This online guide has been created for you to successfully grow a variety of plants that thrive in the tropics, using native seeds and plants to get growing with wise advice from fellow backyard gardeners and farmers.   You are welcome to add your wisdom and share growing and harvest tips and recipes. Send to
Welcome to the Pro-Organic Belize
Tropical Garden Grow Guide

Where you are the student and the teacher

Chaya is insect and disease resistant and very easy to grow.
Botanic name: Nidoscolus chayamansa) or (Cnidosolus acontifolius)
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
73% to full sun
Soil Preference
Grows well in most soil types in Belize
Soil Ph
Depth to plant
12" - 18" Stems are planted at least 6" deep
Generally starts producing leaves in 1 month or less
Can grow to be 12'. For easy harvesting, best to prune to about 6' in height
About 12" between stalks. Some grow chaya as a living fence

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Featured plant for the month of June
(Submitted by Mary Loan)

Chaya, also known as 'tree spinach', is a very easy-to-grow leafy green vegetable that grows on stalks as a nutritious and delicious perennial plant.  There are two main varieties, wild and cultivated.   Wild chaya has thorns that sting.  Both cultivated and wild chaya have a sticky white sap that can cause itchy skin for some.  Harvesting by wearing a plastic bag or glove helps.  Ask your friends and neighbors for a few stems, or ask on this page to meet up with folks who have chaya stems to share. 

To grow:  Find a sunny spot close to your house.  This makes it easier to harvest when you are making dinner.  Pull the weeds from the planting area and with a spade or shovel loosen the soil to at least 12 inches deep and 12 inches across.  Cut a few stems of chaya at least 12 inches long.  Plant each stem at least 6 inches deep and water well each day until leaves sprout from the sticks.  Then, water about once a week if there is no rain; be careful not to overwater.  Plants sprout leaves for harvest in a few weeks.  Once chaya is growing, beware; plants can grow to be 20', so be sure to prune the chaya before the tops grow too tall for you to reach, generally 6-8' in height.  Pruned tops of plants can be deleafed and planted around your garden or shared with family and friends.

Recipe: Pick a handful of chaya leaves, using gloves or a plastic bag over your hands if you are sensitive to the sap.  Rinse, then cut the leaves into 1/2 inch slices with a knife or scissors.  Gently boil or steam the leaves for a few minutes until tender; add them to any recipe that calls for greens, such as stir fries or soups  Once cooled, the leaves can be added as a 'smoothie' ingredient.

Chaya must be cooked to release the cyanogenic glycosides.  Information on the internet recommends cooking chaya for 5 -20 minutes. It seems 5 minutes is adequate for steaming or boiling the leaves.

Health benefits of chaya include: rich in protein, iron, vitamin A, fiber and calcium. The Chaya plant flowers attract bees and butterflies.

Please add your chaya growing advice and recipes and share with all.