fill its new home.

Try not to keep the bulbs too close together when you are repositioning them in their new pot(s), if you spread them over the container’s surface it will create more space and give the appearance of a fuller plant faster.

No matter what anyone tells you, you really don’t need any fancy compost or soil, just use a potting mix that is similar to what the bulbs were growing in previously. Keep the pot reasonably warm and reduce watering until the bulbs have established fully and are producing new shoots.

Speed of Growth

New growth is rapid. Once Purple Shamrock has become established or there is no space for it to grow into, it will slow down. At this stage you can either repot or divide your Oxalis, or leave it alone to keep the compact nature.

Height / Spread

Expect a max height of 25cm / 10in and it will spread to fill the size of the container you have put it in. A large wide container will mean a wide overall plant (see the first photo at the very start of the article to see how wide yours could get!).

Flowers

The flowers are generally white with purple and pink hues mixed in. Like the plant itself, the flowers are also dainty and they form in small clusters which last for several weeks sitting a few inches above the leaves.

They could bloom at anytime of the year, however it’s normal to expect them to appear only in the Summer. Once the blooms start to die down, it’s best to carefully snip them off as close to the base as possible. If you don’t, they will dry out and become stringy before falling onto the leaves below and making them look messy.

Is the Purple Shamrock Plant Poisonous?

Although Oxalis is toxic it has a very bitter taste to repel anything or anyone who tries to eat it, and this is often enough to deter dogs and cats from eating more than the occasional mouthful. However, when ingested in large quantities it can result in poisoning in cats, dogs and humans.

The bulbs are where the highest concentration of the toxic compounds can be found, so in theory they’re hidden from view beneath the soil. You’ll need to decide if you have a pet or child that doesn’t give plants a second glance or one that’s always nibbling or playing with them. If the latter you’ll need to grow your Shamrock out of sight or consider growing something more pet friendly in its place.

Mars the cat is only curious but Oh My Plant keeps an eye on him just in case

Anything Else?

Although tolerant, if your treatment of the Purple Shamrock is anyway close to brutal you will quickly force it into die back mode, known more correctly as dormancy. This results in everything above the soil dying and taking shelter in the bulbs which sit just below the soil.

All is not lost however, because the plant will resurrect itself if the conditions improve. In many cases die back has happened because you have not watered it in months, so if you soak the soil, the plant should kick start back into life pretty quickly. The comments from many readers at the bottom of this article show this method works and that this is one tough cookie of a houseplant.

How to Care for a Shamrock Summary

  1. Good Light Levels Some sun will be helpful if possible, but it’s not essential. Deep shade and no light locations need to be avoided.

  2. Average Watering Water well and then wait until the soil is almost dry before watering again.

  3. Temperature Average to cool room temperatures are preferred. Very warm temperatures will result in distorted growth.

  4. Feeding Feed once every couple of months.

  • Do not try to grow it in a dark location
  • Never warmer than 25°C (77°F)

Purple Shamrock Problems

Leaves keep moving and changing position

Not a problem but rather a natural quirk of the plant. The leaves move in response to light. They “open” wide in high light (i.e. during the day) and “close” at low light levels (i.e. at night). They also move if you touch the leaves, although a lot lot slower than a Venus Fly Trap or Tickle Plant.

Die back / Dormancy

Again this is normal although not inevitable, so if you want to avoid it, treat your Purple Shamrock right and follow the care instructions we’ve provided above.

White spots on Purple Shamrock leaves

White Spots on your Oxalis plant can be caused by several different things and it will depend on how many spots, how extensive they are etc. Below are some suggestions with tell tale signs to look for.

  • Pests – It could be the waste products or damage from something like an Aphid infestation. The pests themselves should be easily to spot and the marks will only exist near to where the pests actually are
  • Fungus – A type of fungi such as Powdery Mildew can sometimes affect your plant if you keep it outside during the summer or next to an open window. Although quite simple to treat, this will be dense stuff which spreads to cover large sections of the leaf and can make things look worse then they are.
  • Sun Damage – Can cause white spots on the leaves. However unlike a fungus, these spots can typically be quite crusty and basically crumble away when touched, where as Powdery Mildew won’t do this.
  • Virus – This is the worst case scenario because there is no cure. Sometimes pests will visit your plant and take a bite, spreading a virus that will spread to the majority of the bulbs growing in the pot. You can trigger die back and remove all the foliage above the soil. However if you really have a virus problem when the new bulbs spring back to life the white and markings will come back too.

