December 21, 2010

Candy Cane Oxalis

OXALIS VERSICOLOR - the Candy Cane Oxalis

A rather common ( in plant collector terms) Oxalis species in bloom during the Holiday season is Oxalis versicolor, commonly known as the Candycane Oxalis, for obvious reasons. One of the 'bulbous' South African Oxalis species, this is an easy to grow choice for many, and it is also one of the easiest to obtain, often being carried by the larger Dutch bulb sites in the autumn.

The flower petals are edged in red, which does not show when the blossom is open, unless you look at the back of the blossom, but when the buds are closed in the evening, or in cool weather, they show a swirled pattern of red and white which is very attractive. When cultivated as a summer grower in warmer climates, or under lights, the foliage will from  nice, tight mound, but in weaker winter light, northern grown winter blooming specimens will be more lax in habit.

This is bulb that should be planted thickly, for buying one or three will not produce a nice effect. The best results come from dozens of bulbs, planted shoulder to shoulder in a pot ( which can break your bank account at $8.00 a bulb, but don't worry, they will help you- start with five or six bulbs, and let them divide; you will end up with  hundred bulbs in a couple of years).

I have found that this is one of those Oxalis species that love moisture when in growth, and although many experts may advise against it, I let my pots sit in water for a few weeks at a time just before blooming, I then get hundreds of flowers. Naturally, one cannot keep plants in foot-bath of water, because the roots can rot without enough air, so I allow my plants to dry out ever few weeks, too. I assume the these plants may bloom in seeps or stream sides in the wild, since many Oxalis that are bulbous in winter rainfall areas are able to survive if not thrive in temporarily flooded conditions that they experience in nature. Just be sure to provide them with a dry period for the summer, where no water at all is applied, I place my pots on a high bench in the dry summer greenhouse when they go dormant in June. Watering starts again in September, when the first cool nights begin to trigger growth, around Labor day, or September 1st.

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