Iresine herbstii

Iresine herbstii Brilliantissima

A semi-tropical, soft-leaved shrub, Iresine herbstii (ht 60cm) belongs to the Amaranthaceae familt of plants and comes from Brazil. It is often called the beefsteak plant, with the most commonly seen being the reddish form, 'Brilliantissima', which has rich crimson-veined dark purplish leaves.

Iresine herbstii Aureoreticulata

The cultivar 'Aureoreticulata' has mid-green leaves with yellow veining. I recently acquired a cutting of a plain form of Iresine which has large leaves of a deep purpish-brown, which grows to 1.5 m. The cultivar 'Wallisii' also has plain purplish-brown leaves but they are more rounded than the other cultivars. The leaves are stunning placed nearby almost any flower colour. The plants are very adaptable and will grow in sun or shade - the colouration of the leaves is more pronounced in a sunny place. They will grow in quite ordinary soil and don't need a lot of water. I cut mine back very hard around the beginning of September.

Salvia Waverly (left) with a dark purple form of Iresine

The leaves lend themselves to many colour echoes in the garden, by pairing a flower of the same hue to the veins of the beefsteak plant. I use many different flowers for this as I have a number of Iresine growing in my garden - Canna and Salvia are two which I often use. All these plants are frost tender. The flowers are insignificant. They are easily propagated from cuttings and will even take root in a glass of water!