What To Do When a False Shamrock Is Turning Green

Oxalis triangularis, commonly called the false shamrock, is one of many clover-like perennial plants belonging to the Oxalidaceae family—grown as food, medicine, and for their great beauty. They’re typically easy to grow and manage—but you might notice the plant turning to green from purple for some reason. This color change is usually regular and a part of the plant’s dormancy phase.

You should minimize watering to a light watering every 2-3 weeks if your false shamrock is turning green. False shamrocks typically change color in response to entering their dormant phase, so overwatering them can damage the bulb and kill the plant.

Although it can be frightening to see your plant turn green, you don’t need to worry—the plant is fine. Still, there are a few things to look out for when growing false shamrocks to ensure they’re still healthy, whether dormant or not. Read on to know more about growing and caring for the plant, what green spots might mean for your false shamrock, and why your false shamrock is changing color.

Why Do False Shamrocks Change Color?

False shamrocks are popular because their three-lobed leaves resemble the more famous clover plants. They’re beautiful houseplants—with purple leaves that can brighten up whatever space they’re in and manageable sizes that are perfect for pots and hanging baskets.

But why do they change colors?

False shamrocks change colors because the plant moves nutrients to its bulbs in preparation for dormancy. The plant typically goes from green to yellow and then brown before falling off—sometimes twice a year and sometimes only every several years. 

Understanding Dormancy

Several indoor and outdoor plants become dormant to survive unfavorable environmental conditions, in response to age, or because they want to spread their seeds. And while the false shamrock can become inactive when the weather is especially harsh, the plant usually goes into dormant phases about once every year, right after the blooming season.

This period is typically early or mid-summer and starts with yellow or green leaves that quickly become yellow before turning brown. Drastic changes of this kind usually spell doom for some plants, but false shamrocks undergo these color changes as they reduce shoot metabolism and transport nutrients to their bulbs.

So, there’s no need to worry if your plant starts turning green—even if the entire process can be scary. And since dormant phases are reasonably typical with false shamrocks, you don’t need to do too much to ensure they’re kept healthy during the period. 

Care and Maintenance Tips for Dormant False Shamrocks

  1. Reduce watering when the plant turns green and only provide minimal watering every 2-3 weeks after it becomes yellow. The watering should be just enough to keep the soil from drying out completely
  2. Pluck brown leaves and remove fallen leaves from the pot to reduce the chance of diseases and pest attacks. 
  3. Remember to store the plant somewhere dry and cold while you wait for the leaves to reemerge.

Most false shamrocks reemerge in 2 to 3 months, but you can check on the plant often to see if it grows earlier. Afterward, you may put the plant back in its regular spot and start usual care.

You can care for false shamrocks that become dormant due to extreme environmental conditions in the same way. However, I recommend you fix the stress-inducing situation immediately so your plant can reemerge quickly.

Why Your False Shamrock’s Leaves Have Green Spots

While false shamrocks with green leaves are practically the same as their purple-leaf counterparts, they differ in physical response to situations. For example, green false shamrocks always turn yellow first when they’re about to become dormant, unlike the purple ones.

But what does it mean if you notice green spots on your purple false shamrock plants?

Your false shamrock can have green spots for several reasons including the following:

  • If you don’t water the plant correctly
  • Your potting mix is unsuitable
  • There’s fertilizer build-up in the soil
  • The plant has some disease
  • The spots can result from insecticide damage
  • Some green spots are benign

While green leaves are typically nothing to worry about in false shamrocks, green spots are an entirely different affair. They’re usually a result of stress and a harbinger of worse symptoms. Generally, green spots become brown or yellow—and sometimes even white.

I recommend you scrutinize your plant if you notice green spots on its leaves to be as safe as possible. If you catch it quickly, you can easily fix the issue—with almost no damage to the false shamrocks.

However, allowing the spots to stay on leaves without any management might result in conditions that will lead to leaf loss or plant death.

You can check out this article to learn more about what causes spots on shamrocks and how to fix them: Brown Spots On Shamrock Leaves: 3 Causes And Fixes

Care and Planting Tips

False shamrocks are excellent plants in your backyard, but they also make great houseplants. They’re reasonably easy to manage, need moderate resources to thrive, and you’re more likely to overwater them than dry them out—making them ideal home companions if you’re wont to kill your plants accidentally.

So, how do you grow them?

Here’s how to grow a false shamrock:

Prepare the Soil

Get suitable soil and make some holes for the false shamrock bulbs. Sandy or loamy soil will suffice, but you can opt for other fast-draining options. Ensure the soil is slightly acidic as false shamrocks prefer a lower pH to thrive.

Add Compost or Fertilizer

You can mix some compost or a little bit of fertilizer in the soil before making holes. This step is optional, but it’s an excellent way to care for the false shamrocks early. I recommend using liquid fertilizers for false shamrock potting mix.

Plant the Bulbs

Plant the false shamrock bulbs in the hole no more than 2 inches (5 cm) deep. You can use a pot or plant it directly in the ground, but ensure you carefully place the bulbs in the soil with the broader end at the bottom.

Provide Adequate Spacing

Remember to create as much space as possible between bulbs. Overcrowding can damage and severely stunt the growth of false shamrocks, so I recommend you keep each shamrock at least 3 inches (7.6 cm) away from its neighbors. You can also use different pots for each bulb.

Cover & Water the Planted Bulbs

Cover up the bulb with some soil and water the plant. Be careful not to overwater the soil so you don’t damage the bulbs. Waterlogged soils are bad news to false shamrock bulbs and seedlings.

Keep the Soil Moist

Keep watering as often as possible to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. I recommend you use a soil moisture meter to ensure you keep the water levels healthy. A high-quality moisture meter works without batteries and is excellent for year-round measurements. 

Choose a Location With Early & Light Sunlight

Move the plants to a spot with lots of early and late sunlight so the false shamrock flourishes. False shamrocks need light, but the harsh mid-afternoon sun can dry them out. So I recommend you pick a spot with shade or a window that receives morning and evening light.

Wait for Them to Sprout

Care for the false shamrock plant when the young plant starts emerging. Most false shamrocks need only 3 weeks to start sprouting, but others might take up to a month before you see new growth. Ensure you monitor and maintain the young plant early so it thrives as you’d like.

False shamrocks are hardy and will grow in almost every part of the United States if you plant them correctly. They usually bloom in the spring, fall, and winter—forming beautiful flowers that add more character to your home.

Final Thoughts

It’s normal for most false shamrock plants to turn green—it’s usually a sign the plant is becoming dormant. And while the best action to take is to minimize watering, you need to tackle stress-related dormancy by fixing the extreme weather condition that affected the plant in the first place.

Spots on false shamrocks are a different matter, and they’re typically signs of more severe diseases or care-related damage.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the founder of TheGrowingLeaf.com and its lead content writer. He created the website in 2022 as a resource for horticulture lovers and beginners alike, compiling all the gardening tips he discovered over the years. Alex has a passion for caring for plants, turning backyards into feel-good places, and sharing his knowledge with the rest of the world.

Recent Posts