Basella, Climbing Spinach, Creeping Spinach, Malabar Spinach, Red Vine Spinach 'Rubra'

Basella alba

Family: Basellaceae
Genus: Basella (ba-SELL-ah) (Info)
Species: alba (AL-ba) (Info)
Cultivar: Rubra


Vines and Climbers

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade


Grown for foliage

Foliage Color:

Dark Green

Medium Green


10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)


9-12 in. (22-30 cm)


USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

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)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone



Bloom Color:

Medium Purple

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:


Bloom Size:

Under 1"

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Albertville, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama

Union Grove, Alabama

Vincent, Alabama

Anchorage, Alaska

Phoenix, Arizona

Queen Creek, Arizona

Batesville, Arkansas

Mountain Home, Arkansas

Rocklin, California

Sacramento, California(2 reports)

San Francisco, California

San Jose, California

Denver, Colorado

Montrose, Colorado

Altamonte Springs, Florida

Boca Raton, Florida

Boynton Beach, Florida

Branford, Florida

Clermont, Florida

Hollywood, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida(2 reports)

Jupiter, Florida

Lakeland, Florida

Land O Lakes, Florida

Longwood, Florida

Loxahatchee, Florida

Miami, Florida

Niceville, Florida

North Fort Myers, Florida

Plant City, Florida

Port Saint Lucie, Florida

Sarasota, Florida

Sorrento, Florida

Sumterville, Florida

Tallahassee, Florida

Venice, Florida

Atlanta, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

Valdosta, Georgia

Ahuimanu, Hawaii

Heeia, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honomu, Hawaii

Kaneohe, Hawaii

Waikane, Hawaii

North Manchester, Indiana

Rolling Prairie, Indiana

Derby, Kansas

Barbourville, Kentucky

Ewing, Kentucky

Prospect, Kentucky

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Bossier City, Louisiana

Chauvin, Louisiana

Destrehan, Louisiana

Gonzales, Louisiana

Kenner, Louisiana

Lafayette, Louisiana

Marrero, Louisiana

Metairie, Louisiana

Saint Francisville, Louisiana

Slaughter, Louisiana

Vacherie, Louisiana

Zachary, Louisiana

Silver Spring, Maryland

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Biloxi, Mississippi

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Raymond, Mississippi

Blue Springs, Missouri

Scott City, Missouri

Sun Valley, Nevada

, New South Wales

Binghamton, New York

Wading River, New York

Yonkers, New York

Henderson, North Carolina

Ashland, Ohio

Delaware, Oklahoma

Hulbert, Oklahoma

Portland, Oregon

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Scranton, Pennsylvania

Columbia, South Carolina

Collierville, Tennessee

Kingston, Tennessee

Arlington, Texas

Austin, Texas(2 reports)

Baytown, Texas

Belton, Texas

College Station, Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas

Dallas, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

Galveston, Texas

Houston, Texas(3 reports)

Humble, Texas

La Porte, Texas

Liberty Hill, Texas

New Braunfels, Texas

Odessa, Texas

Port Lavaca, Texas

Rockport, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

San Augustine, Texas

Spring, Texas

Springtown, Texas

Wichita Falls, Texas

Norton, Virginia

Concrete, Washington

Shelton, Washington

Skokomish, Washington

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Mar 11, 2019, dchavez55 from Sacramento, CA wrote:

I've encountered two different varieties of Malabar. One is like the picture with more purple stems/vines, and the other has green stems/vines. With the purple stem variety, only the leaves are edible - the vine part is woody. With the green stem variety, it's all edible - leaves and stems. I just saute the leaves/stems in a little oil and garlic. The leaves taste like spinach but they're thicker and don't cook down as much as spinach does. You can also use the leaves raw in salads but they don't taste like spinach when they're raw.


On Sep 20, 2017, KingSizeFool from Bastrop, LA wrote:

I've grown, served and enjoyed Malabar Spinach for the passed 10 years. Ordered seeds online and the plants reseed every year. My greatest problem is stopping them from taking over the entire garden, but it's well worth the efforts. I have prepared them in soups, stir fry, salads, stews, smoothies and eaten from the vine in the garden.

It grows well in zone 8,love the humidity, rain and heat. I use bamboo trellis, but it grow well with the peppers, tomatoes or in the hedges. Some even comes up in the compost pile next to the wooded shaded area annually which seems to produce the more larger leaves.

