15 Plants With Red Stems

15 Plants With Red Stems

While it’s not uncommon to spot a red-stemmed plant in your yard, it helps to know what kind they are. Many of these tend to be harmless, but there are varieties you need to watch out for as they can prove harmful to humans.

There are about 15 types of plants with red stems, some due to genetics and others caused by environmental factors. The most common types are:

  • Pokeweed
  • Elephant Bush
  • Castor Bean
  • Pigweed
  • Himalayan Balsam
  • Wine Berry 
  • Red Osier Dogwood

In our guide, we’ll give you a comprehensive rundown of everything you’ll need to know, from distinguishable characteristics to toxicity.

What plants have red stems?

1. Lady’s mantle

Lady’s mantle
Image: Aggie Horticulture
Scientific NameAlchemilla erythropoda
Common Name(s)Lady’s mantleRed-stemmed lady’s mantleAlchemilla
FamilyRosaceae
NativityEastern EuropeAsiaBalkansNorthern Russia
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsLime-green colored flowersLong, thin string-like stemsSemi-round scallop-shaped leaves with hairy undersides

The lady’s mantle or simply referred to as Alchemilla is a herbaceous perennial coming from the rose family, Rosaceae. 

They’re unique for their lime-green colored flowers along with soft, semi-round and scallop-shaped leaves with hairy undersides. 

Meanwhile, their stems are long, thin, and string-like. growing only to about 24 inches or 50 centimeters high.

In older times, it was used as a medicinal herb in the Middle Ages. Today, it’s still incorporated in gynecological and menstrual treatments.

Today, the lady’s mantle is often grown as ornamental plants alongside roses and other decorative flowers because of its blanket-like characteristics.

You won’t have to worry about slugs and snails attacking them, though, as they’re known to be quite resistant towards these pests.

In the garden, they prefer shaded locations and warm weather. They don’t deal with frost well, so they’ll need to be moved indoors during colder seasons. 

Despite being considered a low-maintenance plant, the lady’s mantle will require pruning every now and then. Nevertheless, it can withstand nutrient-deficient soil and rocky terrain.

2. Red Stem Thalia

Red Stem Thalia
Image: Florida Aquatic Nurseries
Scientific NameThalia geniculata ruminoides
Common Name(s)Red stem thaliaRed stemmed alligator-flag
FamilyMarantaceae
NativityNorth America
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsGrow to about 6 to 10 feet high and 2 to 6 feet wideFlowers are a violet-blue colorLarge oval-shaped bright green leaves

The red stem thalia is a herbaceous perennial that’s one of the most popular choices for adding a decorative touch of color to aquatic garden compositions. 

This is primarily because of their boldness and size, growing up to about 10 feet high and 6 feet wide. 

They’re known to grow beautiful large, oval-shaped evergreen leaves along with narrow and dark red stems. In the mid-summertime, deep violet-blue colored flowers begin to develop in clusters. 

Apart from that, they’re also relatively low-maintenance, only needing maintenance and upkeep every now and then. They live to about 10 years and maintain their foliage throughout the year. 

However, they’re quite strict about sun exposure, growing best in partial to full sunlight. When it comes to soil conditions, they can grow anywhere from moist to wet soil and even in up to 10 inches of standing water 

Since the red stem thalia isn’t toxic, it’s a natural food source for many animals in the wild. In some areas of the world, the young leaves are cooked and eaten. 

Even then, the most popular way of using the red stem thalia is as a colorful addition to ponds, streams, bog gardens, and rain gardens.

3. Castor Bean 

Castor Bean
Image: The Spruce
Scientific NameRicinus communis
Common NameCastor beanCastor oil plant
FamilyEuphorbiaceae
NativityAfrica
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)Yes
Unique CharacteristicsWoody, reddish stem that sometimes turns into a deeper purple-reddish color as it maturesSpiky green or purple-reddish fruits

The castor bean plant is a tropical-looking herbaceous perennial with a woody, reddish stem that sometimes turns into a deeper purple-reddish color with age.

