There are several shrubs, trees and perennials that have been in any Lemmon family landscape for the past 20-plus years that my wife will ask me over and over… “What’s that plant again? I love how it looks!”
I’m not telling all of you that because she never remembers its name, because let’s be honest, I don’t remember all the names of the products in her business from year-to-year. I’m about to profile one of those plants she’s asked me about a half-dozen times, because when it blooms it blooms for months, instead of one month like azaleas and gardenias sort of do.
I’m also profiling this plant because I figured since my wife reminds me how much she loves this plant, and because in her business she teaches about the attribute of “bouncebackability,” I can’t think of another plant that has this trait even more.
I’m talking about the Jatropha!!! (Jatropha integerrima) pronounced: Juh-Trow-Fuh; often times called Spicy Jatropha.
The “bounebackability” comes from its ability to always come back and start blooming again, no matter how hard the winter was. For example, while most hibiscus plants will also die back in the winter, and most will also come grow back from the roots, it seems to take months for freeze-affected hibiscus to start their blooming again. Not the Jatropha! Jatropha is the one shrub you can count on for year-round blooms (well, at least until a freeze). The one my wife loves behind our pool didn’t “die back” this year but was left to only about 1 foot of live wood following January. As of April 1st, it was already 3 feet tall and starting to bloom.
I think it is a delightful smaller shrub for a sunny spots, with an almost tropical look to the leaves, but loaded with those bright, scarlet flower clusters that do a great job of attracting butterflies.
This is NOT a shrub well-suited as a ‘manicured hedge.’ These plants are better left in a more natural form. However, with frequent haircuts of pinching back of a limb here and there, they can be kept nicely rounded for what one might think of as a ‘formal’ landscape.
And, yes, over time they can be trained up in a small tree form. But I would only recommend that in the more southern parts of our growing region, because of potential freezes.
There are variations of this plant – a similar one that blooms pink in sun or shade, as well as others with totally different foliage and smaller flowers – but this is the best of the bunch for an outstanding landscape shrub.