I know I’ve said earlier that I’m already thinking about plants that will have to come in for the winter months vs those that will get plonked in the ground with the loving and encouraging words of
“Grow Damnit or I’ll throw you on the trash heap!”.
One of those I will be bringing in is Jatropha multifida. I never remember the Latin names unless I write them on a plant label but it’s also called Coral Plant or Guatemala Rhubarb. I’ve had several, all grown from seed.
And, here’s just a little bitty tip about labeling plants - use the slats from mini-blinds. Write with pencil (ink of all type fades after a time). Sometimes I put the tag in the ground, sometimes tied on a branch of the plant. Works.
So, in years long past, when I lived in Galveston and my sister was still in Houston, we would spend a day roaming around different junque (not really junk, not exactly antiques) shops, plant nurseries, and any other interesting place that caught our attention. At some point we’d stop for lunch. Now, once upon a time …. after roaming around the Heights for several hours, we stopped for lunch. In front of the restaurant were two huge planters each with this really cool tree growing merrily along. Trees that were covered with red blooms and seed pods. Seed pods. Hmmmmm. Snap! and I picked one off. Dropped it into my pocket and we went inside for a delightful lunch.
Jatropha multifida is a small tropical tree that does well in bright shade or hot sun. Probably the most important word in that last sentence is – tropical. It will freeze when temps drop below 40°. The second important word is – tree. It can get up to 10 feet tall easily (20 feet in its native home of Mexico and Central America). Now, I have a personal rule about plants. When they get 8 feet plus tall and are in a large container that takes me and the handcart to move, they get planted in the ground to live or not. I’ve done this several times with different Coral Plants. They do just great during spring, summer and fall and ok during a mild winter; might freeze to the ground and may come back from the root as long as we don’t have any really prolonged cold. However, in general, the ones I’ve planted in the ground, freeze and are gone. That said, I always keep seeds and start new plants.
Coral Plant is a showy ornamental in the Euphorbia family. Like all members of that family, it oozes a milky latex sap. It is a single-trunked small tree with deeply lobed leaves that look a little palm-ish. Flowers come up from the main stalks as a cluster with tiny bright dark pink blooms. Seed pods form within the blooming cluster. By the way - all parts of Jatropha multifida (aka Coral Plant; Guatemala Rhubarb) are poisonous. And, while there are various articles about “medicinal” uses of this plant, you don’t want to be eating any of this one or putting it on your skin for a prolonged time. Best to enjoy it as a small eye-catching tree.
Mine all start in containers and stay in containers until they get too big. Plant it in decent soil with good drainage. It is somewhat drought tolerance once established but is happiest with regular watering. As I said earlier, put it in full sun or bright shade (yes, even our hot full sun is ok). I usually use a slow-release fertilizer in the spring and then mostly ignore it. Growing from seed is pretty easy – I soak the seeds (they look a bit like navy beans) overnight then plant them in potting soil in little starter pots. They live in my fish tank “greenhouse” until they germinate and grow a bit. Then, they are transferred to a normal container and off they go.
Pretty cool plant. Something a little different.