The first three problems above can be sorted out without too much fuss, but the final possibility means there is no cure as the bulbs become carriers of the virus. The markings on the leaves can be really disfiguring and ruin the look of these elegant plants, so in this instance it’s worth considering replacing the entirety of the existing bulbs with new ones. Be sure to use a different pot (or scrub the old one clean) and use fresh compost to stop the virus spreading to the new bulbs.

Weak and lankey looking plant

If temperatures are quite warm for prolonged periods, it hasn’t been repotted for ages, or has generally only received below average care for many months the plant might start to look a bit rubbish. If this ever happens you could be better off here withholding water completely so the plant goes into dormancy.

When this has happened wait a few more weeks before you resume watering again. When you do, the bulbs will quickly grow new shoots and the plant will be restored just like magic! (Although not instantaneously and not really by magic because it’s nature really ;- ).

About the Author

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.

Also on Ourhouseplants.com

Credit for several Oxalis triangularis photos – Article / Gallery – KENPEI
Credit for Single Oxalis leaf – Article / Gallery – Oh My Plant
Credit for Mars the Cat – Article / Gallery – Oh My Plant

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Polka Dot Plant

Botanical Name: Hypoestes phyllostachya

Splattered leaves make Polka Dot Plant an unusual and attractive house plant. Many are pink, however newer hybrids are available with red or white spotted leaves.

This bushy plant grows quickly with good light. Pinch back growing tips often to encourage branching and to keep the plant compact.

Insignificant purple flower spikes may appear. Pinch them off because they detract from the foliage and can cause the plant to deteriorate after blooming.

Shed some light. Leaves may revert to solid-green in low light. Put your plant where it’ll get plenty of light, but out of direct sun. Filtered light from a south- or west-facing window will give it the light it needs. If you move your plant outdoors for the summer, keep it fully shaded from hot sun, which can cause leaves to curl up and develop brown scorch marks.

Keep up the humidity. If relative humidity drops below 50%, use a humidity tray or room humidifier to increase the moisture in the air. Grouping plants also helps to maintain the humidity around them. A terrarium is an ideal home for this humidity-loving plant, where it will add eye-catching color among green foliage plants.

Water regularly. Keep the soil lightly moist, but take care not to overwater. Too-dry soil will cause leaves to wilt and drop off. Quickly revive a wilted plant with a thorough watering. Soggy soil will cause the leaves to turn yellow.

Pinch your plant. Pinch off tall stems to prevent the plant from getting too leggy. Also, pinch off growing tips to encourage stems to branch out for a fuller, bushier plant.

Polka Dot Plant Care Tips

Origin: Madagascar

Height: Keep to about 10 in (25 cm) by pinching off.

Light: Polka Dot Plant will lose its variegation in low light. Give your plant plenty of bright, indirect light for sensational color. Protect plants from direct sun to prevent scorching leaves.

Water: Keep soil evenly moist spring through fall and slightly drier in winter.

Humidity: Likes moist air. Use a cool-mist room humidifier or humidity tray. Check out these easy ways to raise the humidity for your houseplants.

Temperature: Average to warm 65-80°F/18-27°C

Soil: Peat moss based potting mix.

Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks spring through fall with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half.

Propagation: Grows easily from seeds. Take stem cuttings in spring and early summer.

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The Pink Princess Philodendron is a rare variegated member of the philodendron family, with bright pink and green foliage that looks effortlessly chic. Due to the variegated nature of this type of philodendron, no two plants look exactly the same, and the plant itself can be tricky to get a hold of.