It looks like a small tree with thick stalks that hold onto its large, glossy palmate leaves. When matured, it can grow to as tall as 40 feet high.  

Aside from that, it also grows spiky fruits that come in green and purple-reddish colors.

The castor bean plant is popularly grown for its castor oil. Once extracted, the oil is used in several industrial, pharmaceutical, and medicinal purposes.

It’s important to note that the castor bean plant is one of the most poisonous plants on earth. 

It contains the toxin, ricin, which is poisonous to humans as it contains the toxin, ricin. There have also been some reports that merely breathing in the dust of the bean has caused serious respiratory issues for incredibly sensitive people.

It’s worth highlighting that they’re quite fussy about growing conditions, though. Ideally, they need moist, nutrient-rich soil with adequate drainage. 

Aside from that, it’s recommended that castor beans receive 8 hours’ worth of full sun for ideal growth. Having mentioned that, they grow best alongside riverbeds and warm locations.

4. Pokeweed 

Pokeweed
Image: Agronomic Crops Network – The Ohio State University
Scientific NamePhytolacca americana
Common NamePokeweedDragonberriesInkberry
FamilyPhytolaccaceae
NativityNorth America
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)Yes
Unique CharacteristicsDeep purple grape-like berries

Native to North America, Pokeweeds are known for their longevity and adaptability. They’re herbaceous perennial plants that thrive in warm, hot climates.

Aside from that, they can withstand various humidity conditions, live in virtually any soil type, and varying sun exposures.

Because of this, they’re widely considered invasive plants as they tend to overwhelm native flora, especially when not planted on purpose.

Even with their shrub-like appearance, they can grow to up to 12 ft in height and 6 ft in width. Meanwhile, their leaves grow into a heart shape of about 6 to 12 inches long.

In the summertime, they produce white flowers and clustered grape-like berries. As they ripen, the berries turn from a vibrant green to a deep purple color.

Be warned, though, that these berries are poisonous to humans and most animals. Even then, there are a few species of birds that are immune to the toxins.

It’s also important to note that the older your Pokeweed plant gets, the more toxic it becomes. Hence, if you’d like to eat the pokeberries, you may want to grow a new plant annually.

While their leaves are also known to cause allergic reactions, there are some who’ve turned this into a delicacy. The leaves and young shoots are cooked into a salad known as the ‘poke sallet’.

5. Redroot pigweed 

Redroot pigweed
Image: Edible Manhattan
Scientific NameAmaranthus retroflexus
Common NameRedroot pigweedRedroot amaranth
FamilyAmaranthaceae
NativityNorth AmericaCentral America
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsBright and fuzzy flowers that grow in various shades of pink, white, red, and lavenderBright green diamond or oval-shaped leavesHairy stems

Unfortunately, the redroot pigweed is often considered an invasive weed. This is attributed to their speedy growth rate and tolerance to drought, which often inhibits the development of nearby plants.

The redroot pigweed can grow up to 6 feet tall when mature with hairy stems. You’ll notice that they have bright green leaves that are either diamond or oval-shaped.

Its most unique characteristic would definitely be their bright and fuzzy flowers that grow in various shades of red, white, pink, and lavender. That said, it’s no surprise that they’re butterfly magnets.

Aside from being used as ornamental plants, redroot pigweed plants are also often grown to be eaten either raw or cooked. 

In various parts of the world, every part of the plant is eaten. For example, in some countries, the seeds are crushed and used as a cereal substitute or as a salad topping. 

However, the young leaves are the most popular for culinary use, especially in Mexican and Caribbean cuisines. In fact, its leaves have a mild and neutral taste, which many say closely resembles spinach.

6. Red Osier Dogwood 

Red Osier Dogwood
Image: Gardenia.net
Scientific NameCornus Sericea
Common NameRed osier dogwoodRed osierAmerican dogwood
FamilyCornaceae
NativityNorth America
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsMulti-stemmed shrub with a flat topThin, elongated twigs with diamond-shaped leavesDainty, umbrella-like bundles of five-petal white flowers

Native to North America, the red osier dogwood is a multi-stemmed shrub with a flat top that grows up to about 16 feet tall and 13 feet wide.

