Castor plant in winter

rookieeOctober 21, 2002

Will my 5foot castor plant live in our cold winters? If NOT, should I bring it in the garage, keep it outside and wrap it up in plastic, or start over in the spring. Also WHEN is the best time to plant the seeds? Thanks for any answers!

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wvgal(z6 WV)

I'm in WV and no they don't survive... I just collect the seed and start over in the spring... I have got at least 20 that are about 2 in tall out there now. They are really easy to grow and shoot up fairly fast...
Too much work just sow in spring :) Good luck!
Remember poisonous!!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2002 at 9:58PM
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carlos(zone 6 CT)

plus they are annuals ( they die after one year)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2003 at 6:32PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

As you've probably discovered by now, castor bean (Ricinus communis) is not cold hardy (at least not north of zone 9) so it is generally grown as annual, but in the tropics it actually grows into a small tree. I've never heard of anybody overwintering them indoors, but I suppose it's possible. They grow so fast (and get so big) that they are best started fresh from seeds every year.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2003 at 2:57PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

Make sure you get some seed pods so you can grow them in spring (soon)

Please do not forget they are quite poisonous

    Bookmark   March 19, 2003 at 2:59PM
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daveturpin(Z5 ONT)

Is this plant an annual or a tropical perennial??? Do we have a verdict on this?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2003 at 12:18AM
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PuraVida(Costa Rica)

They're Perennial here.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2003 at 2:49PM
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daveturpin(Z5 ONT)

okay so they are tender perennials - they can be overwintered inside.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2003 at 9:43PM
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greenelbows(z9--so LA)

I understood they were trees, rather than perennials. They are not usually hardy here but I did manage one for three years once--but they're SO BIG! Do you have a house where you can keep a plant that grows ten or fifteen feet tall in a year and a half? They also get really scraggly and not very attractive if they don't get lots of sun and heat. I love 'em, but I start 'em from seed. If another makes it thru the winter without help, that's fine, but I'm not sure they'd look good even in a greenhouse.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2003 at 2:16AM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

Just as a side note,

I didn't remove all the seeds from my castor beans last year and they reseeded. I was very surprised to see them popping up everywhere, even in the lawn. So I just dug some of em out and moved em.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2003 at 6:18PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Can't believe this discussion is still going! Castor beans are (sub)tropical TREES that we grow as annuals in temperate zones because they have attractive foliage and grow so fast from seed in warm weather. They may resprout from the roots if frozen back in warmer zones but they are not plants you can easily grow indoors because of their size and requirements for heat and sun. A greenhouse, maybe. I doubt you could dig one up and bring it indoors because they have large and deep root systems.

Although castor beans are not root-hardy in zone 7, they are surprisingly cold-tolerant and will take temperatures down to freezing without showing damage (unlike some true tropicals like caladiums, which turn up their toes once temps go below about 60 degrees). I have usually had them grow from seeds that overwintered in the ground, even after the exceedingly cold 2002/2003 winter.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2003 at 11:50AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sorry to disagree Johnnie, but:

The plant is definately an annual, not a perennial, nor a tree. Tropical Africa is its original home. The main trouble growing them indoors is adequate light. They will grow leggy to the degree they will not support their own weight unless grown in high light conditions.

Outdoors, I have grown them to 14 ft. tall. The leaves and succulent parts of the plant have always pretty much collapsed at the first frost.

Don't test this, but one or two beans chewed, will produce severe symptoms in adults and could be fatal to kids. Beans swallowed whole are not nearly as likely to produce symptoms. All parts of the plant are poisonous, but it is the seed that is most dangerous.


Here is a link that might be useful: Have a lOOk

    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 8:38PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Just because some websites call castor bean an "annual" doesn't make it one. But from the very page linked by tapla:

"The castor plant is a robust annual that may grow 6 to 15 feet (2-5 meters) in one season with full sunlight, heat and adequate moisture. In areas with mild, frost-free winters it may live for many years and become quite woody and tree-like."

The first sentence is written by somebody with a northern zone bias but the second sentence makes it very clear: castor beans are not annuals, even if most of us in northern zones grow them as annuals due to our cold winters. In the tropics (i.e., their native home) they live for several years and grow into shrubs or trees. Can I make this any more clear? If anybody needs more convincing, check out the link provided below, or any of these websites:

Here is a link that might be useful: Ricinus communis plant profile (USDA)

    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 1:04PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I did a GOOGLE search:
Castor bean annual yeilded 8,180 hits
Castor bean perennial yeilded 3,620 hits
Ricinus communis annual yeilded 3,210 hits
Ricinus communis perennial yeilded 1,800 hits

So the jury is out, but if majority rules......

A tree-like growth habit does not a tree make. Corn can be described as tree-like, and gets quite woody as well, but it isn't a tree. All trees are perennials and generally grow more than 20 ft. tall.

I'm just messin' with ya now. Based on the 20 or so websites I visited, I can see how anyone could make an excellent case for C.B. being a perennial. If it ever comes up again I'll have to say it can be either an annual or a perennial. ; ]

I do have a question: Since you've see them return as perennials, I'd like to know if they develop multiple stems in subsequent years.

Take care,


    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 4:03PM
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hey all,
tapa you said all parts of the plant are poisonous, but i was woundering if the leaves, dried, could be used for anything. i have seen some people drying them in the fall and i'm just woundering.
peace and green thumbs forever

    Bookmark   February 6, 2004 at 4:06PM
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seekertoo(z5b: Mich, USA)

Okay, okay - BUT - I want to know how to plant castor bean seeds in pots so that they'll come up faster (I'm in Michigan - halfway up the state on the West side). I read somewhere where you score the seed OR you pour boiling water over them (in the full moom - heck, I don't remember! - I read a LOT.) Anyway, does anyone remember what they have read on this?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2004 at 4:51PM
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Scoring the seeds isn't necessary. If you want to soak them in warm (NOT hot or boiling) water overnight before planting, you can. Scoring seeds too deep or using overly hot water could damage the embyro.

Wait until it warms up a bit more in your area before sowing, because once you start them, they'll need to be planted out in a couple weeks after germination. Once they're up, they're up, a foot tall just like that and ready to go out. Direct sow or start in quart or larger pot outside.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2004 at 12:22AM
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cherig22(MO 6a/6b)

The ENTIRE plant is poisonous, but some folks use the leaves to make forms/molds for stepping stones.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2004 at 12:48PM
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I have 6 Castor trees (red) that are 2 years old. They survive just fine if you bring them indoors over the winter. If they are in pots, then its easy. If you have to dig them up they might not live. All they need are a couple hours of light each day,and DO NOT water very much. They will go dormant and just need a little water once a week.
Castor Bean Trees are PERENNIAL. the only reason some people call them annual is because they grow so fast and are easier to just grow from seed every year.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 12:53PM
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