A distant relative to the poinsettia and native of Cuba and the West Indies, the tropical evergreen shrub Jatropha only flourishes in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. Although many species exist under the Jatropha genus, the most popular and commercially accessible cultivar for home gardeners is variously called spicy jatropha, peregrina and firecracker (J. integerrima “Compacta”). Clusters of rose-red flowers appear on the 4- year to 6-foot tree the majority of the year.
One-inch flowers saturated at a pinkish-red hue are hot jatropha’s most distinguishing attribute. Masses of those flowers, held erect over the foliage, can attract attention to a certain area of the garden. Typically multitrunked, the plant boasts leaves, as long as 7 ins, that could possibly be oblong or fiddle-shaped. Almost as interesting as the blooms, the new foliage comes in purple but turns a bright, shiny green. Butterflies often visit the shrubs, and the showy red flowers lure all of the hummingbirds in the area. Spicy jatropha’s perfect companions include other hot tropicals, like hibiscus, mandevilla and agapanthus. Thorns about the branches and poisonous seeds, however, necessitate putting the plants where they won’t be safety concerns.
In places warm enough to support its growth, wait till mid-May or after to set it out. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Those growing in full sun flower best, though. Spicy jatropha isn’t particular about soil pH, as long as the ground is well-draining. Once established, it grows rapidly. A regular watering schedule is necessary for the initial growing season, so that it builds a deep and extensive root system. The jatropha tolerates saline and drought conditions to a moderate degree.
Regarded as being an easy-care tree, creamy jatropha gains from pruning in the spring to clean it before summer blooming season begins. When winter comes in spaces where frost is possible, bring potted jatrophas into the home or garage. The plants rebound rapidly when placed out again in the spring. Water weekly or more often in extremely hot weather. Spicy jatropha is immune to most pests and diseases. Sometimes, mites, scales or shallow leaf miners attack one of those crops, but spraying with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil should take care of the issue.
Because it can block unsightly views and buffer street noise, jatrophas excel grouped to form a drop, whether clipped or informal. The plant is frequently used as a backdrop for outdoor seating areas, yard sculpture or flats. Because it typically stays small, spicy jatropha serves as a good container plant on a terrace. Don’t expect it to provide shade, however, the prolific flowers make the small tree or tree a natural to show as an accent or specimen plant in the landscape.