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How to Grow and Care for Jatropha

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The Jatropha genus includes a very wide variety of plants native to the warmer regions of the world. They range from tropical plants to semi-arid subtropical plants that resemble succulents in their growth patterns. Depending on where you live, you might see different types of Jatropha. One of the most popular in the United States nursery trade is the Jatropha integerrima, which is grown for its sprays of shocking and beautiful red flowers.

Like many species in the Euphorbiaceae family, these plants are toxic and should not be located in areas where curious children or pets might decide to sample them. If, however, you have the right location and safety is not a concern, these are wonderful plants, both for their ease of cultivation and their beauty.

Growing Conditions

Light: It somewhat depends on the species, so ask your garden center staff. Many Jatropha prefer bright and sunny conditions, while others thrive in partial shade.
Water: Provide regular water during the growing season, and reduce watering during the winter. Immaculate drainage is important, and some species are very drought tolerant. Jatropha integerrima is drought tolerant.
Soil: A rich typical potting mix will do fine. Provide lots of coarse drainage material and get into the habit of watering daily.
Fertilizer: Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season.

Jatropha berlandieri

Photo via photobucket.com

Propagation

Jatropha can be propagated by seed (if you’re fortunate enough to get sides) or by stem cuttings. To take stem cuttings, remove a small piece of stem, dip it in rooting hormone, then pot into a small pot with seedling starter soil. Place in a warm, bright place and wait for new growth to emerge.

Repotting

Annually, in the beginning of the growing season. Many Jatropha species are naturally small shrubs, ranging up to 15 feet (4.5 m) in height. To keep your indoor container plant manageable, trim it to size and possibly root prune older plants. Much larger plants should be refreshed occasionally by removing the top several inches of potting soil and replacing it with fresh potting soil.

Grower’s Tips

The key to growing successful Jatropha is to achieve the proper balance between moisture and drainage. They typically appreciate a steady supply of water, but the most popular species cannot tolerate being submerged or soaked and will quickly succumb to root rot. Many of the popular Jatropha species make excellent small trees for a conservatory or sunny corner. Keep them well pruned so they don’t outgrow their space too soon. Jatropha are vulnerable to pests including aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and white fly. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat with the leave toxic option.

Source: about.com

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