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How and when can I prune my castor oil bush?

My wife hates it and would like to remove it but if I can reduce its size by about half then that may solve the problem. 


Not sure about pruning, but I know where your wife is coming from...could moving it to a more tucked away spot be a good compromise? E.g. tucked in against a north facing wall.

You can be drastic and completely remove entire branches , thus reducing the size considerably . Fatsia are surprisingly tough . Go as close to the stem as possible .

Looking at yours , lopping away a number of side-branches would give the appearance of a small evergreen tree instead of an amorphous mass of foliage ! Their one positive is the fact they flower in November , with white ivy-like blooms .

Remove any faded yellow leaves from the stems to improve the look of it .

You could lift it's crown a bit which will make it seem less unruly and allow light under it. By lifting it's crown (or as I like to say, lifting it's skirts 😁), I mean that you should prune it's lower leaves to reveal its main branches and make it more like a small tree. It's surprising how much better a shrub can look when you can see the ground beneath it.

If you decide to do that, go slowly and keep checking the shape of it. You can easily take leaves off but it's pretty nigh impossible to stick them back on again!


Does anyone know how big they can grow?  Mine is about the same size and I don't like it much.  A bit too exotic for my liking, I prefer more homely plants.



I've found the can be hit by frost in a cold winter.

I'd suggest leaving it until  Spring so any frost damaged foliage will be removed after protecting what is underneath.

Hostafan is right. Mine was damaged a few years back when we had a really cold Winter. Prune in Spring. My 3 castor oils all have bare trunks where damaged lower leaves have fallen off each year. Your castor oil looks very healthy!

I had one that grew to about 6ft. That was the one that got damaged and I ended up sacrificing half of it to frost so now it's back to about 4ft and growing again. 

I think they look better in pots as a specimen plant rather than part of a planting scheme. I can't think where in the garden I would put mine other than on the patio in pots where they add height to the garden and good structure in Winter. One of mine is about 50 years old and was given to us by my mother in law. The other 2 are sons of the older plant.


I agree with Paul - remove complete stems right back at the main one, and take off any dead or very yellow ones. You can reduce the height and width that way if you want. 

I love them and they can get very big indeed. Great foliage plants. I wouldn't be without them in my garden. They can get droopy after some hard frosts, but if you have then in a suitable spot, they can take a fair bit of bad weather. I regularly get new growth damaged by frosts, but once it warms up, you can take that off. 

Fairygirl is right in saying they are great foliage plants ; can give a 'sub-tropical' appearance in the right garden . An excellent foil plant for Yuccas and ornamental grasses etc. Larger plants can also act as a windbreak in some situations .

I live in Lincolnshire ; since 09/10 we havn't seen dramatically cold temperatures during winter . Don't recall seeing any damage to my variegated Fatsia either


A late frost can damage young new shoots.


In hindsight , have in the past noticed a slight blackening after a sharp frost ; they soon appear to recover though .

Used to have an 18' Cordyline until 09/10 ; after which it collapsed into mush ! Even now , the original root is still alive , and every year sends out shoots which I remove .  I had a complete reshuffle of my garden a few years ago , and the Cordyline is no longer wanted .


I find the foliage forms a bit of a frost umbrella for what's underneath. Especially if it gets early morning sun.


 If I was to cut it right back to the base would that be the end of it or will it recover and become a small shrub again?


It's a mature plant you have, so I'm not sure it would recover from that... 

Perhaps someone has done that and can advise though.

Or is that your way of keeping the wife happy, rweldon? 


I'd remove some older shoots right down to about 6",but leave some to do the following year, and to provide food the plant whilst it produces new shoots from the base.



I cut my Fatsia down to around a foot tall from 6ft all the way round in May two years ago  I hadn't intentionally decided to be that heavy handed but everytime I stood back I felt it wasn't quite right and carried on!  It recovered brilliantly and I haven't touched it since and presently it looks fab at 6 foot again. May do the same next May...It seemed to really refresh it.  Just don't do it any earlier than May or the last frosts.

It's interesting that a few of you know this as castor oil plant. I always thought the castor oil plant was the highly toxic Ricinus communis.  The leaves are similar.


Yes I thought that too but from the messages it looked as though everyone was talking about Fatsia Which I know lots of people do call caster oil plant even though it's not! I'll have to read back through the messages - apologies if I'm talking about the wrong plant entirely! Plant names eh! 😂


Copperdog says 

"Plant names eh! 😂"

That's why Proper Names are better than Common Names. All plants have only one "proper" name, but can have countless common names region by region, country by country.


Fatsia Japonica is the plant I've had in every garden I've owned.  I had one about 6' tall when I moved in, in a South-East position against a fence in the NW of England (by the coast though so mild).

I wasn't going to reply to this post on first reading because I don't see anything wrong with the plant in the picture, it looks fabulous in my opinion, it must be happy where it is.

What is the problem?  It isn't crowding anything out (there's no planting underneath), it's healthy, architectural and looks like the star of its spot.  

What is the problem?  Help me out here!