Habit: Tender pot-plant that grows from an underground rhizome that looks like a zipper. The three lobed green leaves are on slender petioles about 6 inches long. The individual leaflets are triangular.
Culture: Easy to grow as a houseplant. Needs bright, indirect light. Allow the soil to dry slightly before rewatering. Fertilize during the summer months and, if possible, relocate the plant to a shaded patio for a summer vacation out-of-doors. The foliage will usually die down late in the fall, the pot should be allowed to dry down. Begin watering in early February to force the plant back into growth. Flowers of O. regnellii appear in abundance in the spring and sporadically throughout the growing season. Flowers are an inch long, white, five-petaled trumpets borne in a loose terminal cluster.
Uses: The plant is used for St. Patrick's day because it has the tripartite leaves, is green and is showy in a 6-inch pot.
Problems: Spider mites
Growing Tips - Needs a period of rest a few times a year to do their best. When the plant starts looking bad stop watering and when all the leaves turn brown pull them off. Set the pot somewhere it will be cool and dry for a about 2-3 months (purple leaf varietes need only 1 month) after they have had their break resume watering as normal
The name shamrock is derived from the Celtic word for clover, which also has three leaflets. St. Patrick is said to have used the shamrock to illustrate the principle of the trinity to the people he converted. It's unclear if the shamrock St. Patrick used was the Irish clover, Trifolium repens, or the native wood sorrel, Oxalis acetosella.
St. Patrick, born in Britain as Maewyn Succat in 387 AD and fathered by a Roman officer, was sent to Ireland in 432 as a missionary to convert the masses to Christianity. His most famous legend, that he drove the snakes from Ireland, is really a metaphor for driving the Druids, the shaman and magicians of the Celts from the Green Isle. He died in 461 on March 8 or March 9.
Because no agreement could be reached on which day he died, the holiday is celebrated on the 17th of March, the sum of 8 and 9. The first St. Patrick's day was celebrated in the U.S. in Boston in 1737. Thanks to the Irish potato famine of the 1840's, there are more people of Irish descent in the U.S. than in Ireland.