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How to grow and care for malabar spinach

Want to add a malabar spinach to your garden? They are beautiful and easy to care for! Here’s my complete malabar spinach care guide!

Last year, I bought a variegated lemon tree from someone on Facebook marketplace. The soil of the plant had tiny seedlings popping up and she told me they were malabar spinach.

Jump forward a few weeks and I had SO MUCH spinach! It was coming out of everywhere.

I ended up trading or giving a lot of it away, I had so much!

If you too have been blessed with the gift of this plant, here’s a quick and easy care guide for you to keep it thriving.

malabar spinach in pots

What is malabar spinach?

Malabar spinach is a tropical leafy green edible plant. While it is not a true spinach, the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.

Raw, the leaves have a mild taste – they taste like nothing. Cooked, they get a bit gluey or gummy.

Most spinach grows best in the spring or fall – extreme sun and heat causes it to bolt. But, malabar spinach loves heat and direct sun. That’s why it loves cooking in my sunny backyard.

So, this can be a great option if you want to grow an edible leafy green in the hot summer sun.

Other names for malabar spinach include:

  • Malibar spinach
  • Vining Spinach
  • Ceylon Spinach
  • Red spinach
  • Vietnamese spinach
  • Climbing spinach
  • Acelga trapadora
  • Malabar nightshade
  • Red malabar spinach
  • Gui
  • Libato
  • Bratana

Malabar spinach plant origins

This plant is native from India to New Guinea and has been used for food and medicine for centuries.

What zones is malabar spinach for?

Malabar spinach is hardy in zones 7-10. It will die in the winter, but in my experience if you leave it alone, it self-seeds and comes back year after year.

Is malabar spinach toxic?

No, malabar spinach is an edible plant! The leaves, shoots, and berries are all edible. These leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.

malabar spinach plant care guide

How to grow Malabar Spinach

Malabar spinach is super easy to grow in your garden or yard.

Malabar spinach watering

Malabar spinach needs frequent watering. It likes to stay moist!

How often should I water my Malabar Spinach?

In hot sunny spots, plan to water it every day. If the plant doesn’t get enough water, it will flower and go to seed, which turns the leaves bitter.

Malabar Spinach lighting needs

Malabar spinach loves full sun and can be cooked all day long. It will do OK in partial sun. It will not thrive in full shade.

close up of malabar spinach

Malabar Spinach soil + potting

Malabar spinach prefers well draining, sandy soil. However, I’ve had it grow well in regular potting mix or honestly anywhere it lands.

You can grow it in a pot to help contain the spreading or plant it in a garden bed that you don’t mind being a bit taken over.

Does malabar spinach need a trellis?

If you want malabar spinach to reach its full potential of growing, it needs some sort of trellis or branches to grow up.

Malabar spinach fertilization

Applying a high nitrogen fertilizer will help your malabar spinach to grow. Fertilize once a month in the summer for big, leafy greens.

Malabar spinach pruning

Cut spinach leaves as you want to use them. This keeps them fresh, but also cutting leaves regularly encourages growth!

malabar spinach for scale

How to propagate Malabar Spinach

You can stick stem cuttings directly into moist soil and they will root in place easily.

However, I have found that malabar spinach drops a lot of berries and seeds that make it re-seed itself in place. Malabar spinach seeds spread quickly and come back year after year.

This plant is also super easy to grow from seed. In zones 7 or higher, you can just toss seeds into the garden directly and they will grow! In colder climates, start them indoors.

Is malabar spinach invasive?

Because it spreads so easily and quickly, malabar spinach can become invasive if not managed properly. The best way to prevent spreading is to keep it in a pot and not in the ground!

This plant is technically an annual but will live as a perennial if your weather is mild. It came back after the winter for us here in Charleston, SC!

baby malabar spinach

Frequently Asked Questions about Malabar Spinach

Is Malabar spinach good for you?

Malabar spinach is a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium and iron.

Can I eat Malabar spinach raw?

Yes, similar to spinach of all kinds, this leafy green has a mild taste when eaten raw. Sean often eats it straight off the plant!

Is Malabar spinach toxic to dogs?

Malabar spinach is edible and non-toxic to dogs. If your dog eats a ton of it, you might want to reach out to a veterinary professional just in case.

potted malabar spinach

Why is it called Malabar spinach?

Malabar is a region in Southwestern India, where this plant grows natively. The leaves look a lot like spinach. Hence, the name.

What is the difference between red and green Malabar spinach?

Green malabar spinach is slower to grow but has larger leaves. The leaves taste about the same!

Any more questions about malabar spinach care?

Thanks for reading!

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