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How to Grow and Care for Iresine

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Iresine, commonly called beefsteak plant or blood leaf, is an easy-care foliage houseplant. It is bushy when young but tends to trail as it matures.

Iresine has purplish-red leaves with glowing pink midrib and veins; when backlit by bright light, Iresine will practically grow with fluorescent color.

Where not hardy, grow Iresine as a tender perennial for summer bedding, the overwinter indoors. In warm winter climates, grow as edging in a bed or mixed border.

Iresine is a genus of about 80 species of evergreen perennials or annuals native to South America and Australia.

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Get to know Iresine

  • Plant type: Tropical perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 10-11
  • Hardiness: Tender
  • Optimal growing temperature: day 68° to 80°F (20°-27°C), night 55° to 60°F (13°-16°C).
  • Height and width: 18 inches (46cm) tall and nearly as wide
  • Foliage: Oval or round leaves, 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5cm) long are purplish-red with glowing pink midrib and veins or sometimes green or bronzed yellowish veins; leaves are usually notched at the end.
  • Flowers: Small insignificant flowers may appear.
  • Bloom time: Summer
  • Uses: Foliage houseplant
  • Common name: Beefsteak plant, bloodleaf plant
  • Botanical name: Iresine
  • Family: Amaranthaceae
  • Origin: South America and Australia

Where to plant Iresine

  • Grow Iresine in bright reflected light with 3 hours of direct sun daily for best foliage color, from eastern or southern exposure. Grows well in artificial light, needing 14 hours daily.
  • Plant Iresine in standard potting soil.

How to water and feed Iresine

  • Keep the soil evenly moist, not soggy. Mist twice daily. Iresine prefers 40 to 45 percent humidity.
  • Fertilize Iresine with a mild liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks during the growing season.

Iresine care

  • Pot-on Iresine when roots occupy ½ of pot space; repot in early spring.
  • Prune frequently to retain a pleasing shape otherwise, Iresine can become a bit straggly.
  • Pinch away flowers to promote fuller foliage. Start pinching for form when the plant is young.
  • Clean the leaves often with a moist cloth.
  • Iresine rests slightly in fall through winter; keep it at normal room temperature during the rest period; gradually reduce water, keeping the soil barely moist; withhold fertilizer.

Growing Iresine as a houseplant

  • Set Iresine in direct sun. If the light level is too low, Iresine will get spindly and weak.
  • Maintain an average temperature and medium humidity.
  • Allow the soil to become dry to the touch between thorough waterings.
  • Fertilize Iresine regularly during spring ad summer.

Iresine pests and diseases

  • Iresine is susceptible to attack by mealybugs, red spider mites, and whiteflies.

Iresine propagation

  • Propagate Iresine by division or tip cuttings.
  • Pinch-out starts a few times to produce strong plants.

Iresine varieties to grow

  • Iresine herbstii, beefsteak plant, chicken gizzard. Grows to 5 feet tall and 36 inches wide; bushy annual or short-lived perennial; waxy dark red stems and heart-shaped leaves with pale red veins.
  • I. lindenii, blood leaf. Erect bushy perennial with blood red stems; narrow, pointed leaves, deep red with pale center veins; grows to 3 feet tall and wide.

Iresine frequently asked questions

Q: Is Iresine a houseplant? I’ve seen it growing outdoors.

A: Iresine is commonly a houseplant. It’s a tropical plant so it grows outdoors in many regions as a perennial. It can be grown outdoors as a summer annual in cold winter regions. The red leaves are striking and should be used wherever red-flowered annual is called for.

Q: Can Iresine be grown from seed?

A: No. Grow Iresine from root cuttings. After the last frost in spring, move the rooted cuttings to a sunny spot in the garden.

Q: Where can I grow Iresine?

A: Iresine can take full sun; it needs moist soil.

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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