Allure of the Tropics

Jatropha podagrica - Buddha Belly Plant

Author: Jane Jordan

Quick Facts

Botanical Name: Jatropha podagrica
Common Names: Buddha belly plant, Bottle plant shrub, Gout plant, Guatemalan rhubarb, Purging nut, Gouty stalk nettlespurge
Origin: Tropical Americas
Zone: 10 - 11
Full sun to light shade.
Growth Rate: Medium
Soil: Well drained
Water: Low requirements - allow soil to dry between waterings.
Bloom Time: Year round
Mature Size: 2-3 feet high
Propagation: Seeds
Fertilizer: In Spring
Pests/Diseases: Occasional Scale and Mealy bugs
Cautions: All parts are poisonous
In Your Landscape: Excellent Container Plant

This rare and exotic looking plant is grown for it sculptural swollen belly. Native to the tropical Americas, it’s bright red coral-like flowers are accented with yellow anthers that blooms throughout the year. If grown in the sun, the leaves are about six inches across, in shade that size can double. Its most dramatic appearance is in winter when it loses all of its leaves, then, the architectural element of the crown of bright flowers on top of a swollen trunk makes this plant a truly eye-catching specimen.

This plant requires very little water and is best grown in full sun to light shade. After flowering, the ripened seed pods will explode and launch the seeds several feet away. A good idea is to place small mesh bags over the seed pods to capture these wayward seeds. Seeds can then be sown to start new plants very easily. Plants can live happily outside on a porch or patio, but must be brought inside if temperatures drop.

This is a must have plant that gets attention, not only are the flowers beautiful they attract butterflies, and at the very least, this plant is a great conversation starter.

All parts are poisonous, especially the seeds and the sap, and although this plant is generally used as an ornamental, Buddha Belly plants have been used in traditional medicine to cure fever swelling and even snake bites.

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Author: Jane Jordan
Jane Jordan is a horticulturist and has studied and worked at the RHS botanical gardens in Cannington, England.
She now lives in Sarasota, Florida. Alongside her passion for horticulture, she is also a novelist.