Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)

My castor bean seedlings started sprouting a few days ago and have taken off like rockets.  They look a little lanky but the lights are strong so I figure it's just they way they start their lives.  I actually collected these seeds from the reddish plants in the centre of the beds at the Civic Garden Complex.  These are bar far the nicest variety I have ever seen growing.

There are both red and green varieties but I definitely prefer the red.  There are no other plants grown here that can add such a tropical and lush feel so quickly.  The ones in the link above were over 3m (10ft) tall by the end of the summer and had been started indoor and planted at about 50cm (1.5ft).  The growth rate is extremely impressive and we even had a relatively wet/cloudy summer.  In tropical climates they actually grow into mid-sized trees.  They can of course be trimmed to encourage denser, shorter growth.  The photo below was taken yesterday.  I love the spiraling stems.
The seeds contain notable concentrations of the poison ricin as does the rest of the plant in lesser concentrations.  This being said, the recin can be removed and castor oil is actually an important export in many warmer countries.  Here they are only grown for decorative purposes.  Plants are started from seed each year and die down to the roots after hard frost.  Eventually they completely freeze and die in the winter.  Last time I checked, the stumps from last year's batch were still in the ground.

Below you can see the seedlings as of a few minutes before this post.  I'll probably have to split them up relatively soon.  I like to start way too many seeds and then just save the best ones.  It's emotionally difficult but works well!
I rotate the pot in the morning and evening so they don't just grow in one direction.  I highly recommend these plants!  If you're concerned about pets or children you can just cut off the flowers so the plant doesn't go to seed.  It's probably not the best idea if you have a pet that's fond of foliage though!  Just make sure to give them nutrient rich, moist, well aerated soil and they won't disappoint.


  1. "Last time I checked, the stumps from last year's batch were still in the ground"

    My one complaint about them is removing the old stumps. It is like removing a small tree. Or in my case since I had grown a bunch of them in my border it was like removing a small forest.

  2. Fair enough. I'm not sure if they just saw them off in the soil or what. I'd think a combination of small shovel and hand clippers. Love them regardless though!

  3. Well done! They seem to be flourishing. I wish I had a place to start seedling set up with some grow lights. My lacksidaisy attempts at starting from seed generally end just as they start, with me staring at the dirt. I seem to lack the motivation to do anything about it. So I'll just watch for now and learn, for that someday.

  4. Well, they are looking good, eh??? I like that red coloration! The trunks that have to be removed sounds like work to me! Too bad they have to die they do that in tropical areas too? I think I would stay away anyway due to my chihuahua, cat and grandkids. :)

  5. So that's where castor oil comes from. Stipey Cat was a plant eater. I have a feeling he won't be back. Sad really. Two cats gone in just a couple of months...and we live on a dead end road. Need to put my plants out in the sun now. My hibiscus don't look so good. Had a rough winter indoors. Hopefully it will perk up in the next couple of weeks.

  6. Laura, just keep on trying it will eventually work. It's usually something simple like letting them dry out or over-watering. You'll get it!

    Julie, they do look good. It will probably grow into a small tree in your area. Yeah, you might want to avoid them. Probably not worth the risk...

    Randy, I can't believe another cat disappeared. I'm concerned that that there is some crazy person in the area... The Hibiscus should perk up no problem just don't put them in full sun right away.

  7. I like to keep things interesting! :)

  8. I love the look of castor beans -- our parents used to grow them when we lived in England (more years ago than I'd like to say, of course), and to a kid they really do take on a monumental jungle quality. For one little bean, they grow at an astonishing rate. I agree; the red ones are the best.

  9. I've always been a fan of the tropical feel. Anything with large leaves is just delightful to me. I love trying to bring a sense of tropics farther north.

  10. Well, this is a year after your post, but soooo helpful. This is my first year planting castor bean seeds. I usually pay the garden centre $12 to $15 for the plant. I planted 4 seeds - one in each biodegradable pot and only one has 'surfaced' so far, and the stem looks so weird. However when I look at your photo above, it appears that they all look spirally and they seem to be different heights so some must pop up before others. This is going to be fun! Thanks for sharing


Thanks for contributing!

Related Posts with Thumbnails