Oxalis tetraphylla: main characteristics and care

Surely in stores you have often seen the so-called “butterfly flowers”, a type of plant with purple flowers that close at night. But perhaps what you don’t know is that these Oxalis are actually of many types. For example, the Oxalis tetraphylla, also called deppei, which we want to talk to you about.

You know how it is? And the care you need? Do not worry, we are going to give you all the keys so that you have this plant at home and, incidentally, so that it can last you year after year and enjoy it.

How is the Oxalis tetraphylla

oxalis plant details

The first thing you should know about Oxalis tetraphylla is that you can find it in stores under another scientific name, Oxalis deppei. As well as a common name: Iron Cross. Other names it may go by are four-leaf clover (be careful, it doesn’t bring good luck like these because it’s not really a clover), as well as four-leaf pink sorrel.

Visually, you have a bulbous plant, native to Mexico, from which long but very thin stems grow, strong enough to rise above the pot and present special leaves. These are divided into four parts, hence the name clover of a characteristic green color. However, in the center they will always be intense purple.

It has the particularity that, when the intensity of light or sun decreases, the leaves close in on themselves, appearing to be withering. But in reality it is not like that, it is something typical of oxalis.

If you are lucky, in spring and summer it can bloom for you. We are not going to tell you that the flowers are very pretty, because actually, compared to the leaves, they almost go unnoticed, but they are pleasant to look at. These are red or pink in color and have five constant petals and a white, green and yellow center. And, just like the leaves, at night you will see that it closes to reopen in the morning.

A curiosity of the Oxalis tetraphylla that you should know is that it is edible. You can eat the leaves as well as the flowers. But be careful, because if you eat too much then it is very toxic and you can have consequences.

Oxalis tetraphylla care

Details of the leaves of the plant

Did you know the Oxalis tetraphylla? Do you have one at home? They are plants that have been trending for a few years, and although previously only the one with purple leaves was known, nurseries and garden stores have been bringing more different species that delight plant lovers.

But, as a plant, it has needs that you must meet. In this case, the most important ones are detailed below.

location and temperature

The Oxalis tetraphylla needs light, yes, but not direct. This may make you think that you can have it indoors in a bright area, or outside in semi-shade. But of both, we recommend that you put it more outside than inside. If you have it indoors, the stems will be thinner, and may even fall due to the weight of the leaves, in addition to being weaker.

So look for a place with semi-shade (so that it gets the sun early in the morning, or late in the afternoon) or in the shade but with a lot of indirect light. Of course, you will have to check because the stems tend to move depending on the light and changing its orientation can be good to maintain good plant growth.

Regarding the temperature, It is a plant that holds well from 10 to 25 degrees. Even more than 30 could adapt (if it has been with you for a long time). But first of all it will be normal that he ends up dying.

The cold does take it worse, but halfway. And it is that if where you live it is usually cold in winter then you will lose the plant, but you can dig up the bulbs, keep them in a dry and dark place, and plant them again at the end of winter or early spring so that they come out again. Another option is to leave them in the pot, although in that case I recommend that you protect it.


The Oxalis tetraphylla is a plant that must have a good substrate, one that prevents excess moisture. For this reason, we recommend a mixture with universal substrate, peat and perlite or akadama. In this way it will be looser and the roots of the bulbs will be able to get ahead.

In general, you will not have to transplant it until you see that there are too many plants (and bulbs) in the pot where you have it, for which it is best to separate them in winter and plant them in different pots in spring.


The Oxalis tetraphylla is not a plant that needs a lot of water. In general, only water when the soil is dry. But it is the plant itself that can warn you, because its leaves and stems collapse when it suffers from drought. Obviously it’s not good to get to that.

Therefore, using peat in the soil will help maintain moisture and give you time to water it when it begins to dry out.

What you cannot afford is to overwater it, because then the bulbs will rot.


Oxalis tetraphylla does not really need pruning. But yes maintenance in terms of removing withered stems and leaves. This will especially happen after the summer, when the cold begins to arrive.


delicate plant

Finallythe propagation of the Oxalis tetraphylla occurs through the division of the plant. To do this, you have to make sure you have a plant that is at least 20 centimeters tall and very leafy.

You can remove the plant from the pot and very carefully divide it into clumps for replanting. Although, if you see that it holds up, it is better to do it when the bulbs come to rest.

You should also know that it is a plant that also reproduces through the air, and it will not be strange that, if you have it, suddenly you see this plant born in other pots further away (or nearby) without you having done anything.

The Oxalis tetraphylla is not a very demanding plant, but you do need to give it a good location and care so that it can endure you and you can enjoy it (and its reproduction). Do you have any other tips for this plant?

Oxalis tetraphylla: main characteristics and care

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