Herself's Houston Garden

Gardening for fun and wildlife at the edge of Houston's piney woods

Castor bean plant ( Ricinus Communis )




I cut this one back to the ground after Ike and look how large it's grown.

I cut this one back to the ground after Ike and look how large it

I first saw one of these planted at the Conroe extension office when I was up there for a tour. I decided I had to have one. I thought it would take a year or more of scouring plant sales but I got lucky and stumbled across one at the Jerry’s Jungle Plant Sale.

Castor is a native of Ethiopia but found in most warm climates now. It loves warm, humid, wet climates. How perfect for Houston!

It isn’t quite a bog plant you don’t want it that wet, but don’t let it dry out. Keep it in a moist area of your garden. It does well along rivers so it should work in a swale garden as well.

This plant is loved by hummingbirds, they cover it in the fall when they are migrating through.

Castor plants will grow to between six and fifteen feet tall. They can become tree like and leaf size will increase with age and size as well. It is a rapid grower and great for a tropical looking garden. Flowering is through-out the warm weather.

Dried seeds are sticky like thistles, be cautious when removing them or cleaning up.

Victorians loved this plant. As with many of their favorite garden plants it is strange looking and poison. Poison ivy and sumac were also favorites of Victorian gardeners.

Because the plant is poison you will find it hard to locate at most commercial nurseries and you should not grow it if you have children or pets that will eat the plant. 1 milligram is enough to kill an adult. This was the poison used to kill Markov in 1978. He had been shot with an umbrella and the pellets contained ricin which is derived from the castor beans.

Mine lost all of its leaves when the weather went below 40′F.  At about freezing it dies back to the ground. It will re-appear in April most years, this year it was mid May before I saw any re-appear.

Spreads easily, considered invasive by some. I find new plants as far as 30′ away. But I never find more than a dozen new ones in any year.

Rumor has it eBay is a good source for this plant if you are still interested.

Kikaion, a plant of the Old Testament is believed related to the castor bean plant.

The US, USSR and Iraq all made stockpiles of ricin in more barbaric times.

Leaf miners like this plant.

Tends to root shallow and then tip over in rain storms. Stake it or keep it cut back to avoid that.

Survived the heat and drought of 2011

More information:

Castor Bean Plant ( everything you wanted to know and more )
Ricin ‘antidote’ to be produced

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