I'm crazy about castor beans (Ricinus communis). These malevolent plants are deadly poison, and in one famous Cold War incident, a bit of ricin (the poison) was dabbed on an umbrella tip subsequently used to jab a Bulgarian diplomat in a KGB-sponsored assassination. And not so long ago, a terrorist cell in Great Britain was nabbed with plans to make some kind of ricin bomb or something.
But in the garden, these are sweet citizens indeed. I love the palmate--that is, hand-shaped--foliage and the Brobdingnagian size of the leaves, which on the seed strain 'Zanzibarensis' can reach nearly three feet across. Best of all though, I like the smoldering burgundy hues common to 'Carmencita Pink' and a number of other seed strains. In a vacant lot in Boquete, Panama, I once saw a naturalized strain growing wild that had nearly jet-black leaves. I grabbed some seed-most of it wasn't ripe yet-brought it home and grew some on, but it matured too late to produce viable seed. Sigh!
Anybeans, I grow this stuff from seed every spring and soak seeds overnight before sowing in pots. Once they germinate, they grow FAST, so I'm careful to start them about 2-3 weeks before the last frost. Out inthe garden, they look good almost anywhere, being bold enough to lord it over any less robust neighbors. It looks great positioned against finely textured companions like the grass pictured above in a combo from Winterberry Gardens, in Southington, Ct.