Basella: recommendations for indoor and outdoor growing

Table of contents:

Basella: recommendations for indoor and outdoor growing
Basella: recommendations for indoor and outdoor growing

Characteristics of the basella plant, planting and care in a personal plot, growing in rooms, recommendations for reproduction, combating diseases and pests, interesting notes, application, types.

Basella (Basella) belongs to the genus of herbaceous plants that are part of the family of the same name Basellaceae, uniting dicotyledonous representatives of the flora. There are only five species in the genus, three of which are endemic to the island of Madagascar, that is, they are not found anywhere else on the planet in nature, and one comes from the east of the African continent. That is, the territory of distribution falls on lands with a tropical and subtropical climate, namely the already mentioned Africa and Madagascar, as well as India and the American continent.

Family name Basell
Growing period Perennial
Vegetation form Herbaceous, liana-like
Breeds Seeds or cuttings, tuberous basella - tubers
Open ground transplant terms Late May or early June
Landing rules Saplings are placed at a distance of 30 cm from each other
Priming Fertile, moist and well-drained
Soil acidity values, pH Any
Illumination level Well-lit location, south, southeast or southwest location
Humidity level High
Special care rules Fertilizers, stalk tying and supports are recommended
Height options Up to 9 m
Flowering period At the end of summer
Type of inflorescences or flowers Spike inflorescences
Color of flowers From pale pink to red and even purple
Fruit type Berry
The timing of fruit ripening In autumn
Decorative period In nature, year-round, in the middle lane, spring-autumn
Application in landscape design For landscaping gazebos and balconies, forming hedges in warm regions
USDA zone 5 and higher

Basella got its scientific name thanks to the Indian term "basella", moreover, you can often hear how the plant is called grape, Indian, Filipino, Ceylon or Malabar spinach. All due to the fact that foliage is used for food in the native lands of growth. In Asia, the plant is identified under different names, so in countries you can hear the following nicknames for this herb: saan choy (Chinese), mong toi (Vietnamese), alugbati (Philippines), pui saag (Bengali), remayong (Malay) spinach, etc.

All types of basells are perennials that prefer warmth and humidity for growth. They have a herbaceous and liana-like form of growth. The plant differs from its "relative" English spinach (Spinacea oleracea) in that it is a creeping vine with bright, wide, thick, juicy and slimy leaves. Curly shoots, they need support for growth. To do this, in nature, the plant uses the trunks of shrubs or trees, but when growing in a pot or garden, the gardener will have to take care of this. In length, the stems of the plant can stretch up to a 9-meter mark.

Although often found in many yards in South Asian areas, it is gradually gaining popularity in some tropical and temperate climates of America, Australia, and Europe for its lush, nutritious greenery and delicate stems. It is possible to grow Malabar spinach in our climate as a one-year or two-year pot culture.

When basella stems are young, they have a bright green hue, but gradually this color changes to reddish or purple. Often, traces of old leaf plates remain on the surface of the shoots. The surface of the stems is bare. The leaves on the stems have a regular arrangement along its entire length. The shape of the leaf plates is heart-shaped or ovoid with a pointed apex. Entire foliage is attached to the shoots by means of elongated petioles (about 3-5 cm). The length of Indian spinach leaves varies from 5 to 12 cm, the width is approximately equal to the length.

Basella leafy mass has a pleasant, delicate aroma. The surface of the deciduous mass is shiny, bare. The leaves are painted in a rich dark green or green color, which contrasts favorably with the reddish tone of the shoots. However, there are varieties that are most valuable because of their variegated-colored leaf plates, while the main tone here is also shades of red, or a pattern of purple-colored veins may be present on the leaves.


Some types of basella are characterized by edible leaves.

Flowering in Indian spinach begins at the end of summer, then flowering stems carrying spike-shaped inflorescences are pulled out of the leaf sinuses. Their length can be 15 cm. The inflorescences are composed of bisexual flowers of rather small sizes. The corolla of the flower is tubular, often not opening. At the same time, depending on the phase of flowering, the color of the flowers also changes: from pale pink to red and often even crimson. In this case, inflorescences begin to form in the lower part of the shoots, gradually moving towards the top.

After flowering, the basella begins to ripen the fruits, represented by rounded berries with a shiny surface. The size of the fruit of grape spinach is quite small, in diameter they can reach only 6 mm. Their color is purple, dark red, approaching almost dark purple or black color scheme. The pigment that fills the fruit is so pungent that it stains everything it comes into contact with. Inside the fruit are seeds of a round, black color. When grown in the middle lane, Basella will be able to ripen fruits only in the lower part of the shoots. When fully ripe, the berries become soft to the touch. To collect the seed, they wait until the color of the fruit turns thick black.


