Castor oil plant

Ricinus communis

A tender annual, this beautiful red leaved variety is grown solely for its decorative value, because the hull of the bean produced in the seed heads contains the poison ricin. The seed itself is produces castor oil. Please note that this plant is poisonous. 9x9cm pot (8cm depth)

9x9cm pot (8cm depth)

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  • Decorative garden plant
  • Tall growing plant
  • Adds colour and texture to a border
  • Poisonous seed and leaves – not to be eaten

Castor oil plant has a chapter dedicated to it in the Ebers papyrus found in The Valley of the Kings and dating from around 1500BC. In more recent times the plant has fallen from favour because of the presence of ricin in the seed coating, a deadly poison that was responsible for the death of Georgi Markov on Waterloo Bridge when it was administered from the tip of an umbrella.

Plant Care

  • Height: 100-150cm
  • Type: Tender
  • Aspect: Sun
  • Soil: Any/alkaline
  • Flower colour: Red
  • Flowering period: July- August

The castor oil plant is tender annual in the UK and is grown from seed each spring when the all danger of frosts has passed. It is a decorative annual, which can be grown in the ground where it will reach a reasonable height, or can be grown in a pot. The seeds which are extremely toxic can be dried and sown the following year, but since they are beans they should be labelled well and kept well away from any other pulses that they could be confused with.


Castor oil plant has a rich history of uses from India and Africa dating back thousands of years. It has been used for both a medicine and a moisturising ingredient in the skincare industry. The oil was used traditionally used as a potent laxative; however more recently the plant has fallen from internal use because of the presence of ricin that is highly toxic.




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