Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Okinawan Spinach
Gynura bicolor

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Gynura (jy-NYOOR-uh) (Info)
Species: bicolor (BY-kul-ur) (Info)

10 members have or want this plant for trade.

Edible Fruits and Nuts
Tropicals and Tender Perennials

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Fall/Early Winter


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From herbaceous stem cuttings

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Click thumbnail
to view:

By IslandJim
Thumbnail #1 of Gynura bicolor by IslandJim

By grovespirit
Thumbnail #2 of Gynura bicolor by grovespirit

By foodiesleuth
Thumbnail #3 of Gynura bicolor by foodiesleuth


6 positives
6 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive PammiePi On Oct 10, 2014, PammiePi from Green Cove Springs, FL wrote:

Love this easy to grow, good for you veggie! I bought some babies on line and by early fall had a garden full! Plus they are attractive plants. :)

Neutral kathleen1947 On May 31, 2014, kathleen1947 from Sacramento, CA wrote:

For those looking for this plant, Hirt's has it available now.

Positive cam2 On Jul 30, 2013, cam2 from Houston, TX wrote:

I have grown this plant for about 2yrs in N. Houston/Spring, TX area. I bought two small plants on eBay, lost one and one has gown and been divided several times. I absolutely love it! It is not only attractive, but delicious in salads, or just pinched while walking in the garden! I haven't cook it, but raw it has nice flavor and texture.

Mine gets leggy (it can be cut and easily rooted in water or soil), and was about to bloom last winter, but got too cold; as one other gardener mentioned, it can withstand light freezes and come back in the Spring. We have been having very mild winters here the last two years, but I think that when we have our normal freezing weather, I will definitely protect my parent plant and take cuttings just in case!

Neutral BryanBurlingame On May 4, 2013, BryanBurlingame from Burlingame, CA wrote:

Just got this plant - looks great but haven't tried eating it yet.

"...that it will nearly always revert to the wild type with solid green leaves...and the green leafed type may contain toxic alkaloids..."

Can anyone point to an authoritative source for this information? I've seen this mentioned on random web pages, yet I haven't been able to find any apparently well-researched sites mentioning this reverting to a toxic form. I'm beginning to suspect this is a myth.

Neutral tabatd On Jan 21, 2013, tabatd from Osseo, MN wrote:

I have a question. I'd like to try to grow this plant indoors. I live in Minnesota (so NOTHING is growing here now), but I have a grow light and a humidifier. Has anyone had any success growing these indoors?


Neutral virginia14 On Nov 19, 2012, virginia14 from Tamborine Mountain
Australia wrote:

Does anyone know where I can get this plant in Australia? As it does not grow from seed I cannot get it from any other country, but need to obtain a plant or cuttings. I am very keen to try it after reading lots of positive things about it.

Positive Campfiredan On May 27, 2008, Campfiredan from Alachua, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

It grows very well here near Gainesville FL, especially in the shade where nothing else survives. It freezes back to the ground some winters but comes back in the spring. It is easy to add to just about any recipe in place of spinach but it turns all green when it is cooked so add it after cooking if you are looking for the purple color in the dish. Or garnish the dish with fresh cut leaves on the side.

Neutral grovespirit On May 6, 2008, grovespirit from Sunset Valley, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

This plant attracts butterflies and is a host plant to the Kamehameha butterfly.
It was introduced as a food plant from Africa to Australia, and then from Aust to NZ and the other Pacific islands.

The problem with reproducing this plant from seed is that it will nearly always revert to the wild type with solid green leaves...and the green leafed type may contain toxic alkaloids. The toxic green leafed form grows wild from wind-distributed seed in numerous Pacific islands such as Okinawa, Fiji, Samoa and Hawaii.

Losing the fancy purple coloration, and the safer food qualities that many gardeners desire, is very counterproductive.
So, this plant should be reproduced by cuttings if at all possible.

Positive MotherNature4 On Nov 16, 2007, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I have been growing this plant successfully for several years now.

The web site article mentioned in message above is NO LONGER AVAILABLE. It was excellent and I'm glad that I saved it. If you would like to read it, send me a D-Mail and I'll send it to you.

I certainly recommend this plant and the article.

Neutral Breezymeadow On Jan 25, 2005, Breezymeadow from Culpeper, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

Apparently, viable seed is not an option - the plant is normally propagated via cuttings.

Positive foodiesleuth On Jan 24, 2005, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

I love this purple and green spinach and had some growing a few years back in our garden. We have since moved and we lost our plants. I have been looking for seeds ever since and have not been able to get them.

When I ask for Okinawan spinach here, they point to a plant that is sort of viny and the leaves are all one shade of green. It is said that eating a few leaves of this particular 'Okinawan' spinach on a daily basis will help lower cholesterol. I use this also in salads and inside tortilla wraps.

TO: Breezymeadow - A huge Mahalo! The address provided at the bottom of the article on the link you sent is just 4 miles up the road from where I live! I'm contacting them this morning to see if I can get cuttings.....Thanks, again!

I was able to get some cuttings and now have two fairly healthy plants. They are still sort of small, but I think they will make it.

Positive IslandJim On Jan 23, 2005, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

Gynura crepiodes is a tropical, sup-tropical vegetable that makes a nice addition to salads. It can also be eaten when cooked. It is grown commercially as a vegetable in China. It is also an attractive pot plant--shiny green leaves above, purple underneath. Grows well in subtropical Florida. It is somewhat frost intolerant until established.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Tucson, Arizona
San Diego, California
Alachua, Florida
Apopka, Florida
Bartow, Florida
Brandon, Florida
Cape Coral, Florida
Gainesville, Florida
Green Cove Springs, Florida
Kissimmee, Florida
Lake Helen, Florida
Loxahatchee, Florida
Miami, Florida
Sarasota, Florida
Tarpon Springs, Florida
Titusville, Florida
Venice, Florida
Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaii
Honomu, Hawaii
Laie, Hawaii
Pukalani, Hawaii
Houston, Texas

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