I freeze the leaves for later enjoyment, share with friends, neighbors and other gardeners, and all that sampled the spinach enjoyed the experience. The... read more


On Apr 12, 2017, greenman62 from Kenner, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

this plant cane end world hunger.
it is a vigorous grower, and will cover large areas.
easy to cut back. it is a soft tissue vine, but it grows very fast.
the extra leaves can be composted, or dropped as mulch if not used.

i love taking a leaf or 2 to forage while i am in the garden.
it has a bit of a mucilaginous texture, but, then so does okra.
very healthy also.


On Feb 7, 2016, janelp_lee from Toronto, ON (Zone 6a) wrote:

All the Chinese grocery store sell it for leafy vegetable, you can use the stem to grow not the seeds.

After cooked, the texture is slimy, suppose is good for stomach health. Try this and make sure you like it before growing it! Very easy to grow though.

If you don't like the taste, then sell to local Asian grocery store to make some money!


On Aug 10, 2013, hillyj wrote:

this is a very easy plant to grow beautiful hanging plant also edible i just cut it up and fold in with my eggs for breakfast also blend with kale cucumber celery apple for a nice breakfast drink add a little honey for sweetness


On Jun 26, 2013, ClaudiaDurand from Barton Creek, TX wrote:

This plant grows really well without much water, even in the hot Texas summer! It soon overcame my small trellis, and began twining around itself in beautiful twisting patterns. It is a garden stunner, and grows well with other plants on a trellis.

However, the eating isn't much to love. The taste is slightly bitter, which is easily remedied by blanching, but the texture is gelatinous and slimy. Other growers have had sucess- I wonder if the heat has something to do with it. I ended up using the larger leaves as wrappings for some other dishes.

The berries are wonderful as a natural dye. They are slightly bitter, but I boiled down the juice and added sugar before adding it to delicately-flavored foods like fresh whipped cream. It has a strong, bright magenta c... read more


On Apr 1, 2013, RiverNymph from the Mountains, CO (Zone 4a) wrote:

Ignore the people who have posted "yuk, ewww. nasty" on the taste. Like a lot of Americans, they seem to think that just because it has been deemed 'spinach' to make it more easy to understand - it must 'taste' like spinach or it's: ew! omg! call a doctor, i've been poisoned!! The taste obviously isn't just of spinach - it is an asian plant afterall. The taste is qite pleasant, nutty, and scrumptous. I (like many) understand that it doesn't have to taste like spinach just because it's in the title.. Enjoy and grow this plant!


On Mar 31, 2013, malihai from Destrehan, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

love this plant if anyone has seeds to spare contact me at [email protected] thanks


On Mar 24, 2013, Russ348 from Banks, OR wrote:

A neighbor grew this on a wire trellis last year (Portland, Oregon). I don't know how it does in the early season, but in mid-October, the vines were over 7 feet tall and the few remaining leaves were tasty and succulent eaten raw. No hint of sliminess as others have reported. Could it be due to climatic variables? Beautiful burgundy main stems. I'm growing it this year, for sure.


On Sep 17, 2012, FlaFlower from Titusville, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

One of the most disgusting things I have ever put into my mouth, the gelotinous slime I liken to snail snot...although I have yet to try snail snot personally...I suspect it might even taste better than what you think is suppose to taste some what like spinich with this icky thing, at least with snail snot you know it's not going to taste like spinich!! I ripped it out the next morning, wasn't going to devote ANY space to it. If you like the snoty slime of Okra, you MIGHT like this...but it taste nothing like spinich. Maybe more like pond scum, even that might taste better...I can't even discribe it, that's how bad it was...nasty, nasty, NASTY


On Sep 17, 2012, mariangriffith from Hattiesburg, MS wrote:

This is my first summer to grow it in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Easy to start from seed, beautiful plant , but I would have the same YUK response to the taste that kpienaar from FL had if I had not added a little apple cider vinegar to it after cooking in oil and garlic. THAT makes it taste like spinach. I was told Asians especially like the very young seed pods. They haven't killed me yet.


On Sep 17, 2012, izzysgran from stratford ontario,
Canada wrote:

I have grown this for the past 3 Years in zone 5b is a very slow grower for me,and never has blooms,so this is the last Year I will be having it in my Garden.