The ripening process of the basella fruit should be monitored, since if it is picked too late, the berries open up and the seed material spills out onto the soil. Due to the coloring effect, gloves are recommended when collecting.

Although the plant requires heat and high humidity, it is quite undemanding to care for and a gardener, even without sufficient experience, can cope with its cultivation.

Planting and caring for basella outdoors

Basella blooms

Since in our latitudes the plant cannot survive the winter, it is grown as an annual.

  1. Landing place It is recommended to pick Malabar spinach well lit, since this vine is not afraid of direct rays even in the summer afternoon. With a shady location, the growth of the vine will begin to slow down, but the size of the leaf plates increases.
  2. Priming for growing basella, you should select a fertile wet or medium moisture. However, it must be well-drained and of any acidity (from strongly acidic to very alkaline). But, as practice shows, this plant can put up with both dry and poor substrate. It is recommended to prepare the planting site in advance, starting somewhere in the middle of spring. The soil is dug up, weeds and remnants of the roots of other plants are removed and, if necessary, compost and river sand are added to increase nutritional value and friability.
  3. Planting basella in open ground should be carried out in the last days of May or at the very beginning of summer, this will ensure that return frosts will not destroy the tender seedlings. It is recommended to leave the distance between the plants about 30 cm, since the vine is capable of growing. When planting, a peg or other support is immediately placed in the hole so that the growing shoots can attach to it and climb into the sunlight. All this is necessary for the basella also because of its other feature - the very high fragility of the stems, so it is better that the plant itself clings to the support provided to it in time. In just one season, vine shoots are able to stretch up to a two-meter mark. It is recommended to lay a sufficient drainage layer (about 3-5 cm) into the pit when planting the basella. Since, despite its moisture-loving nature, with waterlogging of the soil, rotting of the root system is possible. Such material can be medium-sized expanded clay, pebbles, crushed stone or pieces of brick. Then the drainage is sprinkled with a small layer of soil (just to cover it) and only after that a Malabar spinach seedling is placed on top. The root collar of the seedling is flush with the ground on the site. The soil around the bush needs to be filled up to the top, compacted a little and water the plant.
  4. Watering when grown outdoors, basells should be abundant and regular. It is necessary to monitor that the soil is constantly in a slightly moist state. Stagnation of moisture is strictly prohibited.
  5. Fertilizers for garden cultivation, grape spinach should be applied after 2 weeks from the moment of planting, with regularity every 0.5–1 months. Can be used as complete mineral complexes such as Fertika, Agricola or Kemira-Universal, alternating with organic products (compost, manure or peat crumb).
  6. General advice on care. When growing basella, it is important that the plant has enough moisture, therefore, periodically in the heat or in drought, the foliage is sprayed from a hose using a sprinkler nozzle. But the liana responds best to the water heated by the sun, then you can use a spray bottle. Just like any plant in the garden, this vine will need weeding and loosening of the soil in the root zone after irrigation or rainfall.
  7. Collection Basella seeds can be performed both when growing vines in the garden and indoors. To obtain seed throughout the summer months, it is necessary not to cut the shoots and foliage on them. Flowering, which began in late summer, culminates in the ripening of Indian spinach. You can understand that the berries are completely ready for picking by the fact that they have become soft to the touch and acquire a bluish-black color scheme. If you are late with the collection time, then the basella fruits will crack and seeds will fall out of them. Under our conditions, only fruits formed in the lower part of the stems or up to its middle will be able to fully ripen to give seeds suitable for propagation. After picking the berries, the seeds are removed and peeled from the pulp, and then dried thoroughly. Store such material in a dark place by placing it in paper bags. Since the fruits of the basella are capable of staining everything that is not touched, it is recommended to wear gloves to work with them. In our latitudes, grape spinach cannot multiply by self-sowing, since, once it gets into the ground during the very first autumn frosts, the seed material will die.
  8. The use of basella in landscape design. Despite the fact that the plant is grown in our latitudes as an annual, but during the growing season, the shoots of the liana are able to lengthen up to 2 meters. Then if you plant Indian spinach plants next to the supports or posts of the gazebo and directing the shoots in a timely manner, you can decorate balconies, loggias and garden buildings. Arches, decorative trellises or pergolas will decorate Malabar spinach stalks.When cultivation is carried out in a warm climate, then with the help of such plantings there is the possibility of forming hedges. At the same time, a worthy combination will be the neighborhood of Basella next to conifers or flower crops. If cultivation is carried out in a garden container, then with the arrival of persistent positive temperatures, the container with the liana is taken out into the garden, and when the autumn cold snap sets in, the plant is returned to the premises.

