Legend has it that St. Patrick himself used a humble three-leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity (the father, the son and the holy spirit) when he was introducing Christianity to the Irish. Since then the shamrock has become synonymous with St. Patrick's Day in everything from décor to food.
The term shamrock is derived from the Irish word seamrog, which means "little clover." This is where things get a little tricky, because there are several types of plants that all end up being referred to as shamrocks, and which serve as Irish shamrocks during St. Patrick's Day celebrations. Some of these include the three-leaf clover, red clover and oxalis, a shamrock-shaped plant sometimes called the false shamrock and often sold as a shamrock around St. Patrick's Day.
The elusive four-leaf clover is a well-know symbol of good luck, and is actually an uncommon variation of the three-leaf clover. According to tradition, finding a four-leaf clover brings good luck to those who find one. It's estimated that there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover, so you may be searching for a while! No one is completely sure whether the fourth leaf is caused genetically or environmentally.
Shamrocks can give your home a burst of green for St. Patrick's Day (or all year round). They are easy to grow indoors as houseplants in a shallow pot, but most are not hardy enough to remain outdoors during the winter. They have delicate green leaves with an almost velvety finish and small white or pink flowers.
Shamrocks like cooler temperatures, especially in bloom. Place in a window that gets bright, indirect light and keep the soil moist but not soggy. Let the soil dry out slightly before watering again to avoid overwatering. If you notice the leaves getting floppy, that could be a sign that your plants need more light or the location is too warm, so experiment with a new spot and see if they fare any better.
Shamrocks planted in decorative pots make for great spring-inspired decor -- or give them to guests at your St. Patrick's Day party.
Add a touch of Irish to your yard. In the spring and summer clover can make a gorgeous, green groundcover, so consider replacing your lawn with clover (which requires less watering and maintenance to keep it green than a standard grass lawn). Clover isn't as tough as grass, though, so it works best in areas that don't get too much foot traffic.
A clover lawn is best started in the spring or early summer, so purchase a large bag of clover seeds from a garden center or online. Mix the seeds with soil in a large container, making sure to mix evenly. Scattering seeds without mixing into the soil first can result in bare patches. Spread the mix evenly around the lawn using a rake for more even distribution. Then put down another quarter-inch of soil and water well. At this point the clover needs very frequent watering, but once your new groundcover is established it needs minimal care. Clover will re-seed itself the first couple of years, but after that you might need to refresh the lawn by reseeding.
And, by planting shamrocks this St. Patrick's Day, you can enjoy the luck of the Irish year-round.
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