How do you take care of an Iron Cross?

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:15 pm

You may be familiar with this: after some time, Iron Cross forms long shoots, until it finally withers away. The good news: this is not a bad omen, but only the result of improper care.

Why does the Iron Cross in the pot always have four leaves? To help us get lucky, gardeners have reached into their bag of tricks: Four-leaf wood sorrel (Oxalis tetraphylla, syn. O. deppei), which originated in Mexico, is cultivated as “Iron Cross. “Unlike the native wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and white clover (Trifolium repens), it always has four leaves (actually partial leaves), as its name suggests. Some varieties of this species are very decorative with the red-brown center of the leaves. With proper care, they unfurl pretty light purple flowers to boot.

How do you take care of an Iron Cross?

So “Iron Cross” is not even related to our native white clover from the meadow. But although the four-leaved wood sorrel is perennial, it often ends up in the trash a few weeks after New Year’s Eve. In most cases, the cause of its unexpectedly short life is improper care. There are only three essential things to keep in mind.

How do you take care of an Iron Cross?
Give your luck a chance! Iron Cross (Oxalis tetraphylla) lasts longer than you think with the right care

The right care

  1. repot immediately!
    Native to Mexico, Iron Cross is actually perennial, provided that it is properly cared for. Usually the pots in which Iron Cross is sold are very narrow. Therefore, it is best to repot it right away in a larger pot with ordinary potting soil, which can be quietly many times larger. Clover is fast-growing and will soon gratefully take up the space.
  2. cool location
    Place the pot in a bright, preferably sunny and cool place (10 to 15 °C). On the other hand, Iron Cross does not tolerate dry heated air well. Paradoxically, the place in the warm living room, possibly on the windowsill above the radiator, is not a suitable place. If the Iron Cross stands too warm and dark, it forms long, soft shoots with only a few leaves (“horny shoots”). As a result, the plant literally falls apart. 3.
  3. water little at first
    Water your lucky charm sparingly until the end of March, as soon as the substrate feels dry on the surface. From April on, the growth phase begins, during which the clover is happy to receive an evenly moist substrate every two to three weeks with a dose of fertilizer. Avoid waterlogging.
See also  Why Are My Tomato Leaves Soft And Droopy?
How do you take care of an Iron Cross?
Wrong care! The Iron Cross reacts to lack of light and for too high room temperatures with long shoots

Iron Cross in the garden

In summer, from the end of April, you can put the Iron Cross in a sheltered place in the flower bed or rock garden. A light to partial shade location is ideal. However, it also does well in a pot on a balcony or patio. Provide flower fertilizer every two to three weeks.

The red flowers appear from May until late in the fall. Stop watering in August so that the leaves retract. In late summer, the plant forms underground brood bulbs, which are taken out of the ground in the fall after the leaves freeze and overwintered wrapped in soil in a dark, cool place. The next spring, the bulbils are then planted back outdoors. In mild winters, “forgotten” bulbs survive and sprout again.

Tip: Iron Cross in pots can be propagated by division or sowing.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.