What Is Water Spinach: How To Keep Water Spinach Under Control

Ipomoea aquatic, or water spinach, has been cultivated as a food source and is native to the southwestern Pacific islands as well as areas of China, India, Malaysia, Africa, Brazil, the West Indies, and Central America. It is also referred to as kangkong (also spelled kangkung), rau muong, trokuon, river spinach, and water morning glory. Growing water spinach can quickly get out of control, so information on managing water spinach is vital.

What is Water Spinach?

Utilized medicinally since A.D. 300 in southern Asia, water spinach information informs us that its usefulness as a medicinal plant was first discovered by Europeans in the late 1400’s and consequently brought into new areas of exploration.

So what is water spinach anyway? Cultivated or harvested from the wild in such a broad arena of the world, water spinach has as many common names as places of habitation. Used as a common food source by many social groups; in fact, eaten two to three times a week for many people, water spinach is used most frequently as a cooked vegetable.

As its name indicates, water spinach is found in wetlands such as canals, lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes, and rice paddies. This creeping, herbaceous vine has an extremely aggressive growth habit and, as such, can become an invasive pest by crowding out native species integral to the local flora and fauna.

Water spinach produces “labyrinth seeds” that are filled with air pockets, allowing them to float and enabling seed dispersal into the water, hence, allowing their propagation downstream or almost anywhere of suitable habitat.

How to Keep Water Spinach Under Control

A single water spinach plant may grow to over 70 feet (21 m.) long, attaining this great length at a rate of 4 inches (10 cm.) a day, making it a threat to native plant habitats most recently in central and south Florida. With 175 to 245 fruits borne upon each plant, managing water spinach growth and reach then is of utmost importance in the preservation of indigenous ecosystems.

Water spinach control is also vital to prevent mosquito breeding and from obstructing water flow in drainage ditches or flood control canals.

The big question, “how to keep water spinach under control” remains to be answered. A member of the morning glory family, with its similar ability for rapid expansion, the best method of water spinach control is, of course, not to plant it. Indeed in Florida, part of managing water spinach growth has been to prohibit the planting of it since 1973. Unfortunately, many ethnic groups still cultivate it illegally. In some publications, water spinach has been listed in the “100 of the worst” most invasive plants and is listed as a noxious weed in 35 states.

Beyond ending cultivation of water spinach, eradication is not feasible with any known biological controls. Water spinach control will also not be accomplished with mechanical pulling of the weed. To do so fragments the plant, which just starts new plants.

Hand pulling will result in some water spinach control, however, it is also just as likely to break the vine up and propagate new plants. Often the best method for managing water spinach is through chemical control but with varying success.

Additional Water Spinach Information

Another way to manage the spread of tangled water spinach is, if you must grow it, then grow water spinach in containers. Container growing will obviously retard potential spread and water spinach does very well confined to containers.

Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are safer and much more environmentally friendly.

Water spinach (Ipomoeia aquatica) “Kangkong” — an easy-to-grow vegetable and “survival” food

Posted on September 7, 2013 by Mystical Magical Herbs in Garden Vegetables // 0 Comments

Water spinach (also known as “kangkong” in the Philippines and a few other Asian countries) is a tropical vegetable that grows in water, or in moist to wet/soggy soil. It is fairly easy to grow as long as it can get full to partial sun, constant moisture, and the temperature stays warm.

Water spinach (scientific name: Ipomoeia aquatica) is a cousin of the Morning glory, Whitestar potato and sweet potato. In winter, it can be taken indoors or in a greenhouse where it should survive until the next warm season (it is a perennial in warm climates).

Water spinach can be grown from seed, but I prefer to use cuttings — which easily grow roots in water or wet soil. Use a tub or pot that doesn’t drain and fill it with soil and water so that the water comes up to around an inch above the soil level. Get your cuttings from Asian stores that sell it by the bunch (choose the freshest looking ones). Set them in water or your prepared pots as soon as you can. In a few days, the cuttings should start developing roots along the sides.

This vegetable was an important survival food during the Japanese occupation of such countries as Singapore and the Philippines, where residents grew the vegetable indoors in pots and basins, next to windows.

Among other nutrients, it contains vitamins A, C and many B vitamins.

Studies conducted with pregnant diabetes-induced rats have shown a blood sugar lowering effect of I. aquatica “by inhibiting the intestinal absorption of glucose. This is very important in managing gestational diabetes and preventing side effects in mothers and their babies… ” (Wikipedia)

There is a narrow and a broad leafed variety.

