If you struggle to grow spinach because of a hot climate, you’ve probably heard of Malabar spinach. Not related to spinach, Malabar spinach is an edible perennial vine that grows in warm regions and is super nutritious.
But just like spinach is sensitive to heat, Malabar spinach is sensitive to the cold.
Why you should grow Malabar spinach indoors
Since Malabar spinach is a beautiful vine that can grow up to 12 feet tall, then why would you want to grow it indoors? It seems that letting it grow outdoors would be ideal.
While this is true if you live in a climate that gets frost or you live in an apartment (or just prefer indoor plants), then growing Malabar spinach indoors would likely be a better idea.
The biggest factor to consider in moving Malabar spinach indoors is being able to provide it with full sun. So, if you don’t have a greenhouse, place it near a sunny window.
What size container (and trellis) to use
Although Malabar spinach can be grown as a bush, it’s naturally a climbing vine. So along with using a 5-gallon pot, they can benefit from using a trellis to climb.
Depending on how much room you have, here are some examples of trellises you can use with Malabar spinach:
- Tomato cage
- DIY with bamboo poles
- Flat trellis
The best soil to grow indoors
Malabar spinach is a tropical plant and it does well with soils that have a slightly acidic pH, such as sandy loam soil.
For fertilizer, a 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer will work well, but remember that potted plants require less fertilizer than if it were outdoors.
Lastly, make sure the soil is well-draining to prevent root rot from taking place.
Growing and harvesting
When you sow your Malabar spinach, it can take 10 days to 3 weeks to germinate. From there, it will take 40 to 50 days to harvest, but you can continue harvesting as long it as heat or frost doesn’t kill it.
To speed up germination, you can soak the seeds overnight or use the towel and baggy method. For more information on how to use a towel and baggy method, check out the video below by Garden Fundamentals.
When it’s time to harvest the leaves, you can simply pick and use them in dishes such as salads, soups, and stews.
Soon after the first harvest, the plant will start to fruit and the seeds can be dried and used for future planting (fun fact: they can also make a food-safe red-purplish dye).
Just don’t wait too long to harvest the leaves. When the plant flowers and fruits, its leaves often turn bitter.
If you provide your Malabar spinach with what it needs, you’ll get rewarded with a fast-growing plant with many leaves. Keep in mind, if you don’t want to grow your Malabar spinach from seeds, you can grow it from a cutting. Although they can be difficult to find, cuttings can be found at local Indian markets.
Growing outdoors with frost
What happens if you decide to grow Malabar spinach outdoors and take a chance with frost?
Well, there’s good and bad news.
The bad news is that your plant will likely die.
The good news is that fallen seeds can provide you with new plants, making your Malabar spinach regrow as an annual.
While growing outdoors and chancing frost is preferred by some because of the ease of growing, the plant might not have edible leaves year-round.
A good workaround to this is to grow outdoors during the summer and then move the pot indoors during the winter.
Malabar spinach is a sight to see in any garden, but it has a harder time growing in cold climates. Although it can regrow from seed as an annual, moving it indoors before the first frost can help you maintain its perennial status. Keep the soil slightly acidic and free-draining, and apply a small amount of fertilizer annually if you’re keeping it as a perennial. Enjoy the tasty and nutritious leaves and save the seeds for future plants, or use them as gifts!