Castor Bean Plant (Ricinus
communis) is also known as the Castor Oil Plant. This exotic-looking member
of the Spurge family is native to East Africa and is not in fact a bean at all.
This annual plant is grown for its tropical looks and drama
in the garden. It can reach heights of 10 feet or more in a single growing
season. The plant is then killed when temperatures dip below freezing.
It prefers full sun and rich, moist, but well-drained soil.
It blooms in late summer and then forms spiky seed pods.
To plant them, direct-sow the seeds in warm soil – about two
weeks after the last frost in spring. Give it plenty of water and fertilizer.
If you want to limit its size, it can be pruned back.
Warning — the seeds are extremely poisonous! It
can self-sow about, but the seedlings are easy to identify and pull if you do
not want them or you could cut off the seed pods before they disperse. Wear
gloves when handling any part of this plant, as the foliage can cause skin
irritation. Note that all parts of the plant are toxic if ingested.
The plant is cultivated f
or medicinal uses and is prized by
beekeepers. In addition to the bountiful pollen the flowers produce, there are
extra nectaries along the stems and leaf stalks.
Popular cultivars include the dark-leaved
‘New Zealand Purple’, ‘Carmencita Rose’ with blue-green foliage and peachy seed
pods, and ‘Red Spire’, which has red stems and seed pods with bronze leaves.
The video was produced
by Washington Gardener Magazine.
Audio and Text by Kathy Jentz
Video and Editing by Melinda Thompson
Footage gathered at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD.
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