Oxalis Versicolor Care – Candy Cane Oxalis Complete Care Guide

This is a complete guide on identification, growing, caring, and propagating the beautiful oxalis versicolor plant also known as candy cane oxalis.

Oxalis Versicolor Care- Grow Candy Cane Oxalis Complete Guide

Are you looking for an unusual plant for your outdoor garden? 

What about a plant that looks like candy? Sweet right?

Well, then oxalis versicolor is one of the best choices for you. In fact, the plant is also known as candy cane oxalis.

If you feel like this plant will be a nice addition to your indoor collection or outdoor garden, then read on. I will be covering everything related to oxalis versicolor so that you can make them thrive.

The topic includes,

Let’s get started.

What is Oxalis Versicolor (Candy Cane Oxalis)? 

Oxalis Versicolor candy cane is a bulbous perennial plant that belongs to the Oxalidaceae family (wood sorrel family) of the Dicotyledonae class. It belongs from South Africa, New Zealand, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and South America. 

Some of the common names of the oxalis versicolor are Candy Cane Sorrel, Candy Cane Oxalis, Striped-flowered wood sorrel, and Peppermint Oxalis. Oxalis Versicolor is a sub-shrub that is considered one of the best air purifier plants if placed indoors. 

Candy cane oxalis is botanically called oxalis versicolor because it means changing color. Candy cane sorrel has red and white color hence, the name. It is also suggested to use on borders, rock garden, container gardening, and showy flowers. 

The candy cane oxalis is often forced to grow in the greenhouse for ornamental and holiday blooms. Candy cane plants will exhibit fascinating views throughout the spring and sometimes in summer. It depends on the location where it grows.

The oxalis versicolor has been rewarded with the Award of Garden Merit (RHS AGM). It is an annual award given for plants given by the British Royal Horticulture Society and is based on the plant’s performance under the UK growing conditions. 

Oxalis Versicolor Appearance

Oxalis versicolor candy cane plant generally grows up to 8-15 cm (3.1-5.9 inches) and grows in the mound of fresh white-red leaves. Each leaf consists of three elongated leaflets. 

The mature spread and spacing of the candy cane oxalis are 2 – 3 inches, and the type of its foliage is green, linear, and slender. The leaves of the candy cane oxalis are deep purple-red in color and grow best in warmer weather.

A white tabular bud forms at the tip of the slender stems in autumn and late summer. The flowers of the candy cane oxalis are red and white and helicon-shaped, which open fully with five petals. 

The reason it is called candy cane is that the curved scarlet edging to each petal gives the appearance of a candy cane. Candy cane oxalis has 1-1.5 inch white flowers, which are tinged with red and sway above the cloverlike mound of leaves. 

Once the flower fully opens, the red stripe is on the bottom of the petal. The flowers of candy cane oxalis particularly remain open in full sunlight, while at other times, it remains furled up.  

The average size of the flower is 2-3 cm, and it grows in a cluster. 

Oxalis Versicolor Care

Oxalis versicolor requires beginner-level skills and only 1-hour care per year. It includes watering the plant only when it dries up to the length of 2 inches and light requirements of partial shade or full sun and well-drained chalky, loamy, or sandy soil.

Soil Requirements

Oxalis versicolor requires well-drained soil moisture and can tolerate acidic soil, clay soil, loamy soil, and sandy soil. Rich and organic soil should be avoided as candy cane oxalis does not tolerate the organic taste. 

The plant grows best when the soil pH level is either acid, alkaline or neutral. Candy cane oxalis would not necessarily require a big container that is relatively dense and compact for its size. 

Well-drained soil is strongly recommended as the plant’s roots don’t sit in the water while the plant grows. 


Oxalis versicolor blooms best in full sun, half sun, and half shade as it thrives in warm temperature and a bright sunny spot. Though, candy cane oxalis can also grow well and produce flowers in bright indirect light. 

The oxalis versicolor blooms best if given at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day. However, they can also bloom all winter when kept in a sunny spot. 

