Basella rubra 'Red Stem'
Common Name: Ceylon spinach 
Type: Vine
Family: Basellaceae
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to frost
Bloom Description: Purple-white
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable
Flower: Showy


Grow in rich, fertile, moisture-retentive soils in full sun. Tolerates light shade. Easily grown from seed. Start seed indoors 6-8 weeks before last spring frost date. Seed may also be planted directly in the garden at the last spring frost date. Use a slow-release fertilizer. When grown as a vegetable, train it on a sturdy trellis or other support. When grown for ornamental purposes, grow it on a fence or lamppost or other structure. Plants may also be allowed to simply trail along the ground. Plants are intolerant of frost and do not perform well if summer temperatures consistently dip below 59 degrees F. at night.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Basella alba, commonly called Malabar spinach, is native to the East Indies. It is a vigorous, climbing, tropical vine that may be grown in St. Louis as (1) an annual leafy vegetable for cultivation of its edible spinach-like stems and leaves or (2) as an ornamental foliage vine. This is a fast-growing tropical vine that, if trained on a support, will rise to 6' tall in a single season. Although in a different family than spinach, the leaves taste like spinach and, unlike spinach, the plants thrive in hot summer weather. Leaves and stems are a good source of Vitamins A and C, calcium and iron. Small purple-white flowers may appear at the end of the summer (plants will not flower until daylight decreases to less than 12 hours per day).

Genus name comes from the Latinized version of the vernacular name.

Specific epithet means white.

'Red Stem' features showy red stems clad with thick, glossy, heart-shaped, medium green leaves.


No serious insect or disease problems.


As a vegetable, pick leaves and stems as needed for use in soups, salads, stir-fry or as a pot herb for stews. As an ornamental, enjoy the glossy green leaves and red stems in ornamental plantings on posts, fences, hanging baskets or large containers.