On Sep 17, 2012, kpienaar from Boynton Beach, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

This plant is easy and pretty enough to grow.

However as an edible plant, the taste is nowhere near spinach and the mucilaginous texture is a big turn off for my family.

I tried to convince them to try it, they did and everyone spat it out. Then I said its not bad,they said, ok, now eat this bowl and lets see. I couldn't eat more than a few bites before wanting to throw up.


On Sep 17, 2012, Cougiecat from Baton Rouge, LA wrote:

This plant tastes amazing! I've grown both the green and purple varieties, though the location I have them is doesn't get a lot of sun, and the plant doesn't take off without it. I know it does do well here in South Louisiana because I have friends that have theirs in full sun and they have plenty to spare. Taste wise it is wonderful- like spinach. I've had it as the feature ingredient in salads (of course), curries, quishes, and a variety of other spinach friendly dishes. It's wonderful never having to go buy salad greens even during a Louisiana summer.


On Sep 17, 2012, sshort from Kansas City, MO wrote:

So that is what I have! Came up volunteer, don't know from where, but my neighbor does grow unusual things and we have lots of squirrels. Took off and has been growing like crazy in this summer's awful heat with only a few sprinkles from the outside reach of a sprinkler. Not too invasive, just nicely vining up my back fence, blooming, beautiful foliage. I'll try eating it now.


On Sep 17, 2012, Gardeningnurse from North Manchester, IN (Zone 5b) wrote:

Grows well in Northern Indiana as well. I love its looks, and taste. Came up volunteer in a small garden I had stopped watering due to our drought this summer. What was a little disaster is now beautiful w/ it rambling up a few bamboo poles I added after it showed. I believe the seeds overwintered in my compost pile (this is from 2 yrs ago). I agreee it has all the tendencies to be invasive if left unchecked, but for now, I love it. The long vines also make a beautiful arangement down a long table.


On Jul 30, 2012, 1stGreenGirl from Grand Rapids, MI wrote:

Bought a couple of 4-6" plants online from a nursery in Ohio. Put them in the south window. We live in Michigan. That was done the first week of April. By the first week of July (3mths later) they were over 9ft long. I took down the window blinds, draped the spinach over a curtain rod. Looks so beautiful! Have a ton of seeds. Hoping to keep as houseplant, but have noticed the large, mature leaves towards the bottom are turning bronze/purple/golden - pretty, but not typical. She's still putting out more seeds/purple berries. What should I do to keep her alive? I'm really new at growing indoor veggies. This malabar would probably do awesome in a topsy turvy holder.


On Aug 28, 2010, foodcop from Riverdale, MD wrote:

Bought seed this past winter and direct sown in late May in a pile of compost over a newly removed red maple tree's roots. We have had record breaking heat all summer and this vine is a champ. Growing on three bamboo poles it's easily 8 feet tall and it has toughed out the full sun and limited water. We've harvested large leaves twice this year. Sauted with a little butter a lot of leaves cook down much like spinach, we tossed with cubes of frying cheese from Trader Joes - this is a keeper. I'll harvest seed and some vines to overwinter for next year. Highly recommend as a two function plant.


On Mar 3, 2010, locakelly from Phoenix, AZ (Zone 9a) wrote:

I bought a plant at a Farmer's Market last year and planted it since anything pretty and edible is right up my alley! It grew very well on a small trellis right into June when it stayed consistently over 100. It died back and when the temps started to cool off around October it came back from the roots, along with several volunteers I potted up and gave away. Did well until frost. I did manage to save seeds but may not need them as I have volunteers popping up in the garden and in the compost pile. I have read that seeds germinate best when temps are around 75. Seed coat is hard so soaking is recommended but not necessary judging by the number of seeds that fell to the ground and sprouted. Very beautiful vine and taste is excellent as well. Highly recommend this vine as a spinach subst... read more


On Jul 18, 2009, Buckeyebabe from Ashland, OH wrote:

I live in Ohio. I bought the seeds for this plan from someone who claimed that it originated here in Ohio at Malabar Farms. I was trying to mostly plants from around this region so I thought that this was quite a cool novelty. It has been growing great! It's beautiful yet very controlled. I have it growing in a large pot with a decorative tower trellis. So I got online last night to look up more information about the plant to see when we can start picking leaves (This is my first year of gardening) Only to find out that it originated in Indonesia and that in some climates this vine can grow a foot a day. That it likes sandy soils, and warm climates. Plus the berries can be used as food coloring since they have a purple/red juice that can stain. So it doesn't sound like they are much for ea... read more


On May 12, 2009, john795806 from Gulu,
Uganda wrote:

I've grown this plant in Cameroon (west Africa, rainforest area) on an acid soil (pH 5--and I'm a soil scientist). It was in a very warm, humid lowland environment. It did quite well. I add this because this plant is not only for medium pH or drier environs.

