Oxalis tetraphylla-Iron Cross, Lucky Clover, Good Luck Plant

Oxalis tetraphylla (Iron Cross) after I brought it home on 5-5-18, #435-12.

Iron Cross, Lucky Clover, Good Luck Plant

Oxalis tetraphylla

oks-AL-iss   tet-ruh-FIL-uh

Oxalis tetraphylla Cav. is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of Oxalis. It was named and described by Antonio José Cavanilles in Icon et Descriptiones Plantarum 3 in 1795.

The genus, Oxalis L., was described by Carl von Linnaeus in the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753. Plants of the World Online list 547 accepted species of Oxalis (as of when I updated this page on 3-2-19).


Oxalis tetraphylla from the top on 5-5-18, #435-13.

I found this unlabeled Oxalis tetraphylla at Wagler’s Greenhouse on May 5, 2018. They had several Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae so I picked up two more pots of those, too. You just never know what you will find at the Amish greenhouses. Other people give Wagler’s plants then they share them with their customers. Usually, they just know the common name, or whatever name they were told.


Oxalis tetraphylla on 5-17-17, #443-69.

It is possible this Oxalis tetraphylla is the cultivar ‘Iron Cross’ but there is no 100% sure way of knowing, even though it is most likely true. One of the common names is also Iron Cross because that name became what it was called by people passing it around. Other common names include Lucky Clover and Lucky Plant. The species growing in the wild are known as Four-Leaved Sorrel and Four-Leaved Pink Sorrel. Although they resemble clover, Oxalis are not true clovers. 

They are closely related to Wood Sorrels, also in the Oxalis genera, and share the sharp lemony flavor. They are edible, but due to the oxalic acid content, eating too much can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients in the body, especially calcium.

Family: Oxalidaceae
Origin: Mexico
Zones: USDA Zones 8a-10b (10 to 35° F)
Size: 6-12”
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Well-draining
Water: Average

Oxalis tetraphylla are perennial in USDA zones above 8a, but in cooler areas bulbs should be brought inside and stored for the winter. My Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae went dormant when temps got cooler before I took the plants inside for the winter. It came back up in the pot the first part of May after I put the pots back outside. Probably the Oxalis tetraphylla will do the same but only time will tell.


Oxalis tetraphylla on 7-29-18, #487-72.

I had to relocate most of the potted plants to the front porch on July 4 because of a Japanese Beetle invasion. The potted plants had been on tables under a Chinese Elm tree which the beetles love. The whole environment changed.


Oxalis tetraphylla on 10-10-19, #519-56.

Since I just acquired this plant in 2018 I don’t know much about it. They are also grown as a houseplant somehow. From what I have been reading, to grow them as a houseplant, you need to plant the bulbs in the fall in the house. Ummm… Then you take them outside in the spring and when cooler weather comes in October they go dormant? Or do you take them back inside before that? I have enough plants in the house over the winter, so I will probably just let them go dormant and store them in their pot in the basement. The reason growing them as a houseplant is a little weird is because in the wild they are dormant 5-6 months of the year.

Currently, on March 2, 2019, as I am updating this page, the Oxalis tetraphylla is happily dormant.

I will keep adding more photos and information as time goes by.  

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.


2 comments on “Oxalis tetraphylla-Iron Cross, Lucky Clover, Good Luck Plant

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi, calling from England. I have this growing in my garden and was told it is known as Oxalis Maltese Cross. I have not investigated to see whether it is corm, tuberose or other. jOHN

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello John! The Maltese Cross is usually the common name of Lychnis chalcedonica. I did run across a forum where someone wanted to know the name of a plant growing in their garden that came in a pot of lilies. Someone identified the plant as Maltese Cross but that is the only place I have ever seen that name associated with any species of Oxalis. Plants of the World Online by Kew currently lists 545 accepted species of Oxalis and are members of the Wood Sorrel family Oxalidaceae. People from all over the world pass along different common names, so maybe where you are from some gardeners have passed along the name Maltese Cross. I forgot to write it in, but the Oxalis tetraphylla is also called the Four-Leaved Pink Sorrel or Four-Leaved Sorrel. I guess I need to add that, huh? Some people don’t like the Sorrels because some species can get a bit carried away.

      Many species. like this one, do have bulbs and do multiply underground. This is the first year I have had the Oxalis tetraphylla, so I am anxious to see if they will go dormant and return in the spring in their pot. Where I live, they won’t survive the winter in the ground.

      Thanks for the comment and I am very glad to hear from you.


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