You’re probably familiar with regular spinach, which is a staple in many kitchens because of its versatility and nutrition. However, have you heard of the Chaya plant? This is also known as the spinach tree, with this spinach type native to the Pacific region and tropics, particularly in Cuba, Hawaii, and Florida!
The Chaya plant would grow as a shrub or tree that measures up to 6-8 feet, resembling the cassava plant or hibiscus flower shrub. They develop into leafy vegetables and are just as nutritious as the regular spinach we know and are an important part of diets in tropical areas.
If you live in a suitable area and would like to know how to grow Chaya plant for your consumption (and a green thumb!), read on!
How to Grow Chaya Plant
Chaya is easy to grow when living in temperate climates, being tolerant of either heavy rains and/or drought. Though you won’t need to spend so much on planting them, you need to put effort into making sure they’re in a suitable growing environment to prevent them from dying.
With that in mind, here are tips to help you get started in growing the Chaya plant:
1. Purchase the Cuttings
Usually, we would purchase seeds to begin planting. However, that’s not the case for Chaya, similar to other garden vegetables. Instead, they’re grown using propagation with its woody stem cuttings 6-12 inches long, as growing them from seeds would be difficult, especially for home gardeners.
You can purchase cuttings from garden nurseries, or collect cuttings from existing Chaya plants, may it be from friends, fellow home gardeners, or even your own garden, if you already have a Chaya plant. However, if you’re still new to growing the plant, it’s best to stick with one, as the plant grows big and can provide enough spinach for a family!
2. When to Grow Chaya
Next up is to make sure you time your planting properly to make sure that the growing Chaya plant will have a suitable environment.
Note that Chaya plants are cold-sensitive, so they don’t grow and develop well during colder months or winter. Plan to plant and grow Chaya during warmer months. The exact time depends on where you’re from and the climate.
For instance, in Florida, it depends on the part of the state you live in. In the North and Central areas, you plant during March, but down South, you plant during February.
Look into the dates early spring begins in your area and schedule your planting from there. Remember, Chaya loves heat and humidity, thriving in tropical climates better.
If ever it’s hit by cold frost, it usually drops its leaves, dying. However, the roots are probably alive, with gardeners reporting that their Chaya plants grew back from the ground after the frost clears and the weather warms up.
3. Prep Your Soil
What’s great about Chaya plants is that they can grow in various types of soil. However, it’s best to grow them in soil that’s rich in organic materials.
When preparing your soil for growing Chaya plants, you should till the soil well, adding adequate amounts of organic materials like homemade compost or well-rotted aged manure. The soil should also be well-draining, which is the best and easiest way to grow the plants.
4. Planting Chaya
Up next is to plant Chaya plants. Beginning with the woody stem cuttings, remove all the leaves, and allow the stem cutting to air dry for up to three days. This will allow all cut ends to seal, so they are less susceptible to rotting. This is similar to planting moringa.
Once you have prepared the cuttings, place them in the ground with around one or two nodes under the soil. Keep your soil moist but avoid overwatering it, or the cuttings rot.
Another alternative is to start the Chaya plant in pots or starter buckets, then transplant it later. They do take some time to grow, though you’ll be able to prune and harvest Chaya after a year or so.
5. Care for the Chaya Plants
Here are a few additional tips for caring for Chaya plants to help them grow successfully:
- Place Chaya plants in shady spots, as they grow well in such areas, particularly under fruit and/or nut trees
- Continue keeping the soil moist, watering the plants regularly
- Pack your soil firmly around Chaya transplants, mulching around them to retain moisture and control any weeds from your garden
- Chaya plants are less prone to diseases and pests, though it’s still best to monitor for any signs of disease or infestation
- Chaya plants may grow up to 8 feet tall, though it’s best to prune them to around 6 feet or so to easily harvest the leaves
6. Harvest the Chaya
Expect to harvest Chaya plant leaves in the second year after planting its cuttings. You can harvest the leaves continuously, so long as you don’t remove over 50% of the leaves from the plant. This will ensure new and healthy plant growth all the time.
After harvesting, you’re free to use it however you like, though don’t consume them raw! It’s best to cook or boil the leaves for the leaves to be safe to eat.
Do you want to learn more about how to grow Chaya plant? This is a helpful video:
Wrapping It Up
The Chaya plant is fairly easy to grow and holds amazing benefits, whether you need it for alternative medicine or cooking. With the proper resources and environment, it can grow excellently and look beautiful while reaping delicious spinach for consumption. Whether you want to use it like regular spinach or even boil it for tea, the choice is yours!
I hope that this article on how to grow Chaya plant helped you out! So, don’t wait any longer and begin planting the Chaya once you have all the materials and resources needed.