I was recently given some seeds for the Job’s Tears plant. Can you find out for me where this plant originated from? I am planning on using the seeds after I’ve established it in my flower garden this spring. Some of the history of how the plant’s seed was used is very interesting.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Carolyn: Job’s Tears (Coix lacryma-Jobi), also commonly known as Juno’s Tears and Bead Seeds, is a member of the grass family (Poaceae). Like many plants it has been around for centuries, originating in Southeastern Asia where it is cultivated for cereal. This grass is hardy in gardening zones 9 and above so it could only be grown as an annual here in Kentucky. It prefers to be planted in full sun to part shade and can reach 4-6 feet tall at maturity. The most fascinating characteristic of this plant is the beadlike involucres, or grain, it produces in the late summer/early fall. This droplet-shaped structure is basically a shell that encloses the seed. As the grain hardens, it dries into a dark gray or pearly white hue with a natural hole on either end. This feature makes them ideal for stringing together to create jewelry. They can be dyed or painted. This grain is used for other purposes around the world. It is cultivated in China for medicinal purpose and used like barley in soups. In other regions it is used for making beer and wine or it can simply be eaten like a shelled peanut. So after May 10 when our frost-free date has passed go ahead and plant your seeds. You could also start them indoors if you wanted to get a jump on the growing season. If you want to grow this grass from year to year remember to harvest the seeds in the early winter for the following year’s source.