Irish shamrock plants are frequently given as gifts, due to the symbolism they carry. Shamrocks are associated with the country of Ireland, friendship, Christianity and good luck. And because Irish shamrock plants are relatively easy to care for, they make excellent houseplants.
Christians believe that Ireland's Saint Patrick used the shamrock's three leaves to illustrate the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, in Ireland, where the population is predominantly Catholic and Protestant, the shamrock came to be a symbol of Christianity. Later, it came to symbolize Irish nationalism and also good luck and good fortune.
There is no single shamrock plant. Shamrocks are actually clover plants, of which there are roughly 300 varieties. Oxalis plants, which bear some resemblance to clovers, are also sometimes referred to as Irish shamrock plants. The Oxalis family of plants contains roughly 800 species.
Irish shamrock plants have three leaves and green foliage, although a few are deep purple in color. Shamrock plants grow in mound-like shapes, spreading via the continual sprouting of new shoots. Most varieties feature small and delicate white or light pink blooms.
Some shamrock plant varieties prefer shady, low light. However, others prefer bright light, or bright indirect light, so be sure to read any information that accompanies the Irish shamrock plant to determine its necessary light levels. During its regular growing months, keep the soil moist but never soggy. Because the plant grows from a bulb, it will go dormant for a few months each year in the winter. When this happens, the plant will look as if it's dying. Trim away any brown leaves or stems, give the plant very little water and place it in a cool place. Resume watering in two to three months.
It is a popular myth that shamrock plants can grow only in Ireland or in Irish soil. In truth, shamrock plants (clovers and Oxalis) are found all over the world. Besides Ireland, species thrive in Australia, South Africa, England and North America. However, the plant is only referred to as a shamrock in Ireland.