Friday, February 25, 2011

A Nice Oxalis

The genus Oxalis is probably best known for its few weedy members, but in fact the vast majority of them, and there are hundreds of different ones, are beautiful plants. Most of them grow from bulbs, an unusual feature for a non monocot plant. This one is probably O. nelsonii, a summer grower from Mexico. I got it from Bill Baird, who is the man to go to for anything oxalis in the USA, he only grows members of this genus, and has developed an elaborate setup to be able to grow them well in Brooklyn. O. nelsonii is a summer grower, making it simple to grow for those of us with a yard. Simply water in spring, watch it woosh into bloom and growth, keep watering and occasionally supplying fertilizer, and dry it off in the fall and bring indoors. Store dry until the cycle begins anew. It is before the first watering that one can remove excess bulbs from the pot and start other pots, for many of even the desirable oxalis species are able to multiply well when conditions are to their liking. No need to worry about this one taking over, though, as oxalis bulbs are eaten by rodents, though that is not generally a problem in my home garden. Gravel on top of the pot does discourage the more significant problem of squirrels, which like to dig in my outdoor pots.
Many more bulbous oxalis are found in South Africa, and all but a handful of these are winter growers. They do best in cool greenhouses, but I can grow them under lights, so long as they are kept dry for summer. They do bloom, but not with the abundance they do in cool greenhouses or outdoors in favored locations like California. Telos nursery is an excellent source for many such species.

1 comment:

Nhu Nguyen said...

Ernie, I would call this Oxalis magnifica (or nelsonii or lasiandra). These three species are very difficult to tell apart and some people suggest that they should just be one species with minor variants.