See also tips for growing asarin.

Basella: growing vines indoors

Basella grows
  1. Lighting when growing grape spinach at home, they try to find a good one; for this, a pot with a plant is placed on the sill of the south window, but a southeast or southwest location may be suitable. But at midday it is recommended to provide diffused lighting with the help of translucent curtains. However, many gardeners note that Basella can cope perfectly with direct sunlight and its foliage will not be affected at all. In winter, such a light-loving vine will need to provide supplementary lighting using special phytolamps. If this condition is not met, the stems will stretch out very much and the plant will lose its decorative effect. Malabar spinach will have to take a significant amount of time to regain its former beauty.
  2. Temperature when growing basella in rooms in the spring-summer period, it should be in the range of 20-25 degrees, with the arrival of autumn it is recommended to gradually reduce these indicators to 15-17 degrees. If this temperature regime cannot be arranged, then the plant will withstand higher temperatures, but dry air will act as an enemy for it.
  3. Air humidity in home care for basella is a major factor for normal development. This is especially true in the autumn-winter period, when heating devices and central heating begin to work in the premises. To facilitate the existence of Malabar spinach under such conditions, it is recommended to periodically spray its deciduous mass with a fine spray bottle. Also, moisture indicators can be increased by placing the pot in a pallet, on the bottom of which expanded clay or chopped moss is laid, which are regularly watered with a small amount of water. In order to avoid decay of the basella root system from waterlogging, it is recommended that the bottom of the pot does not touch the water in the pan.
  4. Priming for home cultivation of this vine, it is also recommended to take nutritious and loose, but here you can use universal purchased substrates.
  5. Landing Native American spinach is held in the pot in early spring, so that the plant begins to actively adapt and develop. A layer of 3-4 cm of drainage is placed on the bottom of the pot, sprinkled with a small amount of soil and a basella seedling is placed on top. The root collar of the plant should not be deepened; it is left at the same level as before planting. Since the stems of the vines are quite elongated, then when growing in a container, it is necessary to provide a trellis or a decorative ladder along which the shoots will "climb". After planting, abundant watering is required.
  6. Watering when caring for grape spinach at home, it is not a problem, since the plant is characterized by drought tolerance, but in order for the vine to develop normally, it will need abundant soil moisture. In this case, it is important that there is no stagnation of moisture in the pot or stand under it. For this, it is recommended to use a sufficient drainage layer during planting. In the autumn-winter months, watering is reduced and carried out only if the topsoil begins to dry out.
  7. Basella transplant performed every 2-3 years, as the root system of the plant grows and it is recommended to increase the size of the container.
  8. Fertilizers when caring for Malabar spinach in a room, as well as when growing in a garden.The introduction of top dressing will be the key to the normal development of the basella. With the arrival of March and until November, it should be applied at intervals of 2-3 weeks. It is important to alternate between complete mineral complexes and organics. The first can be such a drug, for example, as Kemira-Universal, and the second will be peat, compost or manure-based solution.

Recommendations for breeding basella

Basella in a pot

To grow a new vine of grape spinach, seeds are sown or cuttings are rooted, and such a species as tuberous basella (Ullucus tuberosus) can be propagated by means of tubers.

Reproduction of basella using seeds

Sowing of the collected seed material is performed in mid-spring. Before this, the seeds are soaked in warm water for a day. Loose and fertile soil should be poured into the seedling box (for example, combine peat crumbs with river sand or take special soil for seedlings). After the seeds are distributed on the surface of the substrate (since their size is large, it will not be difficult), they are sprinkled with a thin layer of the same soil mixture (no more than 0.5-1 cm) and watered. In order not to accidentally wash the seeds out of the soil, it is better to spray the crops from a fine-dispersed spray bottle.

The container is recommended to create greenhouse conditions, cover it with a piece of glass or wrap it with plastic wrap. The place in which the seedling box will be located must have heat indicators that do not go beyond the range of 18-22 degrees. Caring for the crops of the basella contains watering in itself, which is performed as the top layer of the soil dries up.

