Iresine is also commonly referred to as blood leaf and you’ll have no “bad blood” with your neighbors if you grow this beauty! This plant is native to Brazil where it can grow up to 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, but in our neck of the woods, it is a much more manageable height of 12 to 18 inches. This plant grows best in bright light and it is said that the more sun Iresine gets the more intense the color of its foliage. If you are looking for a plant with an intense red color than the glossy leaves of this plant may be just what you are looking for!
While it may seem new to us, Iresine was actually extremely popular during the Victorian Era in England, but its popularity waned and it disappeared from English landscapes as that era came to an end. It is most commonly grown today in frost-free garden zones 10 to 12 where it is a perennial, but it is also starting to be used as an annual plant in other garden zones where it makes a beautiful companion plant to coleus. Like coleus, it is grown primarily for the color of its foliage and its flowers are so unremarkable that gardeners usually remove them.
While the name “blood leaf” speaks for itself, Iresine actually comes in different shades of red ranging from burgundy to almost purple and there are also variegated green and bronze leafed varieties as well. Iresine prefers soil that is rich in organic matter and that drains well; too much water will definitely kill this plant. The plants should be spaced 9 to 12 inches apart and similar to other foliage plants it is a good practice to pinch the leaves in order to keep the plants compact.
So, you’re probably saying to yourself, “why am I reading about this plant in November”? A very good question indeed! In warmer areas of the country, you may be able to find this plant in your local garden center, but the reason I’m telling you about this plant now is that it makes a good houseplant too! If you take cuttings from this plant you can actually root them in a glass of water and then pot it up for a pretty indoor plant. Since it needs bright light it will require a window with a Southern view to thrive indoors.
Iresine is a flexible plant to work with so why not give it a try in your garden or home this year.