It's a great spinach substitute that can be eaten cooked or raw. As spinach requires cooler climates, this is a very good alternative. Comes in both purple-stemmed and green varieties, with the green being more prolific. Add some color to your salads and get a little of both.


On Nov 2, 2008, wtliftr from Wilson's Mills, NC wrote:

I just got a few small cuttings of this plant last week, and I've got them in a cup of water to grow roots (was told this also is a good way of propagation). I'm looking forward to having them in a small garden next spring. I do have a question, though. I know about the leaves and stems being edible, but what about the berries? Are they toxic, or just taste bad, or are they indeed edible? I'm trying to create my own in-depth database of edible plants, and their edible parts.
Any help will be appreciated!


On Aug 11, 2008, wandygirl from Brookfield, CT wrote:

I want to echo Geckoregon's concerns about this plant being a potential weed. Rampant growth, re-seeds, birds love the seeds, roots where it touches the ground... all the ingredients for disaster. The one thing going in its favor (to counter the invasive tendancies) is that it is palatable to people and animals. People, please check your state's invasive plant list and be sure this plant is not listed or on the watch list. Interesting note about use as a cure for stomatitis. Makes me want to give it a try, but I doubt I will.


On Aug 11, 2008, flowerstar from beirut,
Lebanon wrote:

this plant is one of the most loved leafy vegetable in the Islands of Philippines. It is very edible and nutritious. It grows anywhere in the islands and last for a life time. It doesn't need that much care, just some water twice a week would be fine.


On Aug 11, 2008, lakeladysue from Kerens, TX wrote:

We grew this in the Houston area. It grew very well and tasted good sauteed. BUT, it reseeded itself everywhere and we had to weed it out of all the garden. It took several years to get rid of it.
If trimmed and controlled, it might be a good food plant but it will spread by seed very, very easily in that climate.


On Jul 16, 2008, geckoregen from Gold Coast,
Australia wrote:

I saw this plant growing unchecked along a river in north eastern NSW (Australia) where it was smothering trees 10-15m high! Watch out people, the traits of hardiness, self propagation and rapid growth are characteristics of a weed. Please make sure you dispose of any waste in a responsible manner to prevent it from becoming a pest in your area.


On Jul 7, 2008, Lily_love from Central, AL (Zone 7b) wrote:

These can be grown in my region as an annual. I've the reddish stems vines that could climb up trellis, or just serve as ground cover....selfsown seedlings are prolific which need no winterprotection here. In colder climate, these seeds can be collected and stored for spring sowing. This is indeed edible (the leaves and stems), birds love the seeds.


On Aug 23, 2007, lynnscountryjub from Kingston, TN wrote:

i had an extremely busy spring. but i saw some seeds at a nursery and they looked interesting. i planted them and then ignored them. we have been in an extreme draught here in east tennessee. so while i was busy and not watering, nothing happened and i thought i lost the seeds. but i have watered about everyother day, starting in july and i have a couple of plants that have florished, one over 6 feet tall!. tonight i had some for the 1st time. it is very much like spinach or even swiss chard, but "meatier". i quick sauted it. i am also very excited about it reseeding it's self! i am always on the lookout for great perenials and plants that reseed.


On Jul 28, 2007, MadGecko13 from Corpus Christi, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

This plant is gorgeous. I planted two plants in a five gallon bucket, and it did ok. Its roots found their way out of the drain holes and into the soil, then hoo boy did it ever take off. Its growing delightedly in a narrow garden protected from morning and evening sun.
In the spring, it got left out during a night that dropped into the 40's. The leaves it had turned bronze and spotty, but didn't die. And it quickly recovered and continued growing. The vines become thick and a bit awkward, and needs to be draped back over the branches of the dead bush its living on. It roots readily when it touches soil.


