Gardeners are some of the most adventurous people. They like nothing more than taking on the challenge of growing an unusual plant. Peregrina (Jatropha integerrima) is one such plant. Like all tropical plants, it has a limited growing area outdoors. It is only hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11, the two hottest zones in the continental United States, the Florida Keys and Hawaii. However, gardeners in the colder parts of the country can enjoy this piece of tropical horticulture as well.
Peregrina is also known as spicy jatropha and is a member of the spurge family. The plant is an evergreen that will grow as a large shrub or small tree and can reach a height of about 15 feet. Picture branches covered in glossy green leaves that start out as bronze and star shaped scarlet or vermilion colored flowers measuring 1 inch across growing in clusters at the ends of the stems.
Peregrina is very adaptable when it comes to the environment it lives in. It will grow in just about any type of soil, but the soil must be well drained. The plant does not like wet feet. It grows well in full sun or partial shade and is drought tolerant, so don’t worry if you miss a watering or two, but not any more.
Both hummingbirds and butterflies will stop by for a drink of the nectar, so plant Peregrina where you can see it from as many places as possible, including inside the house. Just don’t plant it near the sea shore. The plant is not salt tolerant.
For those who want to give it a shot as a container plant, consider getting a large container with wheels on the bottom. Since the plant needs a well drained soil, make sure there are drainage holes on the bottom. Put gravel or broken pottery on the bottom of the container for extra drainage power. The flowers bloom on the current years growth, meaning the plant can be pruned at any time, making it easy to keep the growth under control. Just remember to bring it indoors as soon as summer is over and don’t bring it out again until late spring.
There is one thing on the negative side. The plant has a milky sap that can cause skin irritation and the plant is poisonous if eaten. Keep the plant where children and pets will not have easy access to it.
University of Florida
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