Wunderbaum, Castor bean - Tips for care and toxicity

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Castor - Wunderbaum - Ricinus communis

With phenomenal attributes the miracle tree underpins its promising title. Thus, the herbaceous wolf milk plant scores with rapid growth within a few months to a whopping 3 meters in height. The mystical aura of its bright red leaves, shaped like a splayed hand, nobody can escape. Not to mention the fluffy flowers, followed by spectacular red spiny fruits. Although the seeds of a castor plant are highly toxic, they still provide a valuable oil. Interested hobby gardeners will not miss the following tips on care and toxicity.

Location and substrate

The successful care of the tropical miracle tree under the local climatic conditions is based on the choice of an adequate location. The more protected the conditions, the more promising the extension of the actually one-year-old culture to a perennial presence in the garden.
  • Sunny location, warm and well protected from heavy winds
  • In the partially shaded place, the intensity of the foliage color diminishes
  • Nutrient-rich soil, humus and well drained
  • Fresh, moist and with a normal pH
As a majestic container plant, the castor plant perfectly decorates the large balcony, the spacious terrace or the sheltered seat in the garden. As a substrate in this case, a high-quality, structurally stable potting soil is suitable, which is optimized with compost and horn shavings.
Tip: The miracle tree thrives particularly well on a bed of mist or directly on a compost heap to shade it.

Pouring and fertilizing

In order to develop the huge biomass within a few months, the need for nutrients is at a high level. While a miracle tree creates its stately stature, its craving for water increases in proportion to the degree of evaporation over the mighty leaves. By the beginning of flowering in August, the Christmas tree has become so established that it can provide itself with its root system so well that it understands short periods of drought. How to properly address the needs of a castor bean plant:
  • Water regularly and abundantly during the growth phase
  • Waterlogging is essential to avoid
  • From May to September, fertilize weekly with compost or liquid fertilizer
  • Alternatively, apply a long-term fertilizer every 6 weeks from May onwards
In the bucket, in principle, there is a greater need for casting and fertilizer, since the miracle tree must be content with a comparatively small substrate volume. Once the surface of the potting soil has dried, is poured. As a fertilizer, a nitrogen-stressed preparation is recommended, which has a beneficial effect on the growth rate. Alternatively, you can access a depot fertilizer in the form of sticks or cones, which is administered after dosing.


Castor - Wunderbaum - Ricinus communis

The miracle tree is equipped with a constitution for the perennial culture. In the mild wine-growing regions of Germany, this expectation should easily be met. In autumn, the castor plant gradually absorbs its above-ground parts of plants. Now give the milkweed plant enough opportunity to assimilate the remaining nutrients from shoots and leaves, which strengthens the reserves of energy for hibernation of the root system. If the withered parts of the plant disturb the appearance, they are then removed. If your garden is located in a harsher region, the following measures are recommended for winter protection:
  • Generously pile up the planting area with clay soil, compost, brushwood or straw
  • Ideally, place the bucket in a frost-free, bright winter quarters
  • Alternatively, place the planter on wood and wrap with bubble wrap
  • The substrate is covered with straw, leaves, brushwood or pine fronds
During a frosty winter without snowfall, Christmas trees are much more likely to be drought-prone than during the summer. If the ground is frozen, the roots will not reach the water. If this deficiency is not compensated by a blanket of snow, the wolf milk plant dries up helplessly. Therefore, on a frost-free day with the watering can, turn a round through the garden, because not only the miraculous tree is now craving for water.


The shoots, flowers and leaves of the miracle tree contain poisonous alkaloids. These trigger allergic reactions on the skin in sensitive people. This toxin content, however, is negligible compared to the toxicity of the seeds. These are found in the spiny fruits and contain the dangerous protein ricin. Already 0.25 milligrams of this substance can be deadly. At least 2 days after the consumption of the seeds threatens a lethal circulatory failure. An antidote could not be developed so far. Due to its high potential for danger, ricin is considered a weapon of mass destruction and is subject to the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention.After all, smaller amounts cause the worst possible health problems, such as nausea, vomiting or severe damage to the kidneys and liver. So trained hobby gardeners deal with the toxicity:
  • Do not plant the miracle tree within reach of children and pets
  • For reasons of precaution, if in doubt, pick the fruit in good time
  • Carry out all maintenance work with suitable protective clothing
  • Do not dispose of harvested fruits on compost or on pastures so that no animals eat them
The production of the well-known castor oil, which finds diverse application as a medicine, therefore belongs in expert hands. Since toxic ricin is fat-insoluble, it is in the waste after pressing.


Castor - Wunderbaum - Ricinus communis

Anyone who is aware of the poison content of Wunderbaum seeds and takes appropriate precautions can easily plant further specimens of the imposing spurge family in his green kingdom. It is these same seeds that make it easy to prefer young, young plants in an uncomplicated manner in early spring. Suitable seed stores are available from the specialist trade. So the propagation by sowing succeeds:
  • In February, soak the seeds for 24 hours in 0.2 percent potassium nitrate from the pharmacy
  • Alternatively, roast the seeds with a file and swell in room-warm water
  • Small pots fill with Saaterde, peat-sand mixture, Kokoshum or a similarly lean substrate
  • Insert one seed at a time and sift 1 cm thick with sand or vermiculite
  • Moisten with water from the spray bottle and cover with a plastic wrap
On the sill, the germination takes place within 3 weeks, whereby the seeds should not be allowed to come under direct sunshine. The cover is ventilated daily and the moisture content of Saaterde checked, because the seeds may under no circumstances dry out. If the seed leaves emerge from the seeds, the cling film has fulfilled its task. Now, growth is progressing so rapidly that repeated replanting into larger pots is required until planting in May.


During the first two weeks of May, place the young plant on the bright balcony during the day so that it is hardened by the sun's rays. The miracle tree spends the cool nights in the house. After the icy saints begins the planting season.
  • Two weeks before planting, thoroughly soil the soil at the site
  • Remove weeds, roots and stones to get a generous portion of compost
  • On the day of planting soak the still potted castor plant with water
  • Dig a pit with twice the volume of the root ball
  • Drainage from potsherds or grit prevents waterlogging
  • Fill a substrate layer over the drainage and plant the potted Wunderbaum
  • A planting distance of 1 meter is considered appropriate
In the bucket, the planting proceeds in the same way, whereby the drainage is here of substantial importance for the successful care. Only fill the substrate so high that one pouring edge remains free.
The miracle tree can undoubtedly be characterized as a garden plant of the extremes. It shows a breathtaking growth, enchanted by magnificent foliage, fluffy flower and spectacular spiny fruits in dramatic red. On the other hand, its seeds contain a dangerous poison that is deadly even in the lower milligram range. Processed by knowledgeable hands, it is used to extract the well-known castor oil. Given the toxicity, should be taken in gardens with children and pets at a distance from a planting. Where this precautionary measure is not valid, the Christpaulme proves to be an easy-care ornamental plant in the bed and tub.

Video Board: Are Castor Oil Plants Poisonous?.

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