Water spinach can be used like regular spinach. My preferred method of preparation is to stir fry the leaves and stems in butter or coconut oil, adding a few garlic cloves and a few hot peppers to taste. Add salt or soy sauce if you wish. You may want to separate the leaves from the stems and cook the stems first, adding the leaves a few minutes later. Remove from heat when the leaves look wilted. Serve and enjoy.

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Growing Habit

Water spinach has light green ovate leaves, its stems are hollow, so they can float on the water. Both leaves and stems are edible and can be used as the way you use spinach. Under tropical conditions, water spinach can be harvested throughout the year, as the leaves grow again after harvesting. In cooler climates, it is grown as annual, mostly in wide containers.

Square Foot Gardening Spinach

Temperature requirement

Square Foot Gardening Spinach can be grown in cool temperatures over warm climates. So the exact time that you should start growing your spinach will vary according to the zone of America that you live in. However, you can start with the spinach seeds’ early spring growth when the temperature is cold and not warmer than 21 degrees Celsius or 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is the ideal temperature for the germination of spinach seeds. Spinach plants like temperature conditions ranging from 35 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 1 to 23 degrees celsius.

Then you can also grow spinach when the temperature drops down at the beginning of the fall season when the soil temperature starts to fall. However, midsummers are not suitable for developing them since the weather is high during that time, and spinach is hardy leafy vegetables like cold temperatures. Hence you can start growing spinach plants during early springs or during fall or during both the seasons.

Sunlight requirement

Although spinach loves cold climatic conditions when it comes to sunlight, the plant likes full sunlight exposure. Therefore when planting spinach in your square foot garden, you should choose a place where you can get maximum sunlight exposure throughout the day. If not full direct sunlight, then they can also do fine in partial shade as well.

Potting mix

While growing Square Foot Gardening Spinach, it is essential to use a potting mix that is very rich and has high nutritional value. Since in the square foot gardening Spinach method of growing, the seeds are sown at proper intervals, and it requires the soil to be rich in nutritional value to help in growing a healthy yield. The soil should also be well-drained so that the plant’s roots don’t rot due to waterlogging.

You can use a potting mix with equal parts of peat moss, compost, and vermiculture in square foot gardening. This potting mix will provide superb nutrition to the spinach plant. You can use your garden ground and add this potting mix on the garden ground and make a raised bed of 4 feet by 4 feet or 4 feet by 8 feet or any other size as per your requirements. Then you can divide this raised bed into square feet areas that are 12 inches by 12 inches of mini gardening areas.

You can get upto 16 such square foot areas in a 4 by 4 feet square garden. Use them for growing one kind of plant in each square foot and use more than one square foot space to grow spinach plants as per your growing requirements. It can also be used for wooden frames with a depth of around 6 inches deep and fill it in with the potting mix of peat moss, compost, and vermiculture in equal ratio.

Seeds planting

For growing spinach plants, we can start directly with seeds and even with seedlings transplant. You can start with growing seeds and letting them germinate indoors. However, it is difficult to transplant the seedlings of spinach plants. Hence, it is not recommended. You can sow the seeds directly outdoors in your square foot garden in early spring as soon as the snow thaws.

For planting seeds, you must plant them ½ to 1 inch deep in the soil. Then cover it with the potting mix of compost, vermiculture, and peat moss. By utilizing this square feet garden area, we can plant nine spinach plants in each square foot. If you want to grow more than nine plants you can use as many such square foot areas to grow your spinach plants. But in each square foot area, you can plant nine spinach plants. Hence you can decide the number of plants accordingly.

You can start with planting seeds in the four corners of the square foot and then sow them in rows so that there is a growing space of 4-inch diameter for each plant. Make the spacing arrangements like this right from the beginning itself since if you want to change the spacing later on when the plant grows, you might end up hurting the roots.

In order to make this spacing easier, you can draw two horizontal and 2 vertical lines of equal spacing in each square foot. By doing this, you will get nine mini spaces of similar distance. Now you can use each room to sow the seeds in the middle of each area. Using this way, you can quickly provide the right spacing to let the plants grow healthy and it will also be easier for you to harvest the plants grown in such rows.

