By Bonnie L. Grant
Job’s tears plants are an ancient cereal grain most often grown as an annual, but may survive as a perennial where frosts do not occur. Job’s tears ornamental grass makes an interesting border or container specimen that may get 4 to 6 feet tall. These wide arching stems add graceful interest to the garden.
Job’s tears cultivation is easy and the plants start quickly from seed. In fact, the plant produces strings of seeds that resemble beads. These seeds make excellent natural jewelry and have a hole in the center that wire or jewelry thread passes through easily.
Job’s Tears Plants
An ornamental grass, Job’s tears plants (Coix lacryma-jobi) are hardy in United States Department zone 9 but can be grown as annuals in temperate regions. The wide blades grow upright and arch at the ends. They produce spikes of grain at the end of the warm season, which swell and become the “pearls” of seed. In warm climates, the plant has a tendency to become a nuisance weed and will self-sow prolifically. Cut off the seed heads as soon as they form if you do not wish for the plant to spread.
Job’s Tears Seed
The seeds of Job’s tears are said to represent the tears shed by the biblical Job during the challenges he faced. Job’s tears seeds are small and pea-like. They begin as grayish green orbs and then ripen to a rich tan brown or dark mocha color.
Seeds that are harvested for jewelry must be taken when green and then set out in a dry location to dry fully. Once dry they change color to an ivory or pearly hue. Ream out the center hole in Job’s tears seed prior to inserting a wire or jewelry line.
Job’s tears ornamental grass will self-sow and germinate readily when planted in moist loam. It is possible to save the seeds for an early spring sowing. Remove the seed in fall and dry them. Store them in a cool, dry location and then plant in early spring when all chance of frost has passed.
Job’s Tears Cultivation
Job’s tears plants reseed themselves annually. In areas where the grass is grown as a grain, the seeds are sown in the rainy season. The plant prefers moist soils and will pop up where ample water is available, but needs a drier season as the grain heads form.
Hoe around young seedlings to remove competitive weeds. Job’s tears ornamental grass does not need fertilizer but responds well to a mulch of organic material.
Harvest the grass in 4 to 5 months, and thresh and dry the seeds for culinary use. Dried Job’s tears seeds are ground and milled into flour for use in breads and cereals.
Job’s Tears Ornamental Grass
Job’s tears plants provide excellent texture foliage. The flowers are inconspicuous but the strands of seeds increase the ornamental interest. Use them in a mixed container for height and dimension. The rustle of the foliage enhances the soothing sound of a backyard garden and their tenacity will reward you with years of rich, green foliage and charming necklaces of pearly seeds.