On Mar 2, 2007, berrygirl from Braselton, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

Heat-loving perennial from India. Red leaf veins and stems, free-branching climber. Cut sprouts to eat as greens. Regrows rapidly. 50-70 days.


On Jul 3, 2006, podster from Deep East Texas, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

This is a beautiful ornamental vine reseeds easily. Edible leaves can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach.


On Jun 29, 2006, mgmarcks from Roseville, MI wrote:

It germinated almost immediately and grows taller and taller every day. Very easy to grow in Port St Lucie, FL 34986 zone 10


On Apr 28, 2006, farmorejon from Blue Springs, MO wrote:

I live in Missouri and was introduced to Malabar spinach six years ago. It has seeded itself every year and we loved it cooked. When raw it has a real fleshy texture my wife doesn't like but I pick and munch on it while working in the garden. It fills a large trellis, thickly, and is good to the first frost.


On Mar 20, 2006, WUVIE from Hulbert, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

As an avid sandwich eater, this plant is right up my alley!

Planted near the porch, in full sun with something to
climb on makes it very easy to simply walk outdoors, snap
off a few leaves and add them to your sandwich.

Very attractive and especially beautiful when cared for.

Last year I planted some on our gourd arbor and paid
very little attention. It responded by doing quite well.
This year I will bring it closer to home and enjoy it
even more.


On Mar 8, 2006, Dinu from Mysore,
India (Zone 10a) wrote:

The leaves of this plant is edible and is a reputed remedy for 'Stomatitis' -- mouth ulcers. It's easy growing and useful vine to have in backyard.


On Apr 14, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

April 14, 2004 - Honomu, HI

I have been growing this vine for about 10 years now and we love it. Just recently got a red one for the first time. Fast grower on a trellis. Beautiful shinny colored leaves. We love to eat it raw in mixed salads or wrapped with other greens and herbs in warm flour tortillas. Also cooked as you would regular spinach. We receive more rain in a month than some people get in a year and it still thrives.


On Apr 13, 2004, nancyanne from Lafayette, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

This plant is both heat and drought tolerant. I began to grow it as fodder for a very large green iguana, as it is a nutritious leaf with many minerals. In a pot, it was pretty unhappy; planted out, it turned into a very lovely (if rampant) fence-cover. Good color and texture of foliage.
It has self-seeded, and the seedlings are beginning to ramble already.
As a fodder for humans, the juice of the leaf has a somewhat gluey or slimy consistency - sort of creepy if you are just grazing in the garden, but not noticeable if it is in a bowl of greens. I have not tried it cooked, but have been told that it is quite reminiscent of spinach (well, that's better raw, anyway!).


On Jun 6, 2003, wpm from Millet, Alberta,
Canada wrote:

I would like to know more about this plant. As it is edible, I need to know if there are any parts of the vine that would be toxic to animal.
the reason for this is I would like to put vines on the highway fences to keep drivers from losing their attention by looking at our animals as they are driving 70 mph down our highway! It is a very busy highway!! and some people have been killed right at our corner. I want to avoid any more mishaps. You see...we have elk, and they will browse on what is planted on the fence, so...I would like to know.

Also, I am in Canada (not quite the frozen north) near Edmonton, Alberta so I need hardy type of vine.


On Aug 26, 2002, puppi from Marietta, GA wrote:

Has proven itself to be a flavorful replacement for spinach in Zone 7b where real spinach quickly goes to seed. Ornamental as well as edible and worthy of a trellis to show off the colorful burgandy vines, dark green leaves and purple berries. Self seeds for the following season. Thin seedlings in mid-spring


On Aug 25, 2001, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Malabar Spinach is not really a spinach at all, but the taste is similar and it is better suited to summer growing than real spinach.The large meaty,leaves are spinach-like in flavor and is very heat tolerant.The berries are fleshy and purplish black and the juice is sometimes used as a dye.This is a fast growing vine great to cover an ugly spot in a hurry,should be planted where it can climb.Will do fine in the shade but the leaves will not turn purple/red the stems will still get red but not as much as they do in full sun. This self-seeded for me this year, had it coming up in several places. But easy to pull and start someplace eles also easy to do cuttings from.