Ricinus communis, or Castor Bean, known more as Castor Oil Plant, is a tropical annual that makes quite a stunning presence in the garden. This variety, Zanzibariensis, is the largest of the Castor Bean varieties and comes from Zanzibar. It produces large, leaves that are a bronze-green in color, star-shaped and reach up to 24 inches across. The plant can reach 8 feet in height and is often used for its appealing visual display. This tall annual is often used to make a back-drop for other lower-growing plants in the summer garden. Start Castor Bean seed directly outdoors in a prepared seedbed after danger of frost has passed. Press the seed into soil, cover it with 1/4 inch of soil and keep the seed moist but not wet. With a temperature of 65 - 70F, germination is usually in 14 days. Grow Castor Bean in full sun. It prefers well-amended, fertile soil. Space plants 36 - 48 inches apart. To get a jump on the growing season, the Castor Bean seeds can be started indoors and transplanted out. Caution: all parts of the plant, including seeds are poisonous.
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