Happy hump day! This pink princess is one of my cuttings when I was still learning about propagation and it’s rewarding to see it comes this far💕 . . . . . . . . . #pinkprincessphilodendron#philodendronpinkprincess #onwednesdayweplantpink #houseplantclub #idrinkandigrowthings #crazyplantpeople #theleafstrokers #urbanjunglebloggers #instaplants #botanicalwomen #girlwithplants #houseplantsofinstagram #houseplantplantclub#house_plant_community#verdealcove#plantsmakepeoplehappy#houseplantcommunity#plantsmakepeoplehappy#lovingfronds#crazyplantrichasian#newenglandplantsquad

The best part? This plant is relatively low-maintenance and easily grown indoors, they like well-drained soil and some humidity. Allow the top inch of soil to completely dry out between drinks, and make sure it gets plenty of bright, indirect sunlight. But keep in mind these plants can be toxic to animals if eaten.

212 likes – View Post on Instagram New leaf alert 🚨 on my Pink Princess Philodendron…I got this beauty a little while back after waiting on a waitlist for what felt like ages. I’m so happy I stuck to it because she and I are happy together 😜. . She sits about 3 feet from a south facing window that has slightly filtered light from a large olive tree right outside. We also have large-ish overhangs from the roof so at this point she only gets bright indirect light and no direct light at all. She already has another new leaf lined up so I’d say she’s liking where she’s at. . #onwednesdaysweplantpink #pinkprincessphilodendron #houseplantlove #philodendronerubescens #philodendronpinkprincess

To get the most colour out of your growing Pink Princess, ensure it gets plenty of indirect light – too much direct light and the leaves will yellow. You can expect young leaves on this plant to emerge as a dark green with white variegation, maturing to almost-black with pink spots.

Verdant Dwellings

Keen to snag one for yourself? Verdant Dwellings stock small Pink Princess Philodendrons from $15, and Plants in a Box stock the rare variety in slightly larger sizes from $49.95 – correct at time of publishing.

Still not convinced? Check out the #pinkprincessphilodendron hashtag on Instagram!

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Looking for some low-maintenance indoor plants? Watch the video below.

I have to admit that planting in shady areas can sometimes frustrate me. I want bright colors and lots flowers and variety and sometimes that is hard to get. I’ve found several plants that have beautiful and brightly colored leaves that, when combined with other shade plants add structure and texture to my shade gardens.

This is a list of all herbaceous plants, no shrubs are included.

Perennial Shade Plants with Pretty Flowers

Hellebores – Lenten Rose

The flowers in the genus Helleborus are early spring bloomers come in many flower colors. The blooms last for several weeks, but are done by the time summer gets here. They are deer-resistant and prefer moist soil, but they don’t like wet feet. So use organic matter to your soil and mulch as needed. Lenten rose is hardy in zones 4 to 8.

Helleborus ‘pink frost’HelleborusGreen hellebore

Siberian Bugloss ‘Silver wings’

This little plant (Brunnera macrophylla) does double duty. It has both beautiful leaves and produces a delicate blue flower that provides a pop of color in a shade garden. The flowers appear in spring. It prefers medium moist soil and part to full shade. It will grow in a clumping habit. Hardy in zones 3a to 7b.

Brunnera macrophylla flowerLeaves of Siberian Bugloss ‘Silver wings’

Orange Ginger Lily – Hedychium coccineum

Although this ginger lily can be planted in sun, in Mississippi summers, I have had it do very well in part-shade to nearly full shade areas. It’s a much taller plant than many shade-tolerant species. It can grow as tall as four to five feet. It is grown from a rhizome, so it requires moist but well-drained soil. The unique orange flowers bloom in summer and early fall. In zones 7 to 10, it is perennial. You can dig up and divide the rhizomes in winter to spread the plant.

Orange ginger lily growing under a treeOrange ginger lily flowerOrange Ginger Lilies

Perennial Shade Plants with Amazing Leaves

Not all plants are grown for their blooms. This seems especially true when it comes to shade plants. You actually get more long-term color and interest in your garden from a plant that has interesting leaves than one that has a short-term flower.

Coral Bells – Heuchera and Heucherella

With so many choices in leaf colors, there is sure to be a Heuchera or Heucherella to suit you. From dark purple to lime green, reds, pinks, and greens, take your pick of a color that works well in your shade garden. While they do produce small flowers, I’m mostly interested in the amazing leaf colors.

