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Most people think of oxalis as a serious garden weed, which must be eradicated at all costs. However, Peter Valder explained that there are many beautiful, ornamental species of oxalis that can be planted safely, without any fear of them taking over the garden. Peter thinks the following species are well worth growing:

Oxalis bowiei

This South African species has beautiful, rose-red to pink flowers and large leaves, each divided into three leaflets. It flowers in autumn, grows throughout the winter and dies down in the spring, and so avoids the heat of summer.


Oxalis hirta

From South Africa’s western Cape Province, this species has mauve-pink flowers with yellow throats. There is also a garden variety called ‘Rosea’, in which the flowers are much darker in colour.


Oxalis lobata

Native to Chile, O. lobata has golden yellow flowers which are spotted and veined in red. The leaves appear with the flowers in autumn.


Oxalis massoniana

A South African species with orange-toned flowers. It is named after Francis Masson, a Scottish plant collector who went on an expedition to South Africa. He was the first plant collector sent out from Kew by Joseph Banks in the late eighteenth century.


Oxalis polyphylla

A variable species from Cape Province in South Africa. It has narrow, thread-like leaves and purple, rose-pink or white flowers with yellow throats.


Weed Warning

Some oxalis species, such as soursob and pink oxalis, are very invasive weeds and should never be planted in the garden. If you already have them in your garden, Don advises against trying to dig them out. Instead, use a hand-held spray bottle filled with a glyphosate based product, such as Zero or Roundup. Whenever you notice the oxalis give the leaves a spray, taking care not to let the herbicide touch any other plants growing nearby. With repeated applications over 12-18 months, you should beat the problem.


Further information

Look for oxalis at specialist perennial nurseries. The nurseries listed below may stock some or all of the species mentioned in our segment (note: not all these nurseries mail order).

If you are interested in a particular species, check availability in ‘The Aussie Plant Finder’ (published by Florilegium, ISBN 1876314044).

When visiting a nursery or ordering, it’s a good idea to ask the staff if the species you are interested in is suitable for your area.


Oxalis available from:

Merry Garth – Davies Lane, Mt Wilson, NSW 2786. Phone: (02) 4756 2121 (no mail order).

Dicksonia Rare Plants – 646 Mt Macedon Road, Mt Macedon, Vic 3441. Phone: (03) 5426 3075 (no mail order).

Nutshell Perennial Nursery – ‘Softhaven’, Campbell Street, Newbridge, NSW 2795. Phone: (02) 6368 1035 (mail order).

Gordon Julian – specialises in oxalis species – PO Box 264, Deloraine, Tas 7304. Phone: (03) 6362 4099 (mail order).

Blyth Cottage Gardens, 326 East Derwent Highway, Geilston Bay, Tas 7015. Phone: (03) 6243 5660 (mail order).

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