Iresine x herbstii: Bloodleaf

The genus Iresine embraces some 70 species distributed in tropical and subtropical America, the Antilles, Galapagos Islands and Australia. They include annuals, perennials as well as subshrubs.

The cultivar is derived from an annual species native to Brazil, which also grows wild, however, throughout all of Central America. In the wild it reaches a height of 80 cm (32 in) whereas in cultivation it is barely half as large. Because it is derived from an annual it is maintained by taking cuttings in late summer, overwintering the rooted plants in a light room and the following summer either leaving them where they are or using them in outdoor arrangements in pots and window-boxes. Often, however, merely pinching the flowers, which are insignificant anyway, will prolong the life of the plant for another year. The type species has purple leaves with crimson veins, but there are many cultivars of different coloration, for example ‘Aureoreticulata’, which has green leaves with golden-yellow veins. Others are distinguished by small size and thick foliage, such as ‘Biemuelleri’ with crimson leaves. Other species are also cultivated, for example I. lindenii from Ecuador, about 60 cm (2 ft) high, much-branched, with oval, elongate, pointed leaves coloured dark red with lighter veins.

All species do well in John Innes potting compost.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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