Bloodleaf Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Iresine Herbstii”

Complete guide to Bloodleaf Plants for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting and caring for "Iresine Herbstii"

The bloodleaf, also called Iresine herbstii, is a popular plant that is known for its vibrant red color. Native to South America, this plant is relatively uncommon, especially in countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Its leaves have green and white markings, adding to its beauty and allure.

This plant goes by many interesting names such as beefsteak and chicken gizzard. Some varieties of bloodleaf were produced through selective breeding, the two most popular cultivars being Aureoreticulata and Brilliantissima.

The first is distinguishable because of its green leaves and yellow veins, while the second is marked by its red leaves and pink veins. In addition, it received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

About Iresine Herbstii

  • The Iresine herbstii is part of the Amaranthaceae family.
  • It is said that these bloodleaf plants will only grow in frost-free climates. In temperate regions, it will need to be brought indoors during winter.
  • This plant species is glossy with an intense bright red color in the leaves.
  • There are dozens of closely related species to Iresine herbstii, but only a few are grown for ornamental purposes. These include Brilliantissima, Aueorenticulata, Blazin Rose (deep red-purple leaves with pinkish-red veins), and Acuminata (dark maroon leaves with pinkish-red veins).
  • Bloodleaf plants enjoy high temperatures and humidity. They can be grown outdoors year-round in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11.
  • Several varieties have lance-shaped leaves but most are rounded. The leaves grow to about 3 to 6 inches (8 to 16 cm) long in opposite pairs.
  • Fortunately for us, this tropical native happens to acclimate well to being indoors, making it a great option to have as a room accenting element.
Bloodleaf Plant
Bloodleaf Plant

Bloodleaf Features: an Overview

  • Iresine is a genus that contains about 30 species of flowering plants native to Brazil.
  • They occasionally produce small red leaves and are often variegated with green and white markings. It can grow well indoors under grow lights. However, if the stem becomes too long and straggly, it could signify that the plant is not receiving enough light.
  • In their natural environment, the plants can reach a height of up to 5 feet (1.5 m) with a wide spread of 3 feet (91 cm). When grown as an indoor plant, they only grow to be around 12 to 18 inches (30-46 cm).
  • Smaller plants can grow well in partial shade but can tolerate more light as they grow.
  • The blood leaf enjoys staying at a relative humidity of 50% or higher. Use a humidity tray or humidifier to raise the moisture content in the air around it.
  • This plant thrives in warm environments with temperatures between 65°F to 80°F (18°C to 27°C). Do not expose the blood leaf to temperatures below 55°F (13°C).
  • The blood leaf successfully grows in any good quality, loamy soil-based potting mixture with a soil pH of 5.6 to 5.9. Place the plant near a bright, preferably south-facing window. To prevent the bright leaf from wilting or fading, place them in a bright light area and shade it from the hot, direct summer sun.
  • It is advisable to feed this plant species every 2 weeks from spring through fall with a stable water-soluble fertilizer. The plant does not need to be fed in winter when growth is slower.
Iresine Herbstii
Iresine Herbstii

Growing Bloodleaf

This tropical native needs the right temperature and humidity as well as plenty of light to survive. Place it near a window or in a sunroom to preserve its vibrant color. It might dry out if placed under hot, direct sunlight, especially during the summer.

When planting your bloodleaf, you first have to make sure it will have adequate lighting in its location. It enjoys being exposed to full sun or partial shade, but usually produces more brighter colors if exposed to full sun.

During winter, they can tolerate less light so it is not advisable to keep them near a window. Observe changes in the stem if it becomes too straggly since this indicates that it may not be getting enough light.

This plant thrives in organically-rich soil, which you can prepare using compost or aged manure. If placed indoors, the plant should be set near a bright, preferably south-facing window.

It is best to repot this plant during spring once the roots start to grow longer and reach the bottom of the container. If you plan to grow it indoors or are just bringing it in for the winter, it should be set in loamy soil. You can place the plant back outside after the season turns warmer.

Growing Bloodleaf
Growing Bloodleaf

The bloodleaf will greatly appreciate staying in moist, well-draining soil. You can keep it moist for longer by making a 2 to 3-inch thick layer of organic mulch on top of it. Once you notice new growth, gently pinch out the ends of the stem to help give the plant a more attractive shape.

You should also consider pinching off flower buds. This plant’s flowers are much less noticeable or striking as their leaves, and keeping them would deplete energy that would have been used for the budding dense foliage.

Pruning is great for this plant, especially in the spring, because it grows fast. Older leaves will begin to fall off and the stem will seem a bit more lanky and ratty. You can groom it by cutting off the soft tips of the plant’s stem. Be sure not to throw these cuttings away since you can use them to propagate the bloodleaf.

It does not have any pest or disease problems but attracts aphids, mealybugs, scale, and whitefly. Aphids, to be specific, feed by sucking sap from the plant, weakening it and causing the leaves to become misshapen or stunted.

These tiny and almost unnoticeable pests are attracted to the plant’s new, soft growth. Check for these bugs on the underside of the plant’s leaves, which is where they typically redside.

You can also tell that there are aphids if the leaves and stem appear to be covered in a sticky substance. It is always best to treat the infestation immediately but use the least toxic option to minimize damage to the plant.

Iresine herbstii, From Amazon

Watering Bloodleaf

The bloodleaf needs to be watered thoroughly as it enjoys moist soil. To check if the plant needs to be watered, press your finger into the soil to a depth of about an inch (3 cm). If the soil feels dry, water deeply and drain out the excess fluid.

Adding a 2 or 3-inch layer of organic mulch can help retain moisture in the soil. During the winter, you will need to water less but make sure that the soil does not completely dry out.

Make sure to also drain the saucer under the pot around 20 minutes after watering because the roots of the plant could start rotting if left sitting in the fluid.

Propagating Bloodleaf

You can easily propagate this plant by using cuttings. For the best results, cut the fleshy tip of the stem early in the spring season. Be sure that the stem cutting measures at least 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm). Dip the end of the cutting into a rooting hormone and then root it in a container with moist perlite. Make sure to place this somewhere warm with a high humidity.

Cover the container with a plastic bag to keep the moisture in. You can remove it when the plant starts to form new growth. The cuttings will start to develop roots fairly easily. As mentioned earlier, it develops fast and responds well to pruning.

The bloodleaf should be repotted once a year until it reaches its mature size. Afterward, it can be repotted every other year or propagated again to create new plants before being discarded. It is commonly used as a bedding plant in tropical landscapes. Growing them in a mixed container along with other tropical plants creates a colorful and lively arrangement.

In Conclusion

If you can get your hands on this gorgeous plant, you should take the opportunity. It’s hard to find another kind of flora that can live up to the vibrancy and brightness of the bloodleaf. This tropical beauty can easily adapt to being indoors, making it a wonderful plant to have inside the house. As long as you give it the proper amount of humidity, warmth, and light, it will be able to thrive and grow healthily.

Having this plant may require you to be a little more hands on, but it’s sure to be well worth the effort. Before deciding to get one, you have to keep in mind that you will need to prune and repot this plant whenever necessary. This one is a fast grower so make sure you’re totally set and prepared to give this plant what it needs. At the end of the day, whether you’ve grown it indoors or outdoors, the bloodleaf will surely captivate and impress your family, friends, and guests.

Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at or follow on twitter

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