Jatropha (Gout plant, Buddha belly plant) once belonged in the textbook rather than the garden center, but it is now widely available perennial plant. In Central America it occurs naturally in arid environments – makes it quite adapted to their climate and sandy soils, not needing any supplemental watering. Jatropha is a remarkable oddity – the tall bottle stem remains bare throughout the winter, and then in early spring the flower-stalks appear with a crown of small orange-red blooms. The flowers bloom easily all year round and will attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Later the long-stalked leaves appear – a conversation piece rather than a thing of beauty. Few plants are easier to grow – hardly any watering is required and it has no special needs.
This plant is non fussy and adapts to its environment. Only one species is grown as a house plant – Jatropha podagrica. The flower-stalk is about 2 ft tall and the flowers are coral red. The blooms remain for most of the year. This plant grows easily and hardly need any care. It is a robust and tough plant to have in the garden.
Secrets of success
Temperature: Average warmth, minimum 50°F in winter.
Light: Bright light; avoid hot summer sun. The more shade, the bigger the leaves.
Water: Water sparingly from spring to summer – hardly at all in winter.
Repotting: Repot, if necessary, in spring.
Propagation: Propagation is by seeds in spring, which are produced freely and germinate easily. When the seeds ripen, they burst open, so watch them to turn brown before you miss them jumping away.