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Ricinus communis 'Impala'
Castor oil plant
Type/Hardiness Annual, Half hardy
Flowering period July-September
Height 4-6ft/1.3-2.5m
Light preference Full sun
Soil preference Rich soil
Sowing time/depth February-March, 0.25in/6mm
A stunning and exotic specimen plant with large palmate leaves, coloured from dark green to red-bronze. The creamy-yellow flower spikes, whilst attractive, are not as interesting as the spiky maroon-red seed pods. In warmer climates ricinus can grow to the size of a small tree up to 15ft high, but it is usually grown as an annual in the UK and is unlikely to reach a height of much more than 4ft/1.3m. However, it may be possible to over-winter container plants in a warm conservatory.

Note: All parts of the plant are poisonous, particularly the seeds. Handle the plant with care, as the sap may cause irritation to some individuals.

Sowing and/or growing instructions
Sow individually in pots of compost, .25in/6mm deep, ideally at a temperature of 20-30C, though I have had no trouble in achieving a reasonable germination rate in an unheated greenhouse. Some sources recommend soaking the seeds in tepid water for 24 hours before sowing, but I have not found this to be necessary. Grow on under cover until danger of frost is past, moving into larger pots as necessary so that plants do not become root-bound (which could cause premature flowering), planting out 3ft/1m apart when about a foot tall, in a sunny position in rich, fertile soil.
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