In warm climates the plant is perennial, and will provide harvests for many years. The growth habit is spreading, with the floppy stems trailing on the ground.
Overall plant height is usually less than a foot, but the width can be several feet if allowed to grow unchecked. Prostrate stems root as they grow along the surface of the ground making this an excellent edible groundcover. Growth can be kept in bounds by frequent harvest of the longest stems.
The leaves and young stems can be eaten raw or cooked. This is an excellent salad green, or use the leaves on sandwiches in place of lettuce. Stems can be chopped in soups, stews, or vegetable medleys in the same way you would use celery. Leaves hold their texture well when cooked, making this a good choice for those who don't like the mucilaginous texture of many other cooked greens.
Longevity spinach grows well in full sun or part shade. Growth slows or stops in cold weather, and a hard freeze will kill top growth, but in spring the plant quickly regenerates from the root system.
Gynura procumbens is native to the Philippines, Thailand and Indo-China. It is recommended for USDA Zones 9-11, but can be grown as an annual in colder locations.
In spring the plants go through a flowering cycle when little leafy growth occurs, but the plant is covered in orange blooms, attracting Monarch butterflies to the nectar. This plant is in the same genus as Okinawa spinach (Gynura crepiodes) and the houseplant known as Purple Passion (Gynura aurantiaca), and the flowers are clearly similar.
Many healthful claims have been made for this vegetable and it has been used in folk medicine for generations in SE Asia to treat inflammation, rheumatism and viral infections. Scientific studies have shown strong anti-inflammatory action and an ability to reduce type 2 diabetes.
Buy longevity spinach cuttings!