Guatemala Rhubarb – Tips For Growing Coral Plants

Guatemala Rhubarb – Tips For Growing Coral Plants

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Jatroha multifida is a hardy plant that thrives in nearly any lighting condition and grows like a weed. What is Jatropha multifida? The plant is grown for its huge, delicate leaves and brilliantly colored blooms. Sadly, this plant is tropical and suitable for United States Department of Agriculture zones 10 to 12 only. Those of us in the cooler zones can try growing coral plants as annuals during the summer.

What is Jatropha Multifida?

Jatropha multifida is also called Guatemala rhubarb and, more commonly, coral plant. It is a showy ornamental plant in the Euphorbia family. Like all members of the family, Jatropha exudes latex sap, which is milky to opaque. Growing coral plants requires little fussing. They are vigorous plants that can grow 6 to 10 feet (2 to 3 m.) tall and up to 20 feet (6 m.) in their native habitat. This is a frost sensitive specimen which can be killed if temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 C.).

The coral plant is a single-trunked small tree or shrub. It is native to Mexico and Central America. The foliage is deeply lobed, up to 12 inches (30.5 cm.) across, and cut into 7 to 11 leaflets in a palmate form. The upper surface of the leaf is dark green but the undersides display a whitish cast. Flowers arise from thick stalks in cymes. Each flat-topped cluster has numerous tiny, bright pink, butterfly-attracting blooms. The fruit is a flat pod. All parts of Guatemala rhubarb are extremely poisonous if ingested.

Growing Coral Plants

Jatropha mutifida requires moderately fertile soil with excellent drainage. It has some drought tolerance once established but performs best with regular watering in a full sun situation. In cool zones, plant the specimen in a large container with a gritty houseplant soil. In-ground plants can tolerate rocky or sandy soil.

Container plants should have water reduced in winter. The species tends to self-seed at the base of the plant and can also be propagated by cuttings. Pruning is necessary to keep the plant in habit and when damage is done to the stems.

Care of Coral Plants

Jatropha is remarkably unbothered by insects or disease. Overly wet plants and those that receive splashed mud on the foliage may experience root rot or leaf spot.

Common pests include mealybugs, aphids, and scale, whose widespread feeding can diminish plant vigor and destroy the attractive leaves.

The plant will benefit from fertilizer in late winter to early spring. Use a balanced plant food diluted by half once per month for potted plants. A time release food is perfect for in-ground plants. It will release nutrients over 3 months to buoy spring growth and the formation of the brilliant pink flowers.

Warm zone gardeners will have a full season of blooming. Deadhead the plants to enhance appearances and diminish self-seeding starts. Overall care of coral plants is minimal and basic. The huge plant, shockingly bright flowers, and delicate leaves provide enough incentive for any effort expended by the gardener.

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Coral Bells: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties

Heuchera Propagation by Leaf Cuttings
Heuchera from leaf cuttings.

Note: Some plants are patented. Please check to see that the variety of plant you are taking cuttings from is not covered by these patents. This information can be obtained from USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office)

If it is a newer heuchera introduction, it is probably patented. Some of these varieties will hit the patent websites in a matter of a few weeks or can take a couple of years.

1. Cuttings can be taken any time of year, however they do better in the Spring when it is cooler. This gives both the mother plant and the new baby plant time to recover and become established before Winter.

2. When removing the leaf cuttings from the mother plant, make sure you find the stem/petiole of the heuchera. It is critical to include this part in your cutting.

3. Remove leaf cuttings with a sharp knife, ensuring part of the stem is included in the cuttings.

4. Dip leaf cutting into a rooting hormone, tapping off any excess.

5. Plant leaf cuttings into a moistened mix of 50/50 perlite and peat moss. ‘Tent’ a clear plastic bag over the cutting, using wooden skewers to keep the plastic off the leaf cutting. Place pot and bag in a shaded area, ensuring cutting receives light, but not direct sunlight.

6. Check cuttings daily to make sure they do not dry out or mold and stay moist. In about 6-8 weeks, roots should start to form. A gentle tug on the cuttings will let you know when roots have started to form.