It has loose clusters of thin, elongated twigs with lance-shaped leaves. Along with that, it also has dainty, umbrella-like bundles of five-petal white flowers. 

The red osier dogwood is a popular choice for landscaping because of its striking tall and brightly colored twigs that are revealed after it sheds its leaves for the wintertime.

However, its dark red color may not be as pigmented when grown in shaded areas. With that said, the red osier dogwood is best planted along swamps, bogs, fens, and shorelines that receive a generous amount of full sun.

Nevertheless, they’re pretty tough plants given that they’re quite drought-tolerant. They can also thrive in various soil types, from sandy to clay.

Aside from being used as ornamental plants, its inner bark is used as a tobacco substitute by American Indians. Meanwhile, its hardwood is used for basketry and weaving. 

7. Mountain pepper 

Mountain pepper
Image: Gardening Know How
Scientific NameDrimys lanceolata
Common NameMountain pepper Tasmanian pepperberryCornish pepper leaf
FamilyWinteraceae
NativityAustralia
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsAromatic dark green, lance-shaped leavesCream-colored summer flowers

Native to Australia, the mountain pepper is a dense, evergreen shrub. It’s primarily seen in cool temperate rainforests and woodland areas.

They’re medium-sized, growing up to about 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide once reaching maturity.

It’s most notable for its aromatic dark green, lance-shaped leaves and cream-colored summer flowers. 

In the fall, these flowers turn into two-lobed berries that are used as a substitute for black pepper, hence the name, “mountain pepper” and “tasmanian pepperberry”.

Be warned, though, that some may consider its aroma to be quite pungent, especially when crushed. Nevertheless, the leaves and berries add a deliciously spicy kick to any dish.

When growing mountain pepper plants, they prefer partial shade but can withstand full sun conditions. Apart from that, they favor well-drained yet moist soil conditions. 

They also would rather be watered deeply during the initial growing seasons as this helps grow a deeper root system. Afterwards, they can stand brief droughts once they’ve established their roots.

8. Himalayan Balsam 

Himalayan Balsam
Image: BBC
Scientific NameImpatiens glandulifera
Common NameHimalayan balsamPoliceman’s helmetKiss-me-on-the-mountain
FamilyBalsaminaceae
NativityHimalayas
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsPoliceman helmet-shaped pink-purple flowersLaunches seeds up to 13 feet highDark green colored lance-shaped leaves

As its name implies, the himalayan balsam is native to the mountain regions of the Himalayas.

It’s a herbaceous terrestrial plant that reaches heights of up to 8 feet that thrives in riparian zones. Hence, they’re easily spotted in wetlands and forests.

It’s also known under many names such as policeman’s helmet, which is attributed to its hood-like pink-purple flowers. Meanwhile, its leaves are usually dark shades of green with a sharp end and take on the shape of a lance.

Despite looking like a decorative plant it’s actually widely considered a non-native invasive plant. This is mainly because of how rapidly it grows and spreads. 

They grow in dense groups, which can wreak havoc on the ecological balance of the environment.

Apart from that, it has the ability to launch its seeds at distances of up to 13 feet. This allows the seeds to travel quickly whether through land or water. 

Hence, it’s not uncommon to spot people uprooting or cutting the plants as a way to control its growth, especially in unwanted places.

9. Red Tree Peperomia 

Red Tree Peperomia
Image: Nick’s Garden Center
Scientific NamePeperomia obtusifolia
Common NameRed tree peperomiaMetallic peperomia
FamilyPiperaceae
NativityCentral AmericaSouth America
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsDark green and maroon leaves with a silver stripe along the centerLeaves have a waxy metallic gloss

What’s unique about the red tree peperomia is its one-of-a-kind waxy metallic gloss. Hence, it’s also commonly referred to as “metallic peperomia”. 

While they don’t flower, they’re primarily grown for their foliage. Their dark green and maroon leaves have an eye-catching silver stripe along the center.