When sprouts of Indian spinach appear above the soil surface (and this may take up to two weeks), the shelter must be removed and the seedling box must be rearranged closer to the light, for example, on a windowsill. At the same time, they try to provide diffused lighting. After the seedlings of Basella grow up a little and get stronger (it will take about 1–1.5 months due to slow growth), they are dived in separate pots or directly into the open ground, if climatic conditions permit. For the normal development of young plants of Indian spinach, you need the temperature to be around 20 degrees.

Only two months later, 5–6 plump fleshy stalks are formed in basella seedlings, on which leaves begin to unfold rather quickly. Usually, planting in open ground is performed from the last week of May or at the beginning of summer, when the return frosts have finally passed.

Propagation of basella by cuttings

Usually spring-summer time is suitable for this. The length of the cutting can be any, but it is better when the workpiece changes 10–15 cm. The cuttings are simply placed in a container with water and after a week you can see small roots. Then they wait until the length of the root shoots is 1 cm, and then they are planted immediately on a permanent place in the garden or in a pre-prepared pot.

Reproduction of basella tubers

This operation is usually combined with a vine transplant. The tubers are separated from the mother plant and planted in a pot or garden bed.

Disease and pest control when growing basella

Basella in the ground

A problem in the cultivation of this heat-loving liana is the attacks of harmful insects, among which there are:

  1. Spider mite due to which the leaves turn yellow and their discharge occurs, a thin whitish cobweb appears on the shoots and foliage.
  2. Aphids, characterized by a high reproduction rate, and such green or black bugs begin to suck nutritious juices from the basella, as a result of which the foliage also dries, turns yellow and falls off. Also, the pest is able to carry viral diseases that cannot be treated.
  3. Whitefly, which, justifying its name, represents small whitish midges, and the leaves on the back side are completely covered with white dots (eggs) of the pest.These insects also feed on the cellular juices of Indian spinach and cause irreparable damage to the growth of the basella.

If the presence of pests on the plant is detected, then the treatment with insecticidal preparations, such as Aktara or Actellik, should be carried out immediately. After 7-10 days of spraying, it is recommended to repeat it in order to get rid of the new individuals that have appeared. The vine should be processed until the complete disappearance of harmful insects.

Basella presents good resistance to diseases that can affect soda or indoor crops. However, if the rules of care are violated, the following problems may arise:

  1. With waterlogging of the soil, the root system decays, the growth rate decreases, and the deciduous mass is discarded. Here it is recommended to quickly transplant into a new pot with a different soil, or simply transplant into a more suitable soil in the flower bed. Before transplanting, all parts of the roots that have rotted must be cut off and all cuts must be sprinkled with crushed charcoal and treated with fungicides (Fundazol or Topaz). Until the plant recovers, watering should be limited.
  2. With a strong drying of the soil, the foliage of the Basella becomes lethargic and resembles withered rags. Then you should pay attention to the regulation of the irrigation regime.


When caring for a vine, you should be careful with the shoots, as they are characterized by increased fragility. If the stem breaks off, then you should not worry, since the plant will quickly recover, and this part can be used as a cutting for rooting.

    The thick, fleshy leaves of Basella are an excellent source of non-starch polysaccharide and mucus. In addition to the natural fibers (roughage) found in the stem and foliage, the slimy leaves promote smooth digestion. A fiber diet reduces the absorption of cholesterol and helps prevent bowel problems.

    The leaves and stem of grape spinach are an incredibly rich source of vitamin A. 100 grams of fresh leaves provide 8,000 IU, or 267% of the RDA for this vitamin. Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy mucous membranes and skin, as well as good vision. Consuming natural vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin A and flavonoids is believed to provide protection against lung and oral cavity cancers.

    Basell contains more vitamin C than English spinach. 100 g of fresh herbs contain 102 mg or 102% of the daily recommended level of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps the human body develop resistance to infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen free radicals.

    Just like English spinach, basella foliage is an excellent source of iron. 100 g of fresh leaves contains about 1, 20 mg, or 15% of the daily iron intake. Iron is an essential trace element required by the human body for the production of red blood cells (RBC). In addition, this element acts as a cofactor for the redox enzyme cytochrome oxidase during cellular metabolism.

    Basella foliage contains a large amount of B vitamins such as folate, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and riboflavin. 100 g of fresh leaves yields 140 mcg or 35% folate. This vitamin is one of the most important compounds for the production and growth of DNA. Folate deficiency in early pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects in the fetus. Therefore, pregnant women are advised to include plenty of fresh greens in their diet to help prevent these neural tube defects in their offspring.

