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Alugbati Cultivation Guide: All You Need to Know in Planting, Growing and Harvesting Alugbati


Alugbati (Basella alba L., B. rubraL.) or Malabar spinach also known as Ceylon spinach, Vietnamese spinach (English); Saan Choy, Shan Tsoi, Luo Kai, ShuChieh, Lo Kwai (Chinese); TsuruMurasa Kai (Japanese); MongToi (Vietnamese); Paag-Prung (Thai); Genjerot, Jingga, Gendola (Indonesian), 'arogbati' (Bik.); 'dundula' (Sui.); 'ilaibakir' (Ilk.); 'libato' (Tag.) is one of the most populous. It is widely cultivated in all regions of the county.

Originally from India, it is typically found in settled areas, hedges, old cultivated land, etc. throughout the Philippines. It is widely cultivated in market gardens and home gardens and is also sold in the Visayas and Mindanao supermarkets. It is also grown in tropical Asia, Africa and Malaysia.

The plant is a succulent, smooth, twining, herbaceous vine. The stems are either green or purplish. The leaves are fleshy, ovate or heart-shaped, 5-12 centimeters (cm) long, stalked, tapering to the pointed tip and the form of the heart at the base. The spikes are axillary, solitary and 5-29 cm long. The flowers are pink and about 4 millimeters (mm in length. The fruit is fleshy, stalkless, ovoid or almost spherical, 5-6 mm long and purple when ripe

The young stems, shoots, and leaves are usually blanched. The edible species Basella rubra has red flowers and bright purple-red stems, while the more common Basella alba has green leaves and stems.. Alugbati production in 2006 was 32,303 tons (t) frm 2,482 hectares (ha). It is grown almost anywhere, but maJor producers were Iloilo, Zamboanga del Norte, and Negros Oriental (Bureau of Agricultural Statistics [BAS], 2006).

The flavor is similar to spinach, which some might find earthy, but this crop is a very warm seasonal crop, unlike the typical spinach grown in the Northeastern United States. It is native to tropical Asia and is highly heat tolerant.


Alugabti is commonly grown for its young shoots which make an excellent succulent,It is slimy when overcooked, making it an excellent thickening agent in soups and stews. Consumed boiled, fried in oil or sometimes as green salad. The red /purplish dye from the ripe fruit is used as food color, as ink, and cosmetic. The cooked roots are used to treat diarrhea, while cooked leaves and stems are used as laxative , especially in kids and pregnant women. The flowers are used as antidote for poison. A paste of the root is used as a rubefacient or applied to swellings. A paste of the leaves is applied externally to treat boils.

The decoction from the leaves is also mixed with sugar and used for catarrhal difficulty in children. Similarly, the sap is also applied to acne to prevent inflammation. It also soothes headaches. When mixed with butter, it can be applied on burns and scalds.  According to other countries’ folklores, the plant is also used in treating hemorrhages and can enhance fertility in women. It is also administered to patients with sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea.

The red forms are commonly planted as ornamental and are, even becoming popular in Europe as a pot plant.

The plant is a rich source of soluble fiber, which helps digestion. It is rich in Saponins that act as phytochemicals, which can fight off cancer. The red variety of alugbati is a good source of xanthones, an antioxidant. Its Folic acid, which is also called folate, is one of the B vitamins that are critical for childbearing women. It helps them prevent birth defects on the neural tube, e.g., spina bifida.

Nutritional Properties

The composition of Alugbati is comparable to other dark green leafy vegetables with a high moisture content. The leaves contain several triterpeneoligoglycosides of the oleanane-type, including basellasaponins, betavulgaroside I, spinacoside C and momordins. Two anti-fungal peptides and two ribosome-inactivating proteins with antiviral activity have been isolated from the seeds. Table 1 gives the nutritional values of the plant as per US=DA findings in 2002.

Table 1 gives the nutritional values of the plant as per US=DA findings in 2002.


There are three common types of alugbati:  Basella alba with green stem and oval to almost round leaves; Basella rubra with red stems and green, oval to round leaves; and a third type, which is a hybrid of the two.  The Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (IPB-UPLB) has released two stopgap varieties in 1981 through its Germplasm Registration and Release Office: the red-stemmed 'Pulahan' and the green-stemmed 'Luntian.'

Soil and Climate Requirements

Alugbati grows well under full sunlight in hot, humid climates and in areas lower than 500 m above sea level. Growth is slow in low temperatures resulting in low yields. Flowering is induced during the short-day months of November to February. Alugbati grows best in sandy loam soils rich in organic matter with pH ranging from 5.5 to 8.0.

Add compost or other organic matter to the soil. Alugbati grows best in soils high in organic matter. Compost also improves soil moisture retention and drainage, helping to create the moist and loamy soil that this spinach prefers. Add at least a couple of inches of compost to the surface of the soil and mix it into the native soil with a tiller. Inland soils tend to be heavier than coastal soils, so they can use up to 6 inches of compost.

