Chaya: Tree Spinach

chaya flowers and pods-min

Cnidoscolus aconitifolius

My Chaya (aka tree spinach) trees are frequently in bloom, showing off several clumps of small white flowers that are always buzzing with pollinators.

Chaya trees are extremely easy to start from cuttings and quickly grow into a 6 foot tall, softwood tree with a lot of leaves for biomass.

Although I have never eaten it, the leaves are edible when cooked like spinach. Chaya is eaten by many, and prided for it’s medicinal qualities and deep Mexican heritage.

Height

Chaya quickly grows to 6+ feet in height. I cut mine WAY back and they always recover nicely.

Plant Chaya trees as a hedge plant

If you plant your spinach trees close to each other, they will grow into a nice hedge. 

Soil Conditions

Sandy soil with good drainage

Sun Condition

Full sun or part shade

Hardiness zone

Chaya grows best in zones 9-11. My chaya trees are some of the first to show frost damage if temperatures fall to the low 30s. 

Water Requirements

These resilient plants are both drought tolerant and tolerant of moist soil. 

I have chaya growing in several wet, low-lying spots as well as some high and dry spots.

Pruning

I cut off yellow leaves and cut the tree back throughout the year.

Toxicity

Do not eat chaya raw. Although raw Chaya is considered toxic, it is commonly prepared and cooked like spinach and used in wraps, omelets, soups and stews. There are also prepared into a popular drink.

It is also recommended not to breath in the vapors from the chaya as it is being cooked or boiled.

Flowers

The flowers on a chaya plant are in bloom often. They produce long stems with small male and female flowers at the end.

After the flowers, a larger, round seed pod will emerge.

Host Plant

I haven’t noticed my chaya trees serving as a host plant for any insects. There are never any bites taken out of the leaves, which may be because they are toxic.

Where to plant chaya

when and how to plant chaya

Notes

When cut, it will bleed out a white sap.

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