7. To ensure there are enough roots on the cuttings, wait several weeks after roots have started to form prior to starting process for hardening off cuttings. When completely hardened off, plant out in garden.

I had some discussions with Terra Nova Nurseries regarding this topic. They informed me that the new plants from this type of propagation will not grow very large as this type of propagation does not include any leaf buds. This makes these new smaller plants ideal for containers or to tuck into a small spot in your garden.

About coral bells
Most coralbells sport clouds of tiny, bell-shaped pink, coral, red, or white flowers in late spring or early summer. However, varieties grown primarily for their foliage may have insignificant blooms. Foliage colors include red, purple, silver, as well as green, and some varieties sport marbled or patterned leaves. Foliage height ranges from 6 to 18 inches flower spikes can reach 24 inches tall.

Special features of coral bells
Easy care/low maintenance

Ongoing Care
Remove dead foliage in early spring, then apply a thin layer of compost, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Cut back flower stalks after blooms fade. Divide plants in early spring every three or four years or when the stems become woody or the plant falls open at the center. Lift plants, divide the rootball into clumps, and replant.

Choosing a site to grow coral bells
Select a site with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil. In areas with hot summers, light shade is preferred.

Planting Instructions
Plant in spring or fall, spacing plants 1 to 2 feet apart depending on the variety. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the plant's container. Carefully remove the plant from its pot and place it in the hole so the top of the rootball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the rootball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.


The most common time to plant coral honeysuckle is during early spring, such as March or April. Mild temperatures and longer sunlit days provide a good combination for growing success. As long as your garden soil drains well, coral honeysuckle acclimates to many soil types. If planted correctly with the root ball just covered with topsoil, the vine's roots establish themselves for considerable growth in ideal conditions. It is possible that a newly planted coral honeysuckle may bloom in late spring and early summer, but the plant could require a season or two to adjust to the new environment.

Vital Tips to Grow And Care for a Coral Cactus Plant

The coral cactus plant is a beautiful, potted plant variety, which can display a lot of versatility in beautifying outdoor landscapes as well as indoor areas. Its coral reef like appearance is where its name originates from. Let us now look at the best way to grow and care for a coral cactus plant.

The coral cactus plant is a beautiful, potted plant variety, which can display a lot of versatility in beautifying outdoor landscapes as well as indoor areas. Its coral reef like appearance is where its name originates from. Let us now look at the best way to grow and care for a coral cactus plant.

Quick Fact

A coral cactus plant (euphorbia lactea crest) is not a real cactus. It is actually a euphorbia plant that has a rare mutation, which causes it to grow with a crest-like appearance. Because this interesting mutation is very rare, the plant is a very sought-after item.

This weird-looking plant closely resembles an ocean coral. It is extremely hardy and requires almost no care to survive. Its green and pinkish color makes it a popular choice in many gardens, even though it can also be used to increase the appeal of the ambiance indoors. It is a small plant that does not grow more than 25 inches in height.

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The plant is a result of grafting the crest-shaped top of a Euphorbia Lactea on the stock and root of a Euphorbia neriifolia, or on the root of a cactus. The plants have their origins from the nurseries of a few experimental horticulturists. Although the grafting process is a little complex, taking care of a successfully grafted plant is a piece of cake in comparison. We shall first look at how the plant is grown and propagated followed by tips on coral cactus care, to help it thrive.

Growth and Propagation of Coral Cactus

To successfully graft a coral cactus, the following procedure has to be followed:

  1. A v-shaped cut has to be made at the base of the Euphorbia lactea plant’s crest. The cut should curve outward.
  2. Now the root stock of the cactus or Euphorbia neriifolia has to also be cut in a v-shape. However, the cut must curve inwards.
  3. Now place the two sections together in such a way that the joint comes together well.
  4. Cover the joint with grafting wax, to prevent the plant from drying, and tie the plant with rope or twine to hold the two pieces of the plant together till it heals.
  5. If the two plants are compatible, the graft should completely heal in a few weeks. If you find that the plant has not healed fully, replace the wax and rope. However, be careful during this time, as a little damage can set back the healing process considerably.
  6. Babies of the coral cactus will eventually grow from the same plant. Cut off these new growths, and dry them for a couple of weeks and pot them. The plants will soon get roots. After this happens, plant the saplings in the soil however, these new saplings may or may not form crests, and there is no way to force the way these plants will grow. If your new euphorbia does form crests, you may have to repeat the above process all over again.

