Oxalis purpurea

Common Name: sorrel 
Type: Bulb
Family: Oxalidaceae
Native Range: Temperate southern Africa
Zone: 9 to 10
Height: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Spread: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: Rose, pink, violet, or white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful


In USDA Zones 9-10, these plants are easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade, and can spread by running roots and bulb offsets to form colonies in optimum growing conditions. They are not winter hardy to the St. Louis area where they should be grown in pots or containers that can be brought inside in winter. Plant bulbs in pots in spring and take pots outside after last frost date. Best sited in locations that provide some afternoon protection from the hot sun. Keep container soils uniformly moist during the growing season. Begin to taper off watering in late summer as the foliage begins to decline. Bring pots indoors to a cool dry location before first frost and overwinter dry in the pots or remove bulbs and store in a dry medium. Repot bulbs in spring.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Oxalis purpurea, commonly called oxalis or wood sorrel, is native to the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa). It is a bulbous, stemless perennial that grows only 4-5” tall. The familiar clover-like leaves have three rounded often center-creased green leaflets that are purplish below. Dark rose, rose pink, violet or white 5-petaled solitary flowers (1-2” diameter) with yellow throats appear throughout the summer. Synonymous with Oxalis variabilis.

The genus name Oxalis comes from the Greek word oxys meaning "acid", "sour" or "sharp", in reference to the taste of the leaves.

The specific epithet purpurea means "purple", in reference to the color of the flowers.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Mixed border fronts and lawns where hardy. Window boxes and containers in colder climates.