They prefer part shade and are a clumping or mounding plant. It prefers well-drained, fertile soil. Mulching is a good idea. Plants can be divided in fall. You can propagate the plants from leaf cuttings. They are hardy in zones 4 through 7.

Heucherella is a hybrid of Heuchera and Tiarella.

Heuchera ‘lime rickey’ Heucherella ‘Gold Zebra’ Red-leaved coral bells

Hostas

Everyone is familiar with hostas, but did you know there were so many different kinds? There are over 2,500 cultivars! A fair warning with these plants, if you have a deer problem, DO NOT plant these. It’s like planting deer candy; it’s the first thing that gets eaten out of the garden. Hostas are hardy up to zone 8. Pick one that is well-suited to your zone and light conditions.

Hostas do not like wet soil, but prefer rich, well-drained, organic soil. If there are drought conditions, you will need to water your hostas. Additionally, if you have them planted close to tree roots, they will require more water as well. Mulch hostas in northern climates.

You can divide hostas in early spring to make new plants. They do best in part shade.

Hosta Green leaves with white trim White-leaved hosta Hosta with yellow-green leaves

Aucuba

Aucuba japonica comes in many hybrids which range in color. I like the green and yellow leaves. This plant can grow several feet tall, depending on the variety you get. It’s very easy to root from a cutting. Hardy in zones 7a to 9b. Technically, it’s a shrub, but with it’s green stems, it doesn’t look much like one. It is drought tolerant and evergreen. It prefers part shade to full shade and leaves that are exposed to bright sun will turn brown. Aucuba prefers well-drained moist soil. It is actually an evergreen and will not lose its leaves in winter.

Aucuba japonica leaves

Annual Shade Plants with Amazing Leaves

I can’t write an article about shade plants without talking about Coleus. Although it’s an annual, they are very easy to grow from seed or from cuttings. There are so many different colors of leaves, I just adore this plant.

Coleus prefer well-drained soil but will need to be watered in periods of dry weather. There are sun-tolerant varieties, so check the label when purchasing seeds or plants. Coleus is a low-maintenance plant once it has settled in. As an annual, it can be grown in most zones of the U.S.

Green and red coleus Coleus seedlings I grew

Read more about growing coleus from seeds or cuttings.

Orange-red coleus Red, green, pink coleus

Ground Covers

Often, it is easier to cover the ground in shady areas rather than try to grow plants that need deeper root penetration. Competing with trees can be a challenge. There are many options for ground covers in the shade. Here are some of my favorites.

Vinca minor

This is a pretty aggressively spreading plant, so be careful where you plant it. It produces lovely periwinkle flowers in early spring. The vine gets to be about 5 inches tall and spreads rapidly. It prefers part-shade and can tolerate some sun. It’s really hardy.

Vinca minor

Lamium

This green and silver-leaved plant produces yellow, white, or pink flowers. The plant stays pretty low to the ground, but the flowers extend upwards of 6 to 7 inches. It isn’t an aggressive spreader in my zone (7b). It grows in zones 2 to 9. It’s rather hardy as well. Part to full shade.

Lamium Lamium

Creeping Jenny – Lysimachia nummularia

This is another aggressively spreading plant and in some places it is considered an invasive, so be cautious. I love the lime green color and it mixes well with deep purples. It is very low to the ground, with a height of only an inch or two at the most. It also goes well in containers as it spills over the edge. It is perennial.

Creeping Jenny Creeping Jenny

Plants with bold foliage

Plants with large leaves can make a real impact in the garden. One large-leaved plant make a bold statement, contrasting with other smaller-leaved plants around it and acting as a focal point.

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Plants with large leaves are also perfect for creating a jungle or exotic look – and many plants with bold foliage are hardy, so they don’t need protection during the winter months.

Large-leaved plants aren’t just for large gardens, either – they allow you to play around with scale in a smaller space. Try introducing them into a small garden for impact and interest.

Here are some great large-leaved plants to grow.

