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Basella alba (Malabar Spinach)

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Scientific Name

Basella alba L.

Common Names

Malabar Spinach, Vine Spinach, Red Vine Spinach, Climbing Spinach, Creeping Spinach, Buffalo Spinach, Ceylon Spinach

Synonyms

Basella cananifolia, Basella cordifolia, Basella crassifolia, Basella japonica, Basella lucida, Basella nigra, Basella ramosa, Basella rubra, Basella volubilis, Gandola nigra, Gandola rubra

Scientific Classification

Family: Basellaceae
Genus: Basella

Description

Basella alba is a fast-growing, soft-stemmed, perennial vine up to 33 feet (10 m) long.  It can be grown as an annual, leafy vegetable for cultivation of its edible, spinach-like stems and leaves or as an ornamental, foliage vine. The leaves are thick, semi-succulent, heart-shaped and have a mild flavor and mucilaginous texture. Small, purple-white flowers may appear at the end of the summer.

Photo via foodforests.eu

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zones 10a to 11b: from 30 °F (−1.1 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

This plant grows best in full sun. Malabar Spinach prefers continuously moist soil and a pH level of 6.5 to 6.8. It can be grown in pots or in a garden with a trellis or up a wall. If the soil becomes dry it will flower and the leaves have a much more bitter flavor.

Malabar Spinach can be grown from seed. To start from seed, plant the seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Seeds should germinate in 10 to 20 days. If you want to speed up your seedling's growth, you can either soak them in water overnight before planting or use a knife to open up the hard exterior seed coating.

Seedlings can be transplanted into the garden once the soil has warmed and should be placed a foot (30 cm) apart. Plants will really take off in the heat of the summer, above 80 °F (27 °C). Malabar Spinach does best with some type of vertical support. It can also rambles along the ground. This plant is very attractive so it makes a nice addition to your ornamental landscape.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Malabar Spinach (Basella alba).

Origin

Basella alba is native to the Indian Subcontinent, southeast Asia and New Guinea.

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