Jatropha podagrica (Buddha Belly Plant)
Jatropha podagrica is a tropical succulent shrub that grows up to 8 feet (2.4 m) tall. It has a large, bottle-like, grey-skinned, knobby…
How to Care for Buddha Belly Plants
Buddha belly plants (Jatropha podagrica) grow best in tropical climates, in USDA plant hardiness Zones 8 and 9. They are unique plants that received their name because of their round, swollen bellies that resemble some depictions of Buddha. They are considered shrubs, and the plant is native to the tropical Americas.
Although a Buddha belly plant can grow taller than you if you grow it outdoors, many people choose to grow their Buddha belly plant indoors. A Buddha belly plant makes a great addition to any garden as a decorative plant, yet they’re toxic, so they must be handled with care. Just like any other plant, Buddha belly plants require the proper care to thrive in the environment they’re in.
How to Care for a Buddha Belly Plant
Native to Guatemala, the Buddha belly plant (Jatropha podagrica), also called the gout plant, is a tropical perennial plant that can grow up to 5 feet tall, but usually reaches 2 to 3 feet in height. Known for its swollen lower trunk that looks like a Buddha’s belly, the Buddha belly plant is an unusual and exotic-looking plant with waxy, large leaves that reach 10 to 12 inches across. The plant flowers year-round with reddish, clustered flowers that attract butterflies. The Buddha belly plant is extremely cold tender and must be grown indoors during the winter in most non-tropical climates.
Position your Buddha belly plant in full to partial sunlight during the growing season. Place the plant beside a sunny, south-facing window or outdoors in direct sunlight during the summer months.
Water your Buddha belly plant deeply once or twice each week during the growing season, allowing the soil to dry out slightly before watering.
- Native to Guatemala, the Buddha belly plant (Jatropha podagrica), also called the gout plant, is a tropical perennial plant that can grow up to 5 feet tall, but usually reaches 2 to 3 feet in height.
- Known for its swollen lower trunk that looks like a Buddha’s belly, the Buddha belly plant is an unusual and exotic-looking plant with waxy, large leaves that reach 10 to 12 inches across.
Maintain air temperatures of 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime and 60 to 65 degrees at night. Don’t expose your Buddha belly plant to air temperatures below 50 degrees.
Feed your Buddha belly plant with a liquid fertilizer for succulent flowering plants once each month during the growing season. Feed the plant at half the recommended dosage rate and follow the application instructions on the label.
Reduce watering frequency to once every month during the fall and stop watering the plant during the winter dormant season. Stop fertilizing the plant in early autumn and don’t begin feeding the plant again until new growth emerges in the spring.
Although the flowers on the Buddha belly plant remain year-round, the plant will drop its leaves in the fall, signaling the beginning of its dormant season. You can propagate the Buddha belly plant by harvesting the seeds in late summer.
Keep children away from the Buddha belly plant, because its sap and fruits are extremely toxic when ingested.
How to Propagate Jatropha Podagrica
Propagate the bottle plant from seed or stem cuttings. When propagating from seed, the plant needs to be pollinated by hand:
- When the flowers start to ripen, tie small cloth bags over the capsules
- Wait for the seed pods to explode
- Remove the seeds from the cloth bags
- Sow the seeds in moist soil, preferably in a seed tray
- Maintain 75° degrees Fahrenheit and bright sunlight
- Continue watering the seeds until they sprout.
- When the seedlings reach several inches tall, repot into small three-inch pots.
Repot the plants every year into a larger pot. This slowly increases the size bulb.
When taking stem cuttings, allow the cuttings to dry for a few days. Plant in moist soil and allow to take root before placing in a window with full sun.
Buddha Belly - garden
Close up of Buddha's Belly Photo copyright Ned Jaquith Bamboo Garden 2019
Maximum Height: 55 feet
Container Height: 5 to 15 ft?
Diameter: 2 inches
Hardiness: 21° F
Recommended for USDA zone 9b - 10
When grown in a container and stressed for water, this bamboo grows with short fattened culms, which give this bamboo its common name. When grown outdoors with plenty of water, this bamboo can become quite large. The American Bamboo society lists the hardiness to 15 ° F, but we don't recommend this bamboo as an outdoor plant for any area that has significant frost.
Back to tender Bamboos
Photo copyright Ned Jaquith Bamboo Garden 2019
Baby birds in a nest in a Bambusa ventricosa that was outside for the summer. Birds like to nest in bamboo. It is difficult for many predators to climb in.