Large-leaved plants aren’t just for large gardens – they allow you to play around with scale in a smaller space.

Canna

Cannas have large, paddle-like leaves that are often variegated, as well as brightly coloured, exotic flowers. Canna ‘Phasion’, pictured, has stunning leaves in stripes of green, purple, orange and pink, plus orange flowers. Cannas aren’t hardy, so need some winter protection.

Green, purple, orange and pink leaves of Canna ‘Phasion’

Cardoon

Globe artichokes are majestic plants that work best at the back of the border – they form a clump of large, silver leaves that can reach 1m in length – they contrast well with the foliage of other plants. They bear large, thistle like flowers on tall stems in late summer and autumn. The seedheads are much loved by birds.

Striking, deeply-serrated artichoke foliage

Persian ivy

With large, variegated leaves that are splashed with yellow, Hedera colchica ‘Sulphur Heart’ makes a splash against a shady wall or fence. A vigorous grower, it bears balls of lime green flowers in autumn. You may also find it sold as ‘Paddy’s Pride’.

Yellow and green variegated leaves of ivy ‘Sulphur Heart’

Angel’s trumpet

Brugmansia is grown for its bold foliage and large, trumpet-shaped flowers, which are have a beautiful fragrance. It’s not hardy so is best grown in a container that can be brought under cover in the cooler months. All parts of the plant are harmful if ingested.

Brugmansia

Elephant’s ears

Bergenias make excellent ground cover plants, especially in a partially shaded spot. The leaves of some varieties take on red tinges in winter and Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’ has unusual purple leaves all year round. Bergenias bear pink flowers on tall stalks in spring.

Purple-bronze elephant ears’ foliage

Ginger lily

Another great addition to a jungle-style garden, ginger lilies look to be more widely grown. They have paddle-like leaves and attractive, tropical-looking flowers. Plus, they’re surprisingly hardy and can tolerate low temperatures in winter without any lasting damage.

Tropical foliage of the ginger lily

Schefflera

With their bold, deeply lobed, evergreen leaves, scheffleras are stunning architectural plants and are becoming increasingly popular in UK gardens. Many are hardy, including Schefflera rhododendronifolia, pictured.

Deeply lobed, evergreen schefflera leaves

Hosta

Hostas are grown for their large leaves, which are often variegated in shades of cream, silver or white. Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans has large, puckered leaves, that can reach over 40cm long. It’s foliage can be a magnet for slugs and snails, so it’s best grown in a pot with some slug protection.

Stunning broad leaves of Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans

Regal fern

Osmunda regalis is a giant fern that bears huge, bright green fronds that gradually unfurl in spring. In autumn, they turn bronze before dying back. Grow Osmunda regalis in damp, preferably acid soil – it looks lovely next to a pond.

Regal fern foliage

Banana

Bananas look great in tropical garden schemes, with giant, paddle-like leaves and thick trunks. Musa basjoo is the hardiest variety; Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’, pictured, is tender, with red and green leaves. Grow in a sheltered spot, as wind can shred the foliage, and feed and water generously.

Bronze-green, paddle-shaped banana leaves

Chinese rice paper plant

You’ll need plenty of room for Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ – the huge leaves can reach 60cm and the plant can reach 2m high. Fully hardy, it’s evergreen in mild winters and deciduous in cooler ones; it bears sprays of creamy flowers in autumn. Grow in full sun or partial shade.

Advertisement Enormous leaves of the Chinese rice paper plant

Pollarding for larger leaves

Certain trees, such as Alianthus altissima, Cotinus coggygria, Paulownia, Catalpa and Cercis can be pollarded – it means the plant is kept compact but has distinctly larger leaves. Find out more about pollarding.

Cream flowers spikes and glossy foliage of Fatsia japonica

Other large-leaved plants to try

  • Bear’s breeches (Acanthus)
  • Angelica archangelica
  • Athyrium felix-femina
  • Chamaerops humilis
  • Gunnera tinctoria
  • Tree fern (Dicksonia antartica)
  • Fatsia japonica
  • Melianthus major
  • Ricinus communis (castor oil plant)
  • Rodgersia

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