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BASELLA alba

Image of Basella alba

James H. Schutte

Family

Basellaceae

Botanical Name

BASELLA alba

Plant Common Name

Ceylon Spinach, Indian Spinach, Malabar Spinach

General Description

Pretty in flower and with edible, spinach-like foliage, Malabar spinach is a fast-growing vine that has both ornamental and culinary qualities. This heat-tolerant native of India is perennial and fully evergreen where hardy and has densely twining, rambling stems that can become thick and may require some management to keep them from overtaking supports.

The long, fleshy, green stems of Malabar spinach readily twine around anything upright and are lined with rounded, heart-shaped leaves of a medium green. They also root easily and may creep along the ground. Harvest the tender new leaves throughout the season. They have a pleasant, spinach-like flavor and can be eaten fresh or cooked.

Through summer, small pinkish white blossoms appear from leaf bases and develop into fleshy purple-black fruits. The seeds within readily germinate once they drop to the ground and will even sprout after cold winters.

Grow Malabar spinach in full to partial sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Established vines thrive in high heat and humidity and can withstand periods of drought. Specimens grown in frost-free locations will become quite large and require regular pruning to keep vines from taking over. Those grown as annual vines in warm, temperate locations require far less maintenance. The attractive cultivar, 'Rubra', has pleasing purple foliage and reddish purple stems and doubles as an ornamental.

Caution should be taken before growing this vine in warmer climates. It can be quite invasive and spreads by seed and rooted stems.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 7

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Vegetable

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    8'-15' / 2.4m - 4.6m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Southeastern Asia, India

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Vining/Climbing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Pink, Light Pink

  • Fruit Color

    Purple, Black

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Tan

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Edible, Groundcover, Herb / Vegetable, Tropical, Vine

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes