Okinawan Spinach is a perennial, non-spinach, leafy green vegetable. It can grow as a small dense bush, high groundcover, or climbing plant. The leaves are green on top and purple underneath. Gynura bicolor produces yellow flowers but doesn’t produce seeds. Flowers should be cut off to help the plant focus energy on leaf production. The leaves are eaten as a vegetable and used as a medicinal herb.
Species: G. bicolor
Scientific Name: Gynura bicolor
Synonyms: Cacalia bicolor, Gynura angulosa, Senecio bicolor, Senecio moluccanus.
Common Names: Hongfeng Cai, Okinawan spinach, or Edible Gynura.
How to grow and maintain Okinawan spinach (Gynura bicolor)
It thrives best in full sun or partial shade. Some direct morning sunlight is fine, but avoid strong summer sunlight which can scorch its leaves.
It grows well-drained, peat moss-based mix and it requires the soil pH range from 6.0 – 6.5.
It prefers normal room temperatures between 60°F – 75°F / 16°C – 24°C.
Water regularly, keep the soil evenly moist spring through fall. Reduce watering in winter, allow the top one inch of soil to dry out between waterings.
Fertilize every 2 weeks from spring through fall with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Feed monthly in the winter season.
It can be easily propagated by stem tip cutting. Take three to four inches of stem tip cuttings in spring or early summer. Dip cut ends in hormone rooting powder and place in moist peat moss or perlite. Enclose in a clear, plastic bag or cloche for the first couple of weeks to hold in moisture.
Prune it back. Pruning off the stem tips is the way to make it branch out for a fuller, bushier plant. Try not to hurl out those stem tip cuttings, either. They’ll root easily, giving you more lovely plants.
Pests and Diseases
There is no serious pest or disease issues. Look for aphids, whitefly, mealybugs, spider mites, or scale. Overwatering may cause rots. Greenish foliage may indicate light levels are too low.
Benefits of Okinawan Spinach
- Okinawan spinach is rich in protein, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin A and has many uses in traditional medicine.
- The leaves are used as a vegetable in soups and stews and are used to treat indigestion. The leaf sap is given to treat an upset stomach. A leaf lotion or decoction is used to treat headaches.
- It is traditionally consumed as a folk remedy to treat hypertension, diabetes, cancer, constipation, inflammations, herpes simplex virus, rashes, pimples, rheumatism, kidney diseases, migraines, dysmenorrhea, post-labor recovery, hemoptysis, to improve blood circulation and stop bleeding, to alleviate swellings and to detoxify the body. Fresh smashed leaves are applied as a poultice on the skin diseases and wounds.
- It is consumed as a culinary cooked vegetable and believed to confer a wide range of benefits such as anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and possibly antihypertensive effects. It is also used for post-labor recovery, blood circulation improvement, treatment of dysmenorrhea, hemoptysis, and diabetes.