As an upright perennial evergreen, it can grow to be quite bushy and to around 6 to 8 inches tall and around 6 inches wide with the right growing conditions. 

Despite its rather exotic looking appearance, the red tree peperomia is actually quite easy to care for. Hence, it’s an incredibly popular houseplant choice.

When growing indoors, it can withstand lowlight but would prefer bright indirect sunlight. Meanwhile, when growing outdoors, it develops best in partially shaded areas. 

A surprise to some, the red tree peperomia plant would actually prefer to be slightly pot-bound. It’s known to grow well in well-drained sandy loam to regular loam soil types.

Do note that red tree peperomia plants dislike soggy soil and standing water. Because of this, you’ll need to wait in between watering sessions to allow all of the excess water to properly drain first.

It’s also worth mentioning that they take quite a while to grow. Hence, there’s no reason to be alarmed if you barely notice a lot of development. 

10. Balearic peony 

Balearic peony
Image: Annie’s Annuals
Scientific NamePaeonia cambessedesii
Common NameBalearic peony Majorcan peony
FamilyPaeoniaceae
NativityBalearic Islands, Spain
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)Yes
Unique CharacteristicsWhite, pink, magenta, or purple flowers Golden-yellow colored anthersGlossy two-toned leaves – the topside is dark green while the underside is maroon

While there are over 30 different kinds of peony species, the balearic peony is one of the few varieties that retain its red-colored stem even after maturing.

It’s a perennial herbaceous plant that’s native to the Balearic Islands of Spain, which is where it gets its name. In the wild, you’ll normally see them growing at altitudes of up to 1,400 meters by stony mountains.

Many would agree that their flowers are the real stars of the show. They grow to about 4 inches and come in white, pink, magenta, and purple that circle their golden-yellow colored anthers.

Their flamboyant flowers are a beautiful contrast against their greenery. They grow glossy two-toned leaves – the topside is dark green while the underside is maroon.

Because they grow long underground stems, it’s ideal that they’re planted in spacious garden beds with well-drained soil to ensure they create optimal blooms.

Aside from that, peonies love sunny and warm to temperate climates that receive good ventilation. In fact, they’re quite sensitive to too much humidity. 

It’s important to keep in mind that the balearic peony is incredibly poisonous. Hence, they’re strictly for decorative and ornamental use only.

11. Red-Stemmed Begonia

Red-Stemmed Begonia
Image: The American Begonia Society
Scientific NameBegonia grandis subsp. evansiana
Common NameRed-stemmed begoniaHardy begonia
FamilyBegoniaceae
NativitySouthern ChinaJapan
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No – HumansModerate – Animals
Unique CharacteristicsSoft and floppy flowers that come in white and bright pinkWing-shaped leaves that has a green top and red, veiny underside

The red-stemmed begonia is also commonly referred to as the hardy begonia because of its ability to withstand harsh winter weather.

It’s actually native to Southern China and Japan where it sees its fair share of below freezing temperatures. By USDA hardiness zone standards, the hardy begonia falls under zones 6 and 7.

The red-stemmed begonia is a herbaceous perennial that can thrive both outdoors in shaded gardens or courtyards as well as indoors as bedding plants. They’re known to grow quite bushy, which makes them a great addition to rock formations.

It’s popular for its soft and floppy flowers that come in white and bright pink. They surely stand out against its wing-shaped foliage that has a green top and red, veiny underside.

It’s worth warning you, though, they’re rather difficult to start propagating as they’re quite slow to grow from seeds. 

However, they can thrive even with minimal maintenance in the right growing conditions once you’ve gotten the hang of it.

They do best in moist, well-drained, and nutrient-rich soil. In fact, you can’t let the soil dry out as they prefer consistently moist soil, but be wary of sitting water.

Note that red-stemmed begonias are light sensitive as their foliage can burn under harsh lighting conditions. It’s recommended that they receive over 4 to 6 hours of scattered sunlight daily.

