Castor Oil Bean Plants - Growing Season

patrick212March 15, 2007

Do any of you have experience with growing Castor Oil Bean (Carmencita or Zanzibarenis). I'll be growing the plants from seed this year for use on my rooftop deck. My question is what is the typical lifespan of this annual? I live in Chicago and plan to start the seeds the first week in April (indoors) and plant in an outside container during the third week in May. I was curious as to when the plant will begin to die off (early, mid, late Sept?). Any help you can offer will be appreciated.

Take care, Pat

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I ASSUME that your plant will start to die back after it sets seed, as with other annuals. However, flowering is not a guanantee with this plant. Deadheading would prolong the attractive life, too. It'll go out with a frost.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2007 at 11:07AM
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girlndocs(8 WA)

Deadheading will also reduce the main danger associated with castor plants -- you probably know that the whole plant is poisonous, but by far the most toxin is concentrated in the seeds, which get flung when the seed capsules split.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2007 at 3:19PM
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alzypelican(z4/z5 MN)

Castor bean will continue to grow until killed by freezing temps.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 3:31PM
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They'll last until the frost.
If you want to harvest seeds for next season, let the seed pods turn brown & start to dry out.
I usually hold a paper cup underneath when I cut them off & let them drop in the cup.
The pods have spikes & they are SHARP! If you handle them, you may want to wear gloves - especially if you have sensative skin.
The pods will continue to dry out & eventually split open. There are usually about 3 seeds per pod. You'll have plenty for 2008.
I had a plant grown in a 16" pot that produced 12 pods - that's 36 seeds! Way more than I needed!

As girlndocs (Kristin) posted above - the whole plant is poisonous. Be especially careful with the seeds - especially if you have kids! The seeds are shiny, smooth, have interesting patterns and are BIG. Just the perfect size for little hands to grab. It's a roadmap for disaster if you're not careful.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 5:53PM
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Thanks for all your responses. This is just the information that I was looking for.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 6:39PM
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kyplantjunkie(z6 KY)

The seeds have a better germination % if you soak them overnight before planting. Castor bean leaves are huge, and tropical-great plant!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 5:41PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Where do you get the seeds? Can they usually be obtained locally?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 9:13PM
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I ordered two different varieties from Select Seeds.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 11:03PM
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I asked a neighbor to dig up a castor bean plant and she did so. She wasn't aware of the poison factor. We both had little children.
Just curious, what is it about the castor bean plant that makes you want it?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 10:16PM
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Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I plan to use a couple large containers with them to act as a screen to block off an area. I don't have any kids that would get to the seeds (and it's on a roof).

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 2:20PM
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ole_dawg(7 UpCountry SC)

BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL WITH THE SEEDS. Ricin is made from the seeds. It is the most deadly natural poison known to man and there is NO ANTIDOTE. Period. If you have children I would not consider growing them at all.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 10:30PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

It would be a good idea, because the seeds are so pretty, to remove the flowers as they develop, as mentioned earlier. That way, there would be no chance of the seeds getting into the hands of a curious animal or child.

Isn't it interesting that ricin AND castor oil are made from the seeds of the Castor plant? ;-)

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 10:51AM
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How did your castor beans do in the pots?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 6:57AM
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glaswegian(5b, Ont) did they do in pots? Mine in the ground got to about 8ft tall

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 3:21PM
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They do very well in pots. The main issue that I have to deal with is wind damage to the leaves. If you have a somewhat protected area they will be fine. I have harvested seeds from my plantings the last two seasons and they were very healthy. I'll post some pictures later this week.

Take care, Pat

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 8:17PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You may not know there are many varieties of castor beans. The smaller varieties are a better choice for containers. Choose from Carmencita red or pink, Impala, or Gibsonii. These are the shorter and smaller leaf varieties. If you want to keep them in scale as a container plant, and show them to their best effect, you might want to consider pinching out the meristem (growing tip) after they've produced 3 true leaves. This makes for a better looking and fuller plant.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 9:52PM
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glaswegian(5b, Ont)

Thanks for that tip Al

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 8:35PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Mmhmm. ;o)


    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 9:59PM
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Glaswegian, I forgot to add a link to the plants grown in pots. The pictures were taken in late July. This year I'm going to follow Al's suggestion and pinch off the growing tip. I grew 4 plants in a 20" pot last year which I'll cut back to three this season. Be sure to anchor the pots, the large leaves catch a lot of wind. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Castor Oil in Pots 07-08

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 11:56AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Nice job, Pat.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 3:11PM
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magickiwi(Zone 5 Michigan)

Pat, your rooftop garden is just beautiful. You did a great job! I never would have thought to put Cleome in pots ... I have some seeds here and was wondering where to put them ... I have plenty of pots so tomorrow I plant cleomes! I have ordered some castor bean seeds - all different varieties - I also have ostrich ferns and hostas in pots so am definitely going for the tropical look this year! I hope you saved lots of seeds and that your rooftop is as gorgeous as last year!
Good luck!
Rita in Michigan

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 9:49PM
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RNdaSilva(7b to 8a)

While living in Calexico, CA, in the Sonoran desert, I had a friend that had a very exotic looking plant in his backyard - wanted same. Learned that it was a castor bean plant, took some seeds and planted in my yard. Later yielded many, many seeds. It that area my first plant grew over nine feet, was more beautiful the first year but always nice. No frost, lasted forever.

The following is from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

Has anyone ever died after being exposed to ricin?

"Yes, several deaths have resulted after a victim was injected with ricin. People have been poisoned with ricin after eating castor beans, but most cases of eating castor beans do not result in poisoning, because it is difficult to release the ricin from castor beans. Also, ricin is not as well absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract when compared to injection or inhalation."

Am not that worried about the swallowing of castor beans but would be careful around children. Have you ever seen a report of a person dying as a result of ingesting a castor bean? Neither have I.

I brought some beans with me to WA, couldn't find them so purchased some on the Internet. No luck so far in starting these. Every bean I planted in southern CA sprouted.

Someone asked why plant these? They are a very attractive tropical looking plant. Many plants are poisonous, even the Washington state flower - the rhododendron. The oleander growing en-mass in freeway dividers, etc., in southern CA.

Take care...

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 10:00PM
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