Question: A friend of mine very kindly bought me a plant as a birthday present that she had grown from seed. It's a beautiful foliage plant called Ricinus communis Carmencita. When I looked it up, though, I read that it's very poisonous. Should I be worried? I don't have children but I do have two inquisite young cats. I was hoping to have the plant in a pot on my patio.
Answer: A few years ago, Ricinus hit the news and seeds and plants were not available. However a more balanced view has returned and we love to see the Ricinus growing in our tropical summer schemes in RHS gardens. The best advice is not to ingest any of the plant, since all parts are highly toxic, particularly the seeds. Contact with the foliage may aggravate skin allergies. As long as you are aware, it will not be harmful to you. If you think the cats are intent on eating the plant, perhaps you should err on the side of caution and give the plant a cat and child-free home.
Send your questions for the RHS to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Only a few questions per month can be answered. For further advice on handling problems in your garden, visit www.rhs.org.uk/advice.