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How to Remove Oxalis, the Wood Sorrel Weed

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Need help getting rid of wood sorrel weeds?

Do you have wood sorrel weeds or another shamrock looking Oxalis in your garden?

Before you decide your wood sorrel weeds need to go, identify which shamrock you have. That’s because besides the bemoaned wood sorrel weed, there are other desirable Oxalis you may want to keep or add to your garden.

Wood shamrocks you might want to keep:

  • Redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana), which carpets the forest floor beneath Pacific redwoods, is one of them.
  • And, silver shamrock (Oxalis adenophylla) hails from outside North America but performs beautifully, even in full sun, in many US and other temperate locales.
  • But, it’s the nasty, creeping Wood Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) that you may be desperate to remove.
How to get rid of wood sorrel weeds

Wood sorrel weed can be pretty. But, it can stress on your plants & soil.

So, why is this one a wood sorrel weed?

Creeping wood sorrel, a non-native plant in the Pacific Northwest. But, it  is fairly common in PacNW gardens. And, it can also be problematic in several ways.

For instance, this wood sorrel weed can host diseases like mildew. Then it might spread through your garden. Plus, it can bring along some food crop diseases.

Plus, its complex roots can drain soil of nutrients and moisture rapidly. Also, this plant will grow in dense compacted soils. However,  it has a strong affinity for loose, sandy soil. That’s because it’s easy to push its traveling stems and roots through these big particles. Furthermore, it grows well in sun & shade, wet or dry. So, it kind of grows anywhere.

Oxalis Wood Sorrel weed with Mildew Infestation

Oxalis Wood Sorrel with Mildew Infestation

Knowing how it grows will help you eradicate it.

This problematic shamrock mostly disappears from view during winter. But, it isn’t dead. Underground, its roots continue to grow strong. Not only do the roots travel along the surface of the soil, but wood sorrel weed roots also spread deeper. Plus, wood sorrel weed throws down tough filigrees of nutrient and water-sapping tap roots that can be tough to dig out. And even worse, this “travel and grow” behavior happens all year long.

Piling on, by late Spring, the plants further self-propagate by putting on a display of little yellow flowers from which spitting seed pods form. And, these disperse more wood sorrel weed progeny.

Step-by-step wood sorrel weed removal guidelines:

First: Don’t let it bloom. If this plant blooms, the seeds will spread everywhere fast, resulting in more baby plants everywhere.

Oxalis Wood Sorrel Weed Tap Root Example

Oxalis Wood Sorrel Weed Tap Root Example

Second: When you pull it, be sure to get the entire root. That means both the tap root and any roots growing laterally. If you leave any behind, the plant will just regrow. And, use the right tools. If you want to learn more about our favorite garden weeding tools, check out our Academy now for help on these and other gardening lessons.

Third: Don’t till an area where this weed has grown. Tilling will simply stir up any residual seeds into the light where they can germinate. And, if you break up any remaining roots, spreading them as you till, your Oxalis weed crop will happily take off again, growing from those chopped up bits you just created.

Finally,  few notes to help get rid of unwanted oxalis.

If this little nasty plant makes an appearance in your garden, it may take several seasons to eradicate it. And, because it exists through most of North America, it may reappear in the next plant you bring home from a garden sale. So, always check new plant purchases to be sure it isn’t growing in a nursery pot.

11 comments on “How to Remove Oxalis, the Wood Sorrel Weed


    Hi I have this weed growing throughout my garden when is the best time to fork it up. And also does a bit of
    Weed killer eradicate it as my garden is seriously affected by Creeping woodsorrel, Oxalis corniculata.

  2. Sarah McMahan on

    How is it that such weeds as the Shotweed and Wood Sorrel can suddenly appear in what seems like EVERYONE’S garden, when never seen before! The sorrel is a major problem in N.W. gardens, at least from Portland to Port Townsend and across the water in Bothell. Family living in those places tell me of their own plague of sorrel, and I can affirm that! This is the very first time. Where did it come from?!?

  3. Garden Mentors on

    Sarah, They could come on the wind or on the foot of a human or the beak of a bird. They could come in a nursery pot. They could come in potting soil. They could come on a car tire. Plants are adapted to travel in many, many ways.

  4. Judy Long on

    This menace is like a carpet in our garden. We have dug and pulled giant roots of this thing. Are there no natural weed killers that would eradicate it.

  5. kristi on

    I don’t have many weeds, since I practice deep mulch vegetable (& fruit) gardening, however this is my #1 weed and I spend more time than I would like removing it. We are zone 3b with long hard winters and it is one of the first to re-appear each spring. The roots grow very deep and in huge clusters of reddish-white. If you don’ t remove every single bit, what you leave behind will re-grow!

    It takes 6 to 8 inches of thick oat or wheat straw to smother it, but even then it will re-appear in a thinner section of the straw. In my large (40 x 60) strawberry bed, I am about ready to use woven landscape textile to cover it all, as it is nearly impossible to hand weed an area that large.

    I have heard that vinegar will kill it, but don’t want to risk killing my vegetables/strawberries. And a flame thrower wouldn’t work, for same reason. If only I could find a small dog that would root it out….

  6. Sharron on

    I have it in a large container planed with an apple tree. Will I ever get rid of it by constant pulling ? Will it damage the tree? I fear it is robbing it of nutrients.

  7. Garden Mentors on

    Getting out all of the roots and being sure it hasn’t sown more seeds is the only way to get rid of any plant. Since Oxalis can spread disease and does draw nutrients, it may be negatively impacting your tree. Sometimes a full soil exchange and root wash of the tree you’ll replant is the only way to go. Good luck!

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