Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

Zinfandel volcanic sorrel



Here's the annual that out-performs impatiens—and that you can overwinter as a houseplant.  I was suspicious, but it's true:  'Zinfandel' oxalis is perfect.


I had been given a plant in May, as part of a mixed container with pansies.  By late June the pansies were toast, but 'Zinfandel' was better than ever.  And by October, its energy and form still hadn't flagged. 




I brought the pot into the greenhouse, where it continues unabated as I write.  In May, I'll return it to this very spot on the terrace's stone sideboard.




It gets plenty of sun, and I'll remember to water it, too.



Here's how to grow this ever-eager tender perennial:

Latin Name

Oxalis spiralis ssp. vulcanicola 'Zinfandel'

Common Name

'Zinfandel' volcanic sorrel


Oxalidaceae, the Wood Sorrel family.

What kind of plant is it?

Tender perennial usually grown as an annual.


Zones 9 - 11.


Full to the ground and gently spreading; cascades a bit when used in containers. 

Rate of Growth


Size in four months

'Zinfandel' is so quick-growing it's usually planted as an annual.  Six or eight inches tall and, depending on the opportunities for lateral spread, one or two feet across. 


Full but also delicate.

Grown for

its foliage: The clover-like leaves are a deep burgundy, and are darkest in full sun. 


its flowers: small, five-petaled, and yellow, the flowers are on pinkish stems that project an inch or so above the foliage.  The throat has thin burgundy lines in perfect harmony with the burgundy of the foliage.


its endurance: As long as conditions are acceptable, 'Zinfandel' stays in leaf and in bloom.  The plant doesn't know the meaning of "take a rest."

Flowering season


Color combinations

'Zinfandel' defines its preferred color palette, and it's a narrow one:  Yellow and burgundy, please.  Not blue, not pink, and not grey.  Not even red or orange.  Green is fine, and so is cream, but white—the usual goes-with-anything color—seems far afield.   

Partner plants

'Zinfandel' makes such complete color harmony with itself that it's best to mix it only with more of the same, color-wise.   Bring diversity into its neighbors, instead, via texture, shape, and size.


It's difficult for me to see 'Zinfandel' as other than a container plant; its irrepressible but also complete-in-itself performance would bring, to my eye, a suspiciously artificial perfection to in-ground planting.  (I feel the same about impatiens, too.)  But in containers, it's a fool-proof fluffer for identically-colored partners with as radically different shapes as you can muster.  Thrusting iris-like spikiness of Phormium or Dianella, both in their yellow-leaved cultivars?  Burgundy coleus such as 'Othello' or 'Merlot', or yellow ones such as 'Golda' or 'Life Line'.  Red shield, Hibiscus acetosella.  Gold or burgundy-leaved sweet potatoes.


'Zinfandel' is succulent enough to plant right in the pot with a yellow-friendly Agave, as long as it's big enough at planting to be able to erupt through the "surf" of 'Zinfandel' foliage and flower.  'Zinfandel' would also make an excellent long-term impact as the skirting for a pot of Sansevieria trifasciata—snake plant—which reminds me to get one of its more sophisticated cultivars and follow my own advice.  'Gold Flame' it is.

Where to use it in your garden

In containers, either as a solo or as filler with larger partners.


Any decent soil and plenty of sun.  Oxalis vulcanicola is semi-succulent, so the plants are impressively drought-tolerant. 

How to handle it: The Basics

Plant and enjoy.  'Zinfandel' needs almost no tending—no pinching, staking, or deadheading—and is very tolerant of lackadaisical watering, too.  That said, if you're more regular in your watering, and you've planted in rich soil in full sun, you'll have a much larger plant.

How to handle it: Another option—or two?


Quirks or special cases





The foliage of 'Molten Lava' is yellow, orange, and burgundy; the flowers are the same yellow, so don't show up nearly as well. 


As a whole, Oxalis species are a broad group of bulbs, perennials, and even shrubs with shamrocky foliage and conical flowers in pink, white, or yellow.  They can work as groundcovers, as fillers in container plantings, and as choice specimens.  Many are native to Zone 8 and warmer areas in Africa, Mexico, and South America.  Few are hardy below Zone 8, but often grow so quickly that, like 'Zinfandel', they make terrific annuals; they're often tolerant of indoor light levels, too, so can also be grown as houseplants. 


On-line and at retailers.


By cuttings and by division. 

Native habitat

Oxalis vulcanicola is native to South America.

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