The Ricinus Project

So way back when, in 2011, I was given the gift of a Ricinus plant by my friend Michelle.  It was a great plant and every year I have collected seeds from it and grown on a few more plants.  Each year I get more viable seeds and so last year I had about five that grew well.  The more that grow well the more seeds I collect and on it goes.

This year I thought I would boost that amount and buy some addititional seeds.  I found a supplier and duly purchased.  When they arrived they came with instructions saying that they should be soaked for 24 hours in camomile tea.  Well, this made me smile, why so specific?  Why camomile?  I did not have any camomile and wondered (aloud on twitter) whether Earl Grey would do.  No, I was informed, no Earl Grey would not do.  It was clear it was a stupid suggestion so of course you can guess what happened next.
I was at a conference the day after and they had camomile tea bags, one might have come home with me accidently.  I then set up my experiment.  Two seeds soaked in water, two in camomile and two in Earl Grey.  I need to say here that ricinus are incredibly poisonness, incredibly so.  It will kill you if you drink ricinus tea.
They were then duly planted out into the greenhouse.
I waited about a week and then decided to sow some of the seeds from Michelle's original plant.
Michelle's seeds germinated within a day or so and you can see from this photograph that the pot right at the back, the ones soaked in water, had just started to show a loop of growth but were still well behind.  No sign at all from either of the tea-soaked pots.
A couple of weeks later and the next to emerge was the camomile bean (at the front) then the Earl Grey.  The Earl Grey looked a little, well, manky to be honest.
From this I concluded:

no soak Michelle plant :100% fast germination, strong healthy plants
soaked in water:  100% germination, slow growth but healthy enough
soaked in camomile: 50% germination, healthy enough looking plant
soaked in Earl Grey: 100% germination, odd looking plants.

Then, when I least expected it, this happened:
The Earl Grey seedlings have curled up and died.  Earl Grey tea is obviously not good for germination after all.  Maybe it is just not good to drink either, what it is doing to me if it did that to the seedlings?  You have to wonder!

Scientific conclusion: don't bother soaking and particularly don't bother soaking in tea of any description unless you fancy wasting some tea.  Best of all, stick with what you know and use the seeds from the gift you were originally given in 2011.

Postscript:  When Michelle arrived for our annual jaunt to go to Chelsea she brought with her a ricinus plant.  I predict more seeds.......


  1. What an interesting post, we don't like Earl Grey tea either!

  2. Thanks for advice! :) I sometimes soak hard shelled seeds in warm water, but I never tried soaking them in tea. I heard that soaking in camomile tea prevents fungi from growing.


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