Okinawan Spinach, also called Okinawa Spinach, is a perennial groundcover that can be grown in the ground in USDA Zones 9 to 11, or in pots in Zones 4 to 11. It has average water requirements, likes full sun to partial shade, and needs little if any maintenance to grow a lush carpet of edible leaves and bright orange flowers. The leaves are deeply serrated, but not at all sharp or prickly, with deep green tops and striking purple undersides. Okinawan Spinach makes a beautiful landscape border or bedding plant under taller shrubs or trees.
Mature Okinawan Spinach forms a dense groundcover bed that is typically between 10 and 24 inches tall. Leaves can be harvested at any time and are eaten raw or cooked. It can be grown easily from cuttings, so you can grow a dense bed in the ground in warm climates, and overwinter a few plants in pots in colder zones. Overall Okinawan Spinach is a sturdy, easy to grow groundcover that has beautiful green and purple foliage, orange blooms, and gives you a renewable supply of delicious spinach-like edible leaves.
Okinawan Spinach Care
Okinawan Spinach is one of those plants that the more you cut it back, the better it grows and spreads. Plant in shaded beds or as a border along a sunny path, and water when soil is dry to a few inches deep. Okinawan Spinach is so ornamental, with its green and purple leaves, that most visitors would never guess that it is a nutritious and delicious edible plant. If you are growing Okinawan Spinach for the leaves, cutting off flowers will encourage more foliage growth, but you can leave a few of the colorful orange blooms just for show.
Okinawan Spinach is a fantastic edible green to grow in a pot. Okinawan Spinach will thrive in large pots with drainage holes, or in hanging baskets. Place hanging baskets or pots of Okinawan Spinach on a sunny, south-facing deck or porch, and water one per week at the most. Be sure the pots drain fully, and only water again when the soil surface is dry. If you are in a colder area, growing Okinawan Spinach in pots and bringing them in for winter is a great way to add edible plants to your home garden.
Okinawan Spinach Uses and Harvesting
Okinawan Spinach leaves are the focus when harvesting the plant for food. The young leaves and new shoots are eaten raw in salads. The leaves can also be cooked. If you wish to cook Okinawan Spinach, add it to the dish at the latter stages, because if Okinawan Spinach is cooked for long periods of time, it can release a protein that makes the leaves develop a slippery texture, much like okra.
Harvest Okinawan Spinach leaves by using sharp, clean kitchen shears or hand trimmers. Trim growing stems back as much as 1 or 2 feet, then remove the leaves by cutting them off close to the stem. Cut off the growing tips consisting of the newest leaf and the closest 1 or 2 leaves below it. The tender green stems near the growing ends of the plant are also edible raw or cooked. Stems left over from harvesting leaves can be composted or fed to livestock.
Growing Okinawan Spinach from cuttings or rooted stems is easy, and a great way to spread the plant in your own garden. Growing Okinawan Spinach from cuttings is also an effective way to keep the plant for the winter in cold areas. Use sharp hand pruners and find trailing stalks that have begun to put down roots. Gently lift the stalks up, cut the canes off so that 3 or 4 inches of rooted stem remain, and plant in pots with potting soil.
You can also root fresh cuttings of Okinawan Spinach by cutting off a growing stem that is about 6 inches long. Cut away all leaves except the growing tip and 2 or 3 top leaves. Plant in small pots up to 8-inches wide. Use potting soil and water cuttings once a week. When new leaves appear, reduce watering to times when the top inch of soil is dry. Cuttings can be grown outside in warm months, and in a sunny interior window over winter.
Is Okinawa Spinach really a kind of Spinach?
Many edible foliage plants have the word Spinach in their name, but like Okinawan Spinach, are not true Spinach varieties in the popular green vegetable sense. Okinawan Spinach is an edible green plant, but it is not the same as the Spinach found in grocery stores.
Is it true that Okinawa Spinach will take over if planted?
Not at all. Okinawan Spinach is easy to grow and it does grow fast, but it is shallow rooted and easily removed if it begins to spread into a path or beyond the area in which you wish to grow it. It is easy to control, and not considered invasive in any way.
Where does Okinawan Spinach come from?
Okinawan Spinach probably originated in Indonesia, but it is now grown all around the world.
Can Okinawan Spinach Grow in a pot?
Yes. Okinawan Spinach does well in pots or hanging baskets. It can be grown indoors if given enough light, or on a patio or porch when the weather is warm.