Large group of tropical and subtropical plants related to poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), with milky latex or clear juice in the stems. The most commonly grown species are popular for their large, deeply lobed, typically heart-shaped leaves, which provide tropical effects in the garden.
J. curcas. PHYSIC NUT. Evergreen shrub or small tree. Native to the tropical Americas. Reaches 815 ft. tall and wide. Easy to grow; cuttings from mature stems are sometimes set out in the ground, watered, and left to make a hedge. Deep green leaves are heart shaped, to 1 ft. long and 7 in. wide, on 4- to 6-in. stalks. Inconspicuous yellowish green flowers appear in spring. Oval, 1-in.-long nuts contain poisonous seeds. Oil from seeds being evaluated as source for biodiesel. Leaves and stems of this species are also poisonous.
J. integerrima. PEREGRINA. Evergreen shrub or small tree. Native to Cuba and the West Indies. Can reach 20 ft. tall, 15 ft. wide, but usually attains just half that size in gardens. Grow as a multitrunked shrub or prune into tree shape. Good in a container or as a patio tree. Glossy, pointed leaves to 5 in. long emerge bronzy red, then age to dark green with brownish undersides. Bright scarlet to coral flowers about an inch across bloom in clusters at branch tips most of the year; they attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Berries and sap are poisonous. 'Compacta' grows about half as large as the species.
J. multifida. CORAL PLANT. Evergreen shrub or small tree. From Mexico, Brazil, West Indies. To 20 ft. tall, 12 ft. wide. Leaves 1 ft. across, white on undersides; almost circular but deeply divided into 7 to 11 narrow lobes. Scarlet, -in. flowers on red stems bloom in summer; they are followed by oval fruit to 1 in. long. All plant parts are poisonous.
J. podagrica. GOUT PLANT. Deciduous shrub. From Central America, West Indies. Grows to 15 ft. tall, about 1 ft. wide. Named for its swollen, gouty-looking trunk. Three- to five-lobed leaves reach 10 in. across, have white undersides. Coral-red flowers about in. wide appear from winter through summer. Berries and sap are poisonous.
Need gritty, very well-drained soil with added humus; not salt tolerant. Resist deer. Indoors, site in bright light, but don't expose to direct hot sun. In spring and summer, water moderately and feed monthly with a general-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer. Leave plants unwatered in fall and winter.