Yes, yes…I went to this year’s NC State Fair and I won’t disclose all my food transgression here, but I will share a new plant discovery–the Caster bean, Ricinus Communis. Several of the featured gardens showcased this native African plant.  I guess it isn’t out of the ordinary for me to instantly be attracted to this one…it is a tropical.  It would make a great addition in my tropical bed.  It is so dramatic.  And you are probably saying to yourself…does this plant have anything to do with the old home remedy Castor Oil.  I only heard of the stuff and the stories from my grandma…you know like those cliche stories of walking a mile in the snow to school…It does.  One in the same.

Anyway, back to the plant profile–

  • It has these giant robust stalks with these mini palm like leaves with 8 points.  I especially like the variety with the mix of deep green with purple or reddish brown coloring.
  • It is a splintering perennial zones 8+ that can grow to 6-9 feet the first year and then up to 39 feet. It is NOT cold hardy. So in zones 2-7 it is more like an annual.
  • It produces these spiny, greenish (to reddish purple) capsule containing large, oval, shiny, bean-like, highly poisonous seeds. Yeah..I was all jazzed about the grooviness of this plant, until i found this out…it only takes 11 beans to kill a dog. Keep away from children. Kind of scary, huh? Many gardeners harvest the beans to prevent children or pets from accidentally ingesting them.   BTW–the sap may cause an allergic reaction too, so handle with care.
  • Plant in rich, well drained soil.
  • It is a heat  and humidity lover. Keep moist and mulch well.

Plant this bean with caution. Consider it…just know the risks and responsibilities when going in…   It was the lasting plant impression from my garden tour at the NC State Fair.  If you go to the Fair this year…don’t skip the gardens.  They are super cool.  And you might find a fav of your own.

Consider the Castor bean for your garden.

Happy Gardening.