Growing Jatropha Integerrima: Caring For The Spicy Jatropha Tree

Jatropha integerrima [jat-ROE-fuh in-teh-GAIR-rih-muh] is a perennial evergreen shrub from the genus Jatropha and is often trained to grow as a small tree.

J. integerrima is native to the West Indies, Cuba, and Hispaniola and is a Jatropha species of flowering plants in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae.

Spicy Jatropha integerrima tree multi stem - Winter Park Florida 2019Pin
Red flowers on a Jatropha integerrima multi-stem tree (6 feet tall) growing in full sun, Winter Park Florida |

Other than its botanical name you may hear this evergreen shrub called by its common names including:

  • Spicy Jatropha
  • Firecracker tree
  • Peregrina
  • Chaya

Jatropha integerrima Care

Size & Growth

This tropical evergreen grows up to 15′ feet high and wide.

If you don’t prune it, it produces multiple trunks with slender stems.

It has a moderate growth rate.

The simple green leaves grow in an alternating arrangement along the stems.

Leaves are oblong and grow to a length of 4″ – 8″ inches.

Flowering & Fragrance

Year-round, the Firecracker tree produces pretty flowers to attract hummingbirds.

They are also very attractive to a wide variety of butterflies including:

  • Zebra Long Wings
  • Swallowtails
  • Monarchs

The star-shaped 1″ inch wide deep red flowers with yellow stamens are held in branched clusters on 4″ inch long stalks around glossy green foliage.

Light & Temperature

Like its cousin Jatropha podagrica (buddha belly plant) Integerrima grows best in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11.

A full sun setting will produce the most flowers.

It’s a good idea to cover the plant if cold temperatures are expected.

Integerrima performs best in full sun frost-free locations but will grow in partial shade.

Watering & Feeding

This plant’s both maintenance and drought tolerant.

Water regularly throughout the growing season and less during the dormant season.

Provide a weak dilution of general-purpose houseplant fertilizer during the growing season.

Soil & Transplanting

Firecracker Jatropha is easy to care for once it’s established.

It’s highly tolerant of a wide range of soil pH levels so long as the soil is well-drained.

Plant young plants in well-draining soil, this plant is not tolerant of salt.

It’s not a good choice for the seaside or beach setting.

Grooming & Maintenance

Prune Spicy Jatropha to control its growth and guide the form it takes.

If you allow it to grow free-form, it will become an interesting, wide bush or multi-trunk tree.

How To Propagate Spicy Jatropha?

Spicy Jatropha propagates from seed or cuttings.

To grow from seed:

  • Prepare the seeds by soaking them in warm water for eight hours before planting.
  • Plant directly into the soil outdoors in a sunny location.
  • The soil should consist of equal parts of sand, garden soil, and aged manure.
  • Don’t bury the seed deeply, instead press it into the surface of the amended soil.
  • Water frequently (two times daily) for the first week.
  • Shoots should appear within six days.
  • Reduce watering to once daily until the seedlings are ready to be transplanted.

This should take a couple of months.

To plant from cuttings:

  • You’ll need a mature tree producing shoots.
  • Cutting should be taken from the base of the tree, be at least 18″ inches long and have a minimum of four nodes.
  • Put the cutting into a container of damp sawdust, coco core or peat moss in a sheltered setting such as a planting tunnel or greenhouse.
  • You must keep the cutting warm between 77° – 86° degrees Fahrenheit (25° C – 30° Celsius) with a high level of humidity 70% to 90% percent.
  • Keep the planting substrate moist but not saturated.

The cutting should begin developing roots within 7 – 10 days.

Peregrina Pest or Disease Problems

For the most part, Jatropha is trouble-free.

Compromised plants may be subject to predation by leaf miners, plant scale, and mites.

Is Integerrima Peregrina Toxic or Poisonous?

Every part of the Spicy Jatropha is poisonous if eaten.

Don’t add this plant to your landscape if you have pets or children.

Avoid Firecracker’s white, milky sap.

It’s very irritating to the skin and is damaging if it makes contact with your eyes.

Wear long sleeves, gloves, and goggles when pruning.

Is Peregrina Spicy Invasive?

Jatropha integerrima grows well in Hawaii and Florida but it’s not considered invasive.

Some other species of Jatropha are invasive in the state of Florida and other tropical settings.

Suggested Uses for Firecracker Tree

Jatropha from the family Euphorbiaceae is a very versatile plant that does well in groupings or as specimen plants in hardiness zones 9B through 11.

Keep it as a summer annual or a patio container tree in colder locations.

The dark green leaves make a nice backdrop.

Great companion plants include:

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