Sissoo spinach, Alternanthera sissoo, or Brazilian spinach is the perfect edible perennial groundcover. Sissoo forms dense mats a foot thick and shades out the soil, making weed seed germination nearly impossible. The leaves are purely crunchy without any slimy texture. This plant grows thick, lush, and roots when nodes touch the soil, what a perfect plant. Sissoo loves the shade too!
Take some rooted stems and throw them on the ground. Literally. I like to stick the cut end into the soil, maybe add some mulch and forget about it.
Sisso does not produce viable seeds. The only way it will spread is from the original planting.
Sissoo prefers 50% shade and will grow deep green, tender leaves. If grown in a sunnier location it will grow well but not as lush and tender. Perfect under a tree!
It also likes to be pruned back for vigorous growth, making harvesting a must to keep the plant looking healthy.
I’ve found that planting a cluster rather than a single plant produces a dense ground cover, and pruning the plant often, adding the cuttings right around the parent plant.
This plant also loves organic matter, so be sure to enrich the soil a few times a year.
The leaves may be eaten raw, sauteed, steamed or boiled. This spinach does contain small amounts of oxalic acid, meaning if you eat large (large) quantities, you should cook them. They do cook quickly though.
Where to obtain planting materials
Ask a friend growing sissoo for some cuttings. It may also be found at some farmers markets or plant sales.
One of my neighbors gave me a ton of cuttings a few months ago (thanks!), and I used them to really establish an area. Since this area has taken off, I’ve been eating a bunch of these leaves. It has great flavor and is actually one of the best ground covers I’ve used. In the shade not much can compete with it. It was the perfect addition to my perennial bed in the main garden. Including air-potato, winged bean, cranberry hibiscus, Malabar spinach, culantro, and with watermelon, and long beans. As this planting matures I will gladly spread cuttings to other areas I wish to have a carefree ground cover. Basically everywhere!