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Basella alba

Description

Basella alba, or Malabar Spinach, is a vigorous climbing vine, a frost-tender perennial grown as an annual, native to tropical regions in Asia. The plant typically grows to a six-foot vine, but can often reach 30 feet in length. The succulent leaves and stems are used as a vegetable, either raw in salads or cooked in soups, salads, stir-fry or as a pot herb for stews. As an ornamental, you can enjoy the glossy green leaves and red stems in ornamental plantings on posts, fences, hanging baskets or large containers.

Malabar Spinach requires a well-drained moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter and a warm sunny sheltered position. It tolerates high rainfall and fairly poor soils but does much better in rich soils. Because the plant can grow rapidly, you should provide a sturdy trellis or fence for it to grow on that can do double duty as a decorative focal point in a bed or for screening. The colors of this plant pair well with beets, swiss chard, kale, ornamental kale, red and purple flowers. The plant is well-adapted to high temperatures, even into the 90s F., but growth is disappointing when temperatures stay below 80 F. This spinach will produce in weather too warm for other spinach varieties, but soil must be kept moist. It needs warm temperatures to germinate and will grow quickly once temperatures get hot. Scarify seed to hasten germination. In Zone 7 and warmer, direct seed 2 to 3 weeks after last frost date. It is very sensitive to frost and cool temperatures. It will root where the stems touch moist soil.

Diseases, Pests, and Other Plant Problems:

No known diseases or pests. Dry soil or extremely high temperatures will cause flowering, which leads to bitter leaves.

See this plant in the following landscapes:
Herb & Flower Cottage Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Rubra'
    Red leaves
'Rubra'
Tags:
#annual#edible plant#vegetable garden#herbaceous perennial#vegetable#edible leaves#vine
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Rubra'
    Red leaves
'Rubra'
Tags:
#annual#edible plant#vegetable garden#herbaceous perennial#vegetable#edible leaves#vine
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Basella
    Species:
    alba
    Family:
    Basellaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The roots are astringent. They are cooked and used in the treatment of diarrhoea. The leaves and stems are cooked and eaten for their laxative properties. A red dye is obtained from the juice of the fruits of the 'Rubra' cultivar.
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Tropical Asia or, possibly, Africa
    Distribution:
    India, Central Africa, Brazil, Guiana, Coastal Southeastern United States
    Climbing Method:
    Twining
    Edibility:
    Infusion of the leaves is a tea substitute. Fruit sap is used as a food coloring in pastries and sweets. Leaves can be used to thicken soups and stews in addition to using raw or cooked like other spinach.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Vegetable
    Vine
    Habit/Form:
    Climbing
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    9b, 9a, 10b, 10a, 11b, 11a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits are round and soft, and can be red, white, or black in color. The seeds are round and black.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Spike
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Bell
    Flower Description:
    The flower is inconspicuous. White, pink, or red blossoms in short spikes and are located in the leaf axils.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Feel:
    Fleshy
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Other/more complex
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are thick, semi-succulent, fleshy, pointed at the tip, and arranged alternately along the vine.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Hanging Baskets
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Screen/Privacy
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heat
    Humidity