Temperature & Humidity

Candy cane oxalis plant requires USDA hardiness zones from 7 to 9. However, it can grow as an annual plant in lower hardiness zones. According to UK hardiness zones, it requires H2 (indoor unheated) and H3 (tender in frost) hardiness zones. 

In the UK, the plant is entirely hardy in temperate or coastal areas where the temperature is down to -5°C (23°F). Oxalis versicolor can also grow in cool temperature between 15°C to 21°C (60°F – 70°F) during the day and 13°C to 18°C (55°F – 65°F) during the night. 


Candy cane oxalis requires average water needs, which requires watering once or twice every week. Also, it should be ensured the candy cane oxalis is not overwatered. It is ideal to water oxalis versicolor when the soil is barely moist but not soggy. 

Allow the top two inches (5 cm) of the soil to dry out before watering and ensure the plant is watered from below to prevent the weak stems from waterlogging. If placed outdoors, you will need to water it more often when the soil dries.

The roots of candy cane oxalis do not like to sit in water, so you will have to avoid overwatering. However, in the growing stage, the plant will require more water, and in the dormant phase, it is recommended to cut off the amount of water for the plant.


Candy cane plant should be fed monthly at half of the recommended strength if placed indoors and when it is actively growing. Rarely or occasionally, fertilization is everything that candy cane oxalis demands.

As the plant attracts pests and deer, it is recommended to use balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer once or twice each year. It will help bloom the flowers to the best and help the plant thrive during the dormant stage. 

Also, during the winter period of the candy cane oxalis, mulching should be done. This helps in keeping the roots warm so that the plant can survive. 

Best Place To Grow Oxalis Versicolor

The natural habitat of oxalis versicolor is compact and clump-forming; thus, it can grow in the Mediterranean, subtropical, and temperate climate. Thus, it generally grows best in USDA hardiness zones of 7 – 9 and UK hardiness zones of H2 (indoor unheated) and H3 (tender in frost).

During these hardiness zones, the plant is entirely hardy in temperate or coastal areas where the temperature is down to -5°C (23°F). The plant can be grown in containers, rock gardens, and borders with sandy or gritty soil with free-draining sites. 

However, in cool weather, they can tolerate the temperature down to -5°C, but it is advised to grow them in pots and bring them indoors. Candy cane oxalis is suitable to grow indoors and as well as outdoors in full sun, half sun, and half shade. 

The candy cane oxalis bulbs or rhizomes can be planted at any time until the ground is frozen. An ideal place for planting is a greenhouse, rock, containers, gravel, beds, and borders where the plant is exposed or sheltered. 

Pruning Oxalis Versicolor

You may want to prune the dead flowers and stems of this plant from time to time to enhance its appearance. Apart from appearance, the cutting of dead stems, leaves, and flowers will ensure there is sufficient room for new flowers and stems to grow. 

You can prune or cut off the faded flowers and leaves after every blooming period is over or when the flowers or leaves dries up. This is the process of deadheading where and a common way to encourage plants’ growth before they go completely dormant.

In case of overwintering, you should cut all the parts down when it becomes wholly yellow or dormant. This will ensure the new growth of candy cane oxalis. The pruning period of oxalis versicolor is hardiness zone 6-10 a in winter or 10b from summer to spring.

Pruning or cutting off the faded flowers and leaves can boost the growth process and increase the size of the plant by 20-35 cm (8-14 inches).

Oxalis Versicolor Propagation

The only method preferred for the propagation of oxalis versicolor is seeding. It is ideal for sowing seed at 13-18°C in late winter or early spring. The step-by-step guide to propagating the plant is studied below. 

  1. Extract the seed from an existing plant.
  2. Wrap the extracted seed in a paper towel and place it in a bag.
  3. Place the bag in a refrigerator where the temperature will be less than 5 degrees celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit). This will help seeds come out of dormancy and prepare them for growth.
  4. Wait for three to five weeks for the seed’s germination.
  5. Fill a pot or container with relatively humid and moist soil and place it in a shady place.
  6. Sow the seed onto the surface about 1 mm deep in the pot or container.
  7. Press the seed into the compost but do not bury it. Then, cover the seed with a light coating of compost, vermiculite, or horticultural grit.
  8. Gently water it but do not overwater
  9. Ensure the pot gets temperature above 15-degree Celsius to 21 degrees Celsius during the day and 13 degrees to 18 degrees Celsius at night.
  10. Wait for the seedlings to emerge. 
  11. Put each seedling in a pot on into a 9 cm pot once its root has been established.
  12. Keep it in direct sunlight until the new shoots appear.
  13. Water moderately and when in growth and give the plant a monthly balanced liquid fertilizer.
  14. Try to keep the soil barely moist and strictly do not fertilize in winter as this is the dormancy period and can soften and rot the bulbs.

In frost-prone areas, it is advised to grow under glass or in an alpine house in leaf mound, loam, and grit. It can be grown in low humidity, bright filtered light, and feeding fertilizer moderately every month.

Oxalis Versicolor Toxicity

Oxalis versicolor is toxic to dogs, cats, and humans if ingested due to its oxalic acid present in the flowers and stems. If consumed in large amounts, oxalic acid may interfere with the body’s digestion and kidney function. 

Candy cane oxalis does not show immediate effect but slowly transmit the oxalates. The crystals of the oxalates lodge in the kidney, where it causes injury and triggers nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. 

Other causes are illness, and one can expect serious series of effects on the heart, liver, and brain. The plant is not edible and has no medicinal uses. If consumed in large amounts, one should immediately report to the poison center.

Its soluble oxalates can also result in the body’s functional deficiency, causing a sudden drop in calcium and magnesium levels. It can also include irritation in the oral and GI tracts, developing muscle twitches and cramps, hypotension, seizures, and weakness. 

These effects are common to pets like cats and dogs. Due to the flowers’ bitter flavor, anyone who tries to taste a bite would quickly deter. It is strictly advised to plant it in a container and place it out of reach of children and pets. 

Common Problems Of Oxalis Versicolor

There are a few problems that your candy cane may face in its growing phase, like wilting of flowers. This is the sign of underwatering. Ensure you water the plant once or twice a week. 

Another problem is powdery mildew, a white fungus that is found on the leaves and is common. Root rot can also occur when the root sits in the water. 

Due to the plant’s toxic nature, you may not find many pests but slugs. You can fertilize in small amounts using 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer.

Another problem is softening and rotting of bulbs in winter. The sole contributor to this is not keeping the soil barely moist and fertilizing in a dormant state.

Candy cane oxalis is a non-invasive plant, but it can face the problem of invasiveness in which the plant spreads in the native range. The cause of this problem is the falling of the seeds. 

This can be corrected by simply digging up and removing the plants in areas you don’t want to grow. It can also be fixed by removing dead flowers before the seeds can fully mature to stop the spread.

Other Oxalis Varieties

Wrapping Up

Candy cane oxalis is an ideal ornamental plant that can be grown indoors and outdoor as an aesthetic plant. It requires minimal attention, soil, light, temperature, fertilizer, and watering needs.

Oxalis versicolor is also easy to grow from propagation to maintaining the plant.

So, what are you waiting for? Just order a pack of these beautiful plant’s bulbs and start growing.

Show your friends and neighbours your new candy:)


To back up the information we provide in our articles, the Plantials team only uses high-quality sources published in peer-reviewed university or scientific research journals.

  1. Forcing Of Selected Ornamental Oxalis Spp. As Potted Plants, Acta Horticulture
  2. Molecular Phylogenetics And Origins Of Southern African Oxalis, Botanical Journal Of Linnean Society.
  3. Differential Effects Of Sucrose And Plant Growth Regulator On Shoot Multiplication And Bulbil Formation In Oxalis Versicolour In Vitro, International Transaction Journal Of Engineering.

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