Water requirements

Spinach likes to grow in a moist loamy soil. Hence in order for the plant to grow well, you should make sure that the earth is always wet. You should water the plants regularly. Try not to over water it since overwatering can cause the roots to rot. You can use a mulch to cover the soil to keep it moist. For watering the plant yan use a can or a light shower as that will help in lowering the pressure with which the water flows on the plants and help in protecting the soil from washing away and prevent damage of roots.

Also, water the plants at the ground level and not from the top of the plant to avoid the young and tender foliage from damage. You can water the spinach plants once or twice a week in winters and even twice a day in summers. To see if the plant needs water, you can also touch the top part of the soil to check if it is dry or moist and then decide the quantity and timing of water as it will also depend on the weather conditions.


The soil mix that you are using for growing square foot gardening Spinach plants is the equal mix of peat moss, compost, and vermiculture is very rich in fertilizing the plants already. But if you think the plants need more requirements and nourishment, you can make compost tea.

For that, you can heat some water and put some compost in a cloth and dip it in the water. After some time, when the water has soaked in the compost’s nutrients, wait for the water to cool down and add this water to the crop to give it a nutrient boost.


Spinach plants take around 6 weeks to grow from seeds and mature. To harvest the plants, you must keep checking on the size of the plant’s leaves till they are large enough for your taste. If the leaves get too large, the flavor will be lost, and it will become bitter. You can start picking the leaves when you require them, or you can also harvest the whole plant from the base.

If you choose leaves from the plant’s outer regions, the younger tender leaves on the inside will get some more time to mature, and you can harvest them later. Or you can simply harvest the whole plant if you want.

Water Spinach - Does it Pose a Threat to Texas Waterways?

Water Spinach (Ipomoea aquatic) is a popular green vegetable enjoyed by the Texas Asian American community. The plant is native to south and central China and is considered an exotic species to the Texas environment. Water spinach has many common names such as akankong, aquatic morning glory, ong choi, Chinese water spinach, water convolvulus, and swamp morning glory. This plant is an herbaceous trailing vine with milky sap and 1-6 inch arrowhead shaped leaves. When the plant flowers the petals are usually a white or a pinkish lilac color. Almost all parts of the water spinach plant are edible, but shoot tips and leaves of young plants are said to be the most preferred. Currently, the majority of water spinach cultivation occurs in a small rural community near Rosharon Texas. As the popularity of this food/vegetable grows, state regulators are expecting there to be more interest in farming this plant.

Water spinach is considered by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to be an aquatic nuisance species and is therefore highly regulated. The plant has been on the "Harmful or Potentially Harmful Exotic Fish, Shellfish and Aquatic Plants" list since 1990. Texas law (Parks and Wildlife Code 66.007) states that "no person may import, possess, sell, or place into waters of the state exotic harmful or potentially harmful fish, shellfish, or aquatic plants except as authorized by rule or permit issued by the department."

In 2003, TPWD Game Wardens and Biologists teamed up with U.S. Department of Agriculture staff to confiscate illegally grown water spinach and focused initial efforts in the Houston area. At that time, no citations were issued to the growers, but warnings were given and the legal status of water spinach and the legal requirements to commercially growing it were reviewed. As a result of these efforts TPWD personnel made recommendations to the TPWD Commission to: 1) leave water spinach on the list of aquatic plants without modification 2) allow use of the species with some kind of permit and/or stipulations or 3) removing water spinach from the list of harmful or potentially harmful species. At this time, water spinach can only be cultivated by permitted farmers in enclosed, secured green houses that maintain a non-vegetated ten foot barrier around the perimeter of the green houses (Figure 2).

Since water spinach has been grown and sold for at least two decades prior to the 2003 law enforcement action with no record of escapement or impact to native Texas habitats, many growers, sellers and consumers have questioned the need to regulate the plant. In 2005, TPWD initiated surveys to confirm the presence or absence of water spinach outside of controlled green house environments and determined that the plant had not been reported to occur outside of permitted areas. At that time, TPWD had established that the possession of water spinach was to be limited to personal consumption. Additional "risk analysis" studies examining the cultivation practices and the sale of the water spinach in Texas have been ongoing. In 2009, TPWD concluded that water spinach was a low-risk species that could be cultivated and sold but the plant should still be regulated. There are concerns about water spinach becoming established in Texas waterways. The state of Florida has had to deal with water spinach escapement issues that have negatively impacted waterways and wetlands.

