How to Cultivate a Jatropha Plant

Overview

Jatropha is an evergreen succulent shrub or small tree growing up to 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It blooms almost all year with clusters of little red star-shaped flowers. This plant is hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11, which means it will not survive temperatures that drop below 30 degrees. Jatropha, therefore, can only grow outdoors in the warmest regions of the United States. Knowledge of how to create the right environment for the plant will help you produce a healthy and thriving jatropha.

Step 1

Plant jatropha seeds 1 inch deep or cuttings 1/3 of their length in an area with partial shade or full sun. Space multiple plants at least 6 feet apart. This plant can withstand any type of soil as long as it is well-drained, but it prefers sandy soil. Keep the cuttings or seeds moist, but not soaked, until they start to grow on their own.

Step 2

Water the jatropha minimally. This is a drought-tolerant plant that can survive on the humidity in the air in some cases. Too much water will kill the plant. Two inches of water a month is optimum for growth.

Step 3

Fertilize the Jatropha after establishment with a complete, all-purpose fertilizer. Follow the directions on the package for application instructions. This plant can survive with few nutrients but will thrive with one application of fertilizer a year to encourage growth.

Step 4

Weed around the plant. This will keep down competition for water and nutrients. Alternatively, place a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant to keep the weeds at bay.

Step 5

Prune the jatropha to your desire with pruning shears. It responds well to pruning at any time of the year as it blooms on the current year's growth. You may prune it down to shrub form or as a small tree with a single leader.

Tips and Warnings

  • Jatropha contains a milky sap that may irritate skin. Do not ingest any part of the plant as it may be poisonous.

Things You'll Need

  • Jatropha seeds or cuttings
  • Complete fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Pruning shears

References

  • University of Florida Horticulture: Jatropha Integerrima
  • Purdue University: Jatropha Curcas
  • Floridata: Jatropha Integerrima
  • Jatropha World: Jatropha Plantation
Keywords: growing jatropha, watering jatropha, fertilizing jatropha

About this Author

Sarah Morse recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature. She has been freelancing for three months and got her start writing for an environmental website.