Land Preparation

Alugbati is grown in beds similar to upland kangkong. Prepare raised beds or plots 0.75-1.0  m wide and 20-30  em high at any convenient length. Make sure that a good drainage system is in place.


Planting from Cuttings

Alugbati is usually planted in home gardens using cuttings. The leaves are usually removed before planting to reduce water loss through aspiration. Fresh, healthy tip cuttings of about 20-25 cm length are the best planting materials. Soak the cuttings in water overnight or keep them in a dark and damp space for a day or two. Plant the cuttings on hills or in rows. Space small hills six to eight inches apart and put three or four cuttings on each hill. Alternatively, space rows eight to 12 inches apart, with the cuttings spaced about eight inches apart. Water before and after planting, if the soil is dry. Mulch  with grass clippings or rice straw.

Planting from Seed

Scarify (to make tiny punctures or superficial incisions) the seeds by using sandpaper or a knife to cut the outer seed coat. Plant the seeds directly outside after soil temperatures have warmed to the minimum temperature required for germination of 18.33 °C. Plant them about 1/4 inch deep in rows spaced about eight inches apart. Alternatively, spread seeds all across the soil and then thin the seedlings later so that they are spaced about eight inches apart. Keep the soil consistently moist. If the soil dries out, the plants can flower, which makes the leaves taste bitter.

In home gardens, alugbati is usually grown on slanting or horizontal trellises. For commercial production, densities of about 50,000 plants/hectare are recommended.

For commercial production, grow alugbati without trellis.  In home gardens, provide V-shaped trellis, semi­ vertical, or vertical trellis to maximize space.

Irrigation / Watering

Alugbati requires plenty of water for optimum growth. During the dry season, use either furrow irrigation at 5-7 days interval or sprinkler irrigation daily. Provide drainage canals during the rainy season. Apply mulch, like grass clippings or rice straw, to conserve soil moisture during the dry season and protect the soil during the wet season.

Avoid over irrigation to prevent foliar diseases development and leaching of soil nutrients.

Weed Management

At early stage of the plants weed control is necessary to give alugbati a head start. Mulch with plastic or grasses/rice straw to suppress weed growth.  With high density planting, spot weeding is already sufficient.

Pest and Disease Management

Alugbati is generally tolerant to pests and diseases, which makes it easy to grow organically. However, it serves as a host to a number of insect pests such as leafminers and cutworms, which can be managed by regular harvesting. Root-knot nematodes can be minimized by crop rotation with corn and planting of marigold.  Alugbati is also tolerant to leaf spot caused by Colletotrichum spp.


Alugbati is ready for harvest at 30-45  days after transplanting. Plants may be harvested either once (once over) or repeatedly, by priming.  In once-over harvest, cut the stems or shoots close to the ground, or uproot the entire plant (if grown from seeds),then wash and tie in undies. With multiple harvests, pick the shoots at weekly mtervals. Harvest late in the afternoon to reduce water loss and keep the produce in a cool, shaded place.

Post harvest Handling

Alugbati wilts easily. A common market practice is to sprinkle the bundles with water or to wrap them m banana leaves to retain freshness. If harvested with the roots intact, keep the bundles fresh for up to 7 days by letting them stand in a basin of water.  For home consumption pack alugbati in styrofore boxes then store in the refrigerator to keep them fresh for up to 14 days.

Cost of Production and ROI per hectare

Cost of Production and ROI per hectare Items

Amount (P)


Labor (P250/man-day (MD)

Clearing (20 MD)


Bed preparation (20 MD)


Manure application (10 MD)


Sowing (2 MD)


Transplanting (20 MD)


Topdressing (20 MD)


Spraying (20 MD)


Weeding (30 MD)


Irrigation (300 MD)


Harvesting/sorting (240 MD)


Miscellaneous (e.g. hauling, repairs, etc.) (10 MD)





Seeds (3 kg)


Manure (40 sacks)



14 -14 - 14 (6 bags)


46 - 0 - 0 (20 bags)




Fuel and oil


Packaging Materials


Miscellaneous (e.g. pail, gloves, etc.)




Interest on Production Loan at 21% per Annum





Land rental



Sprinklers ( 5 pairs)


Knapsack sprayer ( 1 unit)


Scythe (5 pieces)


Hoe ( 5 pieces)


Shovel ( 3 pieces)


Plastic drum (2 pieces)







Regular season (at P10/bundle with 80,000 bundles/ha


Offseason (at P15/bundle with 40,000 bundles/ha)



Regular season


Offseason (at P12/bundle with 40,000 bundles/ha


Backyard Gardening Technoguide. Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and development Center (PCARRD)
Department of Science and Technology (DOST)

Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SET-UP)


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