Growing and Saving the Seed of Malabar spinach

Latin name Basella rubra, this variety is commonly known as Ceylon spinach, Malabar spinach and Indian spinach. This climbing tropical plant is a great heat and humidity-loving substitute for spinach. Spinacia oleracea, aka European spinach, is very heat sensitive and will bolt in summer time. Malabar spinach will continue to produce delicious and vitamin packed foliage right through a hot summer. The texture of Malabar spinach is a bit different as it is a bit more mucilagenous than other leafy greens, similar to okra. While its technically a very tender perennial ( dies back in any zone cooler than a USDA zone 10) malabar spinach is often grown in North American gardens as a summer annual.



Native to tropical Asia, this tropical green is beloved across south Asia and featured in countless recipes. The bright purple berries have also historically been used as a natural dye.


  • Ornamental
  • Culinary
  • Edible landscaping
  • Climbing vine
  • Natural dye plant




  • Sow seeds 1/4- 1/2 inch deep. 3 inches apart and thin to 6 inches apart.
  • Seeds will germinate more readily if gently nicked and soaked overnight before sowing. Malabar spinach is a super cold-sensitive plant, so do not direct seed until all chance of frost has passed and nights are consistently above 60 F. Alternatively, you can start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date and transplant out once the summer heat has set in. .


  • Space plants 6 inches apart in rows 36 inches apart. Malabar spinach has a fantastic climbing and twining habit, so provide a trellis, fence, or railin, and the vines will wrap around and grow vertically!
  • Plants are adaptable to a wide range of soil types. They have average water needs and can tolerate some drought. Plants require short daylength (13 hours) in order to flower.



  • A relatively pest- and disease-free plant. Be sure to note that this plant is quite cold sensitive and should be grown during the hottest part of the year only. Plants will typically produce flowers when conditions become dry, or when daylength shortens (13 hours).


  • You can easily clonally propagate this plant by taking cuttings in fall and rooting them in wate. Keep the plant as a houseplant over winter and root more cuttings in spring to transplant out. Seed saving is also possible.
  • For seed saving, allow purple fruits to mature and become soft and wrinkly. Save seeds and rinse with water before sun drying. Store seeds in a airtight container for up to 3 years in a cool, dark, dry location.