The cost of the water spinach grower's state permit is $263 per year, and is valid from date of issuance to December 31st of that year. Annual facility inspections are required and regulatory standards are: 1) maintain plants in a covered green house 2) maintain a non-vegetated ten foot barrier around the facility year round 3) plants cannot have flowers growing at any time 4) maintain sales and delivery records. Once a facility passes inspection, they can then sell their water spinach crops to another permitted facility or to a retail vendor. Retail vendors typically sell water spinach at a price of $2/lb.
Currently, there are 64 permitted water spinach growers in Texas with the majority in the Rosharon area. According to state regulations, water spinach can only be farmed inside green houses. Average sized green houses are about 30 feet wide by 75 feet in length. The water spinach is generally harvested in small sections of the green house on a rotational basis during the year.

To date, there have been no incidents or reports of water spinach having been detected in the native habitats of Texas. Water spinach can easily be propagated from seeds and plant fragments, and concerns about this plant becoming a threat to waterways and ecosystems are real. Through resource conservation efforts, regulatory enforcement, and careful cultivation practices we are committed to wisely managing the use of water spinach in Texas.

Watering and Fertilizing Spinach

The time to think about fertilizing spinach is before you even plant it. Mixing in a nitrogen-rich fertilizer into the soil before planting will result in much higher yields. When it comes to watering spinach, consistency is the name of the game, as the plants grow best in perpetually moist soil.

Keeping the soil most is important when growing spinach. This serves two purposes - it allows the plants to absorb moisture from the soil and it also serves to cool down the soil. Spinach plants tend to bolt quickly in hot weather. When this happens, the leaves become nearly inedible fairly quickly. By keeping the soil moist and cool, you can prolong the harvest season, giving you more spinach leaves to pick.

Spinach does best with 1-1.5 inches of rain per week. If you don't get any rain, you'll need to water the plants yourself. They do much better with 3-4 light soakings per week, as opposed to one long deep soak. The roots don't run very deep and they aren't very efficient at extracting moisture that isn't close to the surface of the soil. On the other hand, if the soil stays soggy for extended periods of time, the plants won't do well either. The idea here is to keep the surface soil consistently damp.

A good way to keep the soil moist and cool is to apply mulch. Spinach plants don't get very tall, so it can be impractical to mulch right up to the base of the plant. However, a layer of mulch applied on each side of the row can do wonders to help the soil retain moisture. Grass clippings, straw and chopped up leaves all work well as mulch.

Before planting, we suggest working a combination of compost and a balanced fertilizer into the soil. We like to do this a few days before planting the seeds, so the fertilizer has a chance to break down a little bit. If you want to grow organically, use fish emulsion or well-rotted manure as soil additives before you plant.

A balanced fertilizer works fine for spinach, but something with a bit more nitrogen also works well. Something like 10-10-10 will get the job done. When choosing a fertilizer, pay attention to the three number code on the package. These numbers indicate the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium that are contained in that particular bag, respectively.

We mix in a balanced granular fertilizer before planting, and then use a water-soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks or so while the plants are growing. This way, the plants get off to a great start and then we're able to save time by watering and fertilizing them at the same time. We fertilize spinach about every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.

If you want to use a granular fertilizer while the plants are growing, use it as a side dressing along the edge of the row and apply it once every month or so. Pay attention and avoid letting the granules come in contact with the plants, as it will burn them. After applying a granule fertilizer, water it in well immediately.

If you want to grow organically, you can side dress with any organic fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen. Plant and manure-based composts work well and can be applied once or twice during the growing season. In addition, any balanced or nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer that is water-soluble will also work fine.

Now that you know about watering and fertilizing spinach, it's time to think about harvesting those succulent leaves.

Water spinach

posted 1 year ago

  • Living in a temperate climate that basically gives us a tropical sumer has it's advantages. one of these is water spinach (ipomoea aquatica). I can get this from a local farmers market, but would rater grow it myself.

    My wife puled the leaves off for a meal and stuck the stems into the mud of our small garden pond. They have taken root and put out new leaves. The concern I have is that we got them out to late to get more than another meal or two before it gets too cold.

    if citrus can grow in the alps, I should be able to find a way to grow water spinach here. The problem is that this is obviously a frost pocket. I realize that the water will give off heat for a little wile, but the heat will be gone soon after the cold comes. I might try to over-winter some indoors for "seed stock", but it would be awesome to grow it outside all year.

    How can I design a system that would allow for that? Any thoughts would be much appreciated. I will try to get some photos up later today.

    Watch the video: Water Spinach in hydroponics. 30 Days

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