The castor bean plant (Ricinus communis) is grown for its production of castor oil, animal feed and as an ornamental garden specimen. The plant is highly toxic and contains a chemical known as the protein ricin and the alkaloid ricinine. When the plant and beans are boiled, the toxins are removed. The seeds are then squeezed to remove the oil. The remaining hulls are used in animal feed. The plant is impressive in appearance and size. It will easily grow to 40 feet. Castor bean plants are grown year-round as evergreen herbaceous trees or shrubs in tropical climates, but in colder areas they are grown as annuals.
Soak castor beans in a bucket of water for 24 hours before planting. Nick the very end of each seed with a sharp razor blade, just enough to make a very tiny superficial cut in the seed's outer layer. Sow seeds indoors six weeks before the expected last frost if growing in cold regions of the country. Plant the seeds in a potting mix in a small starting container. Place the container in a sunny window for germination to begin.
Plant in a location that offers ample space for the fast-growing castor bean plant.
Plant castor bean plants in a sunny location that affords wind protection. Plant castor bean plants in groups for the best overall effect.
Place the seeds 1 inch deep in the soil. Mix the soil at a ratio of 50 percent peat moss with 50 percent garden soil and plant in well-drained soil.
Water the castor bean plant seeds regularly, enough to maintain a moist soil.
Cut the plants back after a hard freeze. Dispose of the plants' remains in a plastic bag.
Support the castor bean plants using garden stakes with cotton rope if the plants become so large they begin to fall over. Castor bean plants are extremely susceptible to wind damage.