How to Grow and Care for Blood Leaf Plant (Iresine)

blood leaf plant

​The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

Blood leaf, also commonly known as Iresine, chicken gizzard, and beefsteak plant, is an uncommon shrub with striking foliage that makes it a gorgeous addition indoors or outdoors in full sun or partial shade. The Iresine genus includes about 30 species, all of them native to South America, especially in the rainforests of Brazil. They range from small to medium-sized plants, and most are perennial. The flowers are unremarkable, consisting of small greenish or white flowers on small stems, but instead are grown for the crimson leaves. Indoors or out, blood leaf requires plenty of heat and humidity.

In its native habitat or when grown outdoors in the right conditions, the plant can grow to be 5 feet tall with a 3-foot spread. However, indoors, it's more likely to stay between 12 and 18 inches tall, with red leaves that are up to 4 inches long.

Common Name Blood leaf, bloodleaf, chicken gizzard, beefsteak plant
Botanical Name Iresine herbstii
Family Amaranthaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size 12-18 in. tall
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Loamy, well-draining
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom Time Flowers not showy
Flower Color Green-white
Hardiness Zones 10-12 (USDA)
Native Area Brazil

Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for Bloodleaf (Iresine) Indoors

Blood Leaf Care

Here are the main care requirements for growing blood leaf.

  • Plant in movable containers or indoors if you live in regions with cooler temperatures.
  • Give the plant enough light or it will grow leggy.
  • Place in organically rich, well-draining soil, indoors or outdoors.
  • Keep soil moist, but never soggy.
  • Add humidity to your home or put an indoor plant in a humid room.
  • Fertilize during the growing season.
closeup of blood leaf plant
​The Spruce / Krystal Slagle
closeup of blood leaf plant
​The Spruce / Krystal Slagle


Smaller plants tend to thrive in partial shade, but as they grow they can tolerate more light. They are margin plants by nature, meaning they grow on the edge of forests and can withstand varied light levels.​ They can tolerate less light in the winter months, so don't place them too close to a window.


When growing the plant outdoors, Iresine prefers organically rich, well-draining soil. For indoor growth, though, use a loamy, soil-based potting mixture.


Regular moisture is essential, especially during the growing season. They aren't water plants, so don't waterlog them. During the winter months, you can cut back on watering but aim to keep the soil moist.

Temperature and Humidity

These are "warm house" plants and cannot tolerate lower temperatures or cold, dry air. The plant requires a temperature of at least 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Indoors, they are best grown in window boxes or bathrooms, which often have warmth and humidity. If you have a greenhouse, they will thrive there.


Feed with a high-nitrogen liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks throughout the growing season.

Types of Blood Leaf

There are dozens of species of Iresine herbstii, but only a few are grown for ornamental purposes.

  • Iresine herbstii 'Brilliantissima': Bright red leaves with pink veins
  • Iresine herbstii 'Aueoreticulata': Green leaves with yellow veins
  • Iresine herbstii 'Blazin Rose': Deep red-purple leaves with pinkish-red veins
  • Iresine herbstii 'Acuminata': Dark maroon leaves with pinkish-red veins


Blood leaf plants will put out small, pale green-white flowers, but they're not showy. Therefore, most gardeners choose to pinch off the buds, so that the plant can divert its energy into growing its beautiful foliage. Regular pinching will also promote bushier growth. Pinching off flower buds of outdoor plants is advisable to stimulate bushier growth, as well.

Propagating Blood Leaf

Blood leaf can be easily propagated, by taking stem cuttings. You can propagate in soil or in water.

To propagate in soil, take the following steps:

  1. For best success, take cuttings early in the season. Remove all lower leaves but leave two sets at the top.
  2. Dip the cutting in rooting hormone and put into a pot with soil-based potting mix.
  3. Provide the bottom of the pot with warmth and place it in a space with very high humidity.
  4. In addition, seal the pot inside a plastic bag to keep the moisture inside.
  5. Remove the plastic bag when the plant shows signs of new growth.

To propagate in water, take the following steps:

  1. Take cuttings early in the season and remove lower leaves, keep the top ones.
  2. Fill a glass or clear vase with water and put the cuttings into the container, no rooting hormone is necessary.
  3. Put the container on a sill that is brightly lit and change the water in the container once a week.
  4. When roots appear in a couple of weeks, transfer the cutting into a pot filled with soil-based potting mix. Keep the pot in a well-lit, humid, warm space or plant outdoors if you are in the correct zone.

Potting and Repotting Blood Leaf

Iresine should be repotted annually until it reaches its mature size, then it can be repotted every other year or propagated to create new stock and discarded. In the tropical landscape, it is often used as bedding plants, so it's a nice effect to grow a small clump of them in a container or to grow them in a mixed container with other tropical plants.


If you live in an area that's prone to cooler temperatures, either grow Iresine as a houseplant or keep it in a container and move it indoors when the temperature drops. Due to their low tolerance for cold, dry air, they will need to be frequently misted and provided with adequate heat during the winter.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Blood leaf doesn't have any significant pest or disease problems, but it is vulnerable to pests including aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and whitefly. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat with the least toxic option.

The plant can also experience powdery mildew. Remove damaged leaves which will also give the plant better air circulation. Apply fungicide and water the soil, only, not the foliage, and pull back more on watering and misting until the problem has resolved.

Common Problems With Blood Leaf

Although Iresine can be planted both outside and indoors, it gets quite finicky outdoors, especially if it's not warm enough. Otherwise, look out for these issues:

Browning, Dropping Leaves

Plants without adequate moisture will begin to develop brown leaf margins and dropping leaves. Mist your indoor plants to boost humidity.


If the plant is getting leggy indoors or outdoors, it's probably not getting enough light. But be careful since you'll have to find the right balance of light indoors and outdoors for this plant to eliminate legginess.

Lack of Color

Blood leaf that is grown in full sun will have brighter colored foliage. Shady conditions will produce duller results.

iresine herbstii
The Spruce / Krystal Slagle
iresine herbstii aureoreticulata
Kihwan Kim / Getty Images
  • Is blood leaf an indoor plant?

    Outside of zones 10-12, blood leaf is grown as a houseplant. It rarely blooms indoors.

  • Does the blood leaf plant survive in a shady indoor place?

    The plant will probably become leggy and won't thrive in a shady space indoors. Instead, put it in a bright (south-facing) window for best results indoors.

  • Is Iresine a perennial?

    This short-lived perennial is often grown as a garden annual or indoors as a houseplant.