How to grow the Barbados-nut (Jatropha curcas) from seeds

Barbados nut

Jatropha curcas is a tree that can grow up to eight meters tall in the wild. Its natural range extends from Mexico to Argentina. As an agricultural crop, it is cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions around the globe (distribution map).

Known as Barbados nut, physic nut, poison nut, bubble bush, and purging nut, all parts of the plant are highly toxic and contain curcin. It is probably for this reason that it is not well known as a houseplant and is very hard to find in stores.

Jatropha curcas

Sowing insctructions

I have grown the small tree that is shown here from seed. In a half shady place, in late winter at temperatures around 18° C.

Jatropha curcas seeds
The seeds of Jatropha curcas are about two centimeters long and almost one centimeter wide.

The seeds do not germinate for very long and must be sown quickly. I soaked them for about 24 hours before sowing.

The sowing depth can be one to two centimeters. At about 64.4 °F (18 °C) it takes four to six weeks for the first seeds to germinate.

germinating Barbados nut seed
A germinating Barbados-nut seed.

As substrate I used a mixture of peat-free herb soil and bird sand. The location was half shaded, only in the morning hours the pot was exposed to the sun for one hour.

Out of five seeds only two germinated and only one seedling developed into a small tree.

How to care for Jatropha curcas

physic nut

Jatropha curcas tolerates sunny to semi-shady locations. As substrate I use a mixture of peat-free herb soil, bird sand and pumice gravel. The pot ball should be allowed to dry out between waterings, but not to dry out.