With proper care, your coral cactus can bloom with beautiful purple or pink flowers. This usually takes place around a year after the grafting, and occurs yearly, in warm conditions.

Coral Cactus Care Tips

  • Plant the coral cactus plant in a gritty soil which drains easily. You can do this by mixing regular potting soil with an equal amount of sand.
  • Do not bury the plant more than root deep. It helps protect the euphorbia from rot.
  • The plant can thrive in an arid environment. To artificially stimulate this, place the plant in a place with warm, bright, but indirect sunlight. The ideal temperature around the plant should be 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Water the plants intermediately, to keep the soil slightly moist. Excess water causes the plant to start dying. The root and the flesh of the plant start to rot. To avoid this, let the soil completely dry from the previous watering before you pour some again. Burying your finger deep in the soil will give you an idea, about whether you should water it or not.
  • Use diluted solutions of fertilizers once during spring followed by once in the fall.
  • Regularly turn the plant side which is facing the sun. This prevents the plant from growing lopsided.
  • Re-potting the plant is needed as soon as you bring the plant home, because the store-bought container is usually ceramic, which is not suitable for the plant’s growth.
  • The hardiness zone of this plant is 10-11, so grow the plant accordingly.

The coral cactus plant produces toxic latex sap, hence it should be kept out of the reach of children and pets. One must always use gloves while handling the plant and should wash them after, just to be safe. However, this is a great low-maintenance plant that is sure to increase the appeal of the area it is kept in, be it your home, office, or garden, so what are you waiting for? Go ahead, and get one for yourself.

Planting Coral Bead

Coral Bead plants have a shallow root system that you should take into account when first planting them. If you want to grow your plant in a container, make sure that it has drainage holes at the bottom.

For both indoors and outdoors cultivation, they grow at their best when provided with a good quality potting soil that is lighter in weight, sterile, and pest-free. You can also prepare your own product by blending two parts peat-moss based potting mix with one part perlite, tree bark, or sand. This will improve drainage and ensure good aeration.

During the spring and summer, they usually benefit from regular fertilizing. Feed your Coral Bead plant with a slow-release and water-soluble fertilizer at ½ strength until it blooms. Too much fertilizer can affect the plant’s health, so it is suggested you follow the package instructions accordingly.

These plants grow at a pretty slow pace but need regular repotting once every two years. You can transplant a Coral Bead plant in the same pot or a slightly larger one if the roots are too wide. Fill the container with fresh potting mix up to 2 inches (5 cm), make a small hole in the soil, and plant your Coral Bead. Water thoroughly and place the plant in a sunny location.

They are mostly pruned for aesthetic purposes, so you can do it regularly to maintain the shape and size you want. Trimming the foliage will encourage the growth of new side-shoots and bloomings. Moreover, a smaller size will reduce the plant’s need to develop a larger root system.

When it comes to pest problems, Coral Bead plants are occasionally bothered by red spider mites and aphids. You need to check your plant frequently from infestations, as pests are pretty hard to spot in its dense foliage. If you notice any unusual aspect on your plant, you can treat it with a cotton pad dipped in rubbing alcohol, insecticides, or pesticides.

In Conclusion

Being so resilient, Heuchera is suitable for most climates. Even beginner gardeners can successfully grow this beautiful plant. The best thing about it is that you can easily integrate it into almost any garden decor.

Heuchera is particularly suited for rock gardens or woodlands. It also makes for a great ground cover but you can also plant it in borders or containers. It looks great with Hostas as their leaves complement each other beautifully and they also have similar sunlight and water needs. Astilbe, Iris, and ferns are also great companions.

You can also use the foliage of coral bells to highlight other flowers. For example, you can choose a variety with dark leaves to highlight yellow flowers. These plants also look great when planted in groups.

Watch the video: Grow Jatropha Multifida Coral Bush from Seed!