    In addition, basella leaves are good sources of minerals such as potassium (11% of the RDA / 100g), manganese (32% of the RDA / 100g), calcium, magnesium and copper.Potassium is an essential component of cellular and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the human body as a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.

    Akin to regular spinach, regular consumption of basella leaves (Malabar spinach) in the diet helps prevent osteoporosis (weak bones), iron deficiency anemia. In addition, it is believed to protect the body against cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.

    Basella application

    Basella on the site

    Folk healers, not yet knowing about the chemical content in parts of grape spinach of all the above-mentioned active substances, noted its beneficial effect on the human body and the ability to cure some diseases. Among the peoples of Asia, it is customary to use basella because of its astringent and calming effect. If the patient had wounds or ulcers, then for their speedy healing, poultices from liana foliage were used, and this remedy also helped to eliminate edema and treat abscesses. On the territory of China, with the help of Malabar spinach, poisons were neutralized, and it was possible to lower the temperature in case of a cold. Also, laxative and diuretic effects were noted in preparations from basella.

    Usually, due to the slimy foliage, Basella is very good to take for problems related to the digestive system. Under the influence of such drugs, the normalization of the gastrointestinal tract occurs, which will also help in the fight against excess weight. The foliage of such a vine will be a good help for a variety of dietary intake. The leaves, stems and fruits of the creeper, due to their excellent taste, can be consumed both fresh or after heat treatment.

    However, with all the benefits of parts of the basella, there are a number of contraindications, among which there are:

    • individual intolerance;
    • allergic reactions.

    The Indian spinach plant is famous not only for its decorative qualities, but also for its practical properties, which people have known for a long time. Since the fruits of the basella have a coloring effect, in India girls used them as a blush. If we talk about the industrial level of application of this thermophilic vine, then the fruits of the plant were used as raw materials for obtaining inks for printing. In cooking, yoghurts and ice cream, creams are used to decorate yoghurts and ice creams with the juice from the fruit of basella, which is a natural color.

    Young foliage and stems of Malabar grapes are actively used in cooking. The foliage has a dark green hue, juiciness and pleasant taste. Young foliage goes well in dishes such as omelet and salads, you can cook simple snacks and sandwiches with it. There are countries in which basella leaves are brewed like tea leaves, while the drink is obtained with a pleasant taste and rich in vitamins. Creeper foliage can be added to dishes where garlic, pepper, or curry is present. Due to their pleasant taste and coloring effect, the fruits are suitable for making jams and sweets, as well as jelly and other desserts. If there is a goal to enhance the coloring qualities of the fruit, then lemon juice will help in this matter.

    Basella types

    In the photo Basella white

    Basella white (Basella alba)

    is the most popular type. The plant is represented by a perennial liana with a fleshy stem, the length of which is approximately 9–10 m. The leaves on the shoots grow in succession. The structure of the deciduous mass is slimy, the color is dark green. The shape of the leaf plates is heart-shaped, with a pointed apex. The length of the leaves varies within 5–12 cm. The aroma of the leaves is pleasant, but not pronounced.

    When flowering in the leaf axils, the formation of branched spike-shaped inflorescences occurs. The petals in the flowers are spliced, their color is pinkish or crimson. The fruit in white basella is a round-shaped fleshy berry.The fruits are colored first in a reddish, and later in a black-purple color scheme. Because of this shade, the plant is called "red grape spinach" or "Malabar nightshade". The diameter of the berry reaches 0.5 cm.

    In the photo, Basella is red

    Basella red (Basella rubra)

    its characteristics are very similar to the previous species. The difference is that on the stems, painted in a reddish color, leaf plates of an anthocyanin shade, decorated with veins of a red tone, unfold. Flowers in inflorescences of a whitish shade.

    In the photo, Basella tuberous

    Basella tuberosus (Basella tuberosus)

    or Ullucus tuberosus it differs in tubers, which, like other parts, are suitable for food use. In terms of nutritional value, the tubers are similar to ordinary potatoes, although their taste is not so pleasant. Tubers are formed on underground root processes (stolons). The shape of the tubers is elongated, the color of the surface is yellowish. These parts of the plant also contain a lot of starch and mucus. The plant is a herbaceous vine with climbing shoots. Leaves are fleshy, reminiscent of succulent, heart-shaped.

    Related article: Cultivation of common tamus in open ground

    Video about the cultivation and use of basella:

    Basella photos:

    Basella Photos 1 Basella Photos 2 Basella Photos 3 Basella Photos 4 Basella Photos 5

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