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The jatropha evergreen shrub is beloved for its vibrant flowers. The jatropha is a small tree whose bright red flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies to the gardens in which they grow.
They are hardy plants with the unique ability to be shaped and pruned, making them ideal for the home landscape.
To properly prune a jatropha plant after transplanting, follow the tips below.
The jatropha plant is a perennial evergreen shrub or small tree that is native to tropical regions. Perennial plants will grow and flower year-round.
It began growing and thriving in West Indies before gaining popularity in the United States, particularly throughout Florida.
Its attraction is largely due to its dark green leaves and bright red star-shaped flower blooms. These flowers have also garnered the plant’s nicknames:
- Spicy jatropha
The most popular variety in Florida is the jatropha integerrima, but many varieties thrive throughout warm climates.
The jatropha plant is unique as it has multiple trunks and numerous slender stems. This makes it an excellent candidate for creative pruning and shaping.
The jatropha varieties thrive in well-draining soil and require partial to full sunlight.
When these conditions are met, the dark green leaves will grow, and the tree can mature to 10-12 feet in height at a moderate growth rate.
These trees, if not pruned, can also reach a spread (horizontal growth) of up to 10-15 feet.
These plants are not picky about soil variety and are relatively low maintenance and drought tolerant.
They require regular watering during the growing season, spring through summer, and less during the dormant season.
If you wish to use a mild fertilizer, it is best to apply this during the growing season.
How to Transplant
Before transplanting jatropha, it is important to ensure the plant is prepared for the shift.
Transplanting often leads to trauma and stress in plants, so proper preparation is key to help minimize the shock.
When choosing which tree to transplant, it is best to use a young, healthy plant so it can recover from the shock of the move.
Before the transplant, water the tree daily for two to three days. The roots will be more prepared to thrive in a new environment if they remain wet.
It is important to tie up the branches before beginning the move to protect the leaves and branches. This will help minimize breakage and injuries to the plant.
Mark a chalk spot on the trunk on one side, so the plant is oriented in the same direction once moved. This will also help ensure its health and adapting to the new location.
The next step is to begin digging to break up the root system.
Dig around the plant and ensure the depth is between 15-24 inches to capture and sever the entire root system so you can pull it from the ground.
The exposed root ball should be two thirds the size of the canopy spread (the radius of the shadow of the tree).
This will ensure the maximum capture of the roots to allow for growth in its new site.
Carefully dig underneath the roots to lift the plant, and cut any large roots to separate from the soil.
When transporting the jatropha to its new location, you can place it on a tarp or in a wheelbarrow to minimize damage.
In the new planting location, dig a hole two times larger than the root ball you created.
This extra space will loosen the soil and allow for the root system to expand as it grows.
Thoroughly water the hole before planting.
Using the root’s chalk mark as guidance, place the jatropha in the new hole, aligned in the same direction as the previous growth.
Fill in this hole with soil halfway. Pack or tamper it down, and add more water. Fill up the hole with soil, tamper again, and water again.
Ensure there is plenty of water to reach the root system.
For the next two weeks, water the tree daily. Then, taper off the watering slowly as the plant establishes, approximately two weeks, eventually watering once or twice a week.
It is also advised to add mulch around the base of the tree to keep it moist.
The jatropha tree tends to respond well to pruning. Because of its multiple trunks and variegated branches, typical pruning can occur any time of the year.
However, it is best to avoid major pruning during the winter season.
Pruning for a newly transplanted jatropha is slightly different.
It is acceptable to prune any damage, breakage, or struggling leaves or branches when initially planted.
Keep this pruning to a minimum, and look primarily for cosmetic damage or anything that might hinder the plant’s successful growth.
Transplantation is a shocking experience for any plant.
According to arboretums, trees can lose as much as 90% of their root systems when transplanted.
Because of this shock and stress, it is best to establish the tree before conducting any major structural pruning.
For most trees, approximately one year of growth for every inch of the tree diameter is necessary for proper recovery and preparation for pruning.
After waiting the required amount of time, and once the jatropha has established itself more permanently, functional and decorative pruning can begin.
The same precautions should also be taken if interested in pruning jatropha that has been propagated.
The propagations will take 7-10 days to establish root systems but will still require years to develop and fully prepare for any pruning.
Take precautions when trimming and pruning any variety of jatropha.
When the stems of the plant are cut, they produce a white, milky sap.
This sap can be irritating to sensitive skin and toxic if ingested.
Keep trimmings and plants out of reach of small children and household pets.