12. Common Purslane 

Common Purslane
Image: MSU College of Agriculture
Scientific NamePortulaca oleracea
Common NameCommon purslanePurslaneDuckweedWild portulacaLittle hogweed
FamilyPortulacacea
NativityNorth AfricaMiddle EastIndia
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsSmooth, glossy, dark green colored, oval-shaped leaves Small yellow flowers with 5 heart-shaped petals

The common purslane plant is a succulent that goes by many names depending on where you’re from. In some places, it’s referred to as “duckweed” while in others it’s called “pulslane”. 

Known to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids and a variety of vitamins and minerals, the common purslane plant is eaten raw or cooked all over the world for hundreds of years.

Aside from its culinary use, it’s also popular for its traditional medicinal properties, especially in Thailand and Malaysia. It’s often used for treating diabetes, hypertension, and burns, among others.

Since it’s a trailing plant, it’s usually found growing along the surface of the soil. Hence, it’s also considered a type of weed in a few regions. 

It has smooth, glossy, dark green colored leaves. Its oval-shaped foliage grows in clusters at various joints along the stem. 

Every now and then, it sprouts yellow flowers with 5 heart-shaped petals. Its flowers are quite tiny, only growing to about quarter of an inch big.

What’s great about the common purslane plant is that it’s extremely low maintenance. They’re known to flourish in environments with the harshest heat and sunlight.

In fact, it’s a general rule that they’re only watered deeply once a week, especially during warmer months.

13. Aechmea Triticina

Aechmea Triticina
Image: tanetahi on Flickr
Scientific NameAechmea triticina
Common NameAechmea triticina
FamilyBromeliads
NativityEastern Brazil
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsDeep red-colored leaves that are quite flat with a pointed end facing upwards and small spikes along each sideBright yellow, tubular-shaped flower

Perennial evergreens native to Eastern Brazil, the aechmea triticina plant is well-liked for its vibrant yellow, red, and green colors.

It resembles quite a few things such as the leafy top part of a pineapple or even flowers in full bloom. Because of its unique appearance, they’re enjoyed as both an indoor and outdoor decorative plant.

Its leaves are often a deep red and are quite flat with a pointed end facing upwards. Be careful, though, as it has small spikes running along both its sides.

In the center sprouts its bright yellow, tubular-shaped flower, which can sometimes last for months. Though, keep in mind that not all grow a flower. 

They’re quite easy to care for as they grow quickly, so don’t be surprised when you see them taking over spaces.

As a bromeliad, the aechmea triticina grows best in tropical and subtropical climates. They’re quite tough plants and can withstand heat waves and dry spells like a champ.

With that said, they prefer sunny to partially shaded areas to ensure that their soil retains its moisture.

As for their watering needs, their shape allows them to form a “tank” where they preserve water. This natural reservoir allows them to take in water even when there’s little to no rainfall.

14. Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra)

Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra)
Image: Gardening Know How
Scientific NamePortulacaria afra
Common NameElephant bushDwarf jade plantPorkbushSpekboom
FamilyDidiereaceae
NativitySouth Africa
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsSmall, round and bright green-colored leaves

Did you know that the elephant bush is indigenous to South Africa? In the wild, it’s harvested for its culinary use, most commonly in soups and salads.

Aside from being rich in vitamin C, its leaves have a crunchy and juicy taste. However, leaves with irregular patterns and colors tend to taste sour, so only eat those that are completely green.

On top of that, the elephant bush is also collected for its medicinal properties. Traditionally, it’s been used to help treat several kinds of minor ailments.

Though, in many other parts of the world, it’s primarily used as a decorative plant – both indoors and outdoors. Hence, you may have come across it before either in someone’s house or at your local gardening center.

As a perennial succulent shrub, the elephant bush doesn’t grow very big. However, they can get quite long with adult shrubs reaching lengths of more than 13 feet.

They have small, round, bright green-colored leaves that definitely stand out against their thick reddish stems.

They’re sought after for being manageable and trouble-free as they’re known to thrive in dry environments. With that said, they only need low to moderate watering. 

This also means that they’re unable to put up with winter or frost. As a type of succulent, they naturally have a preference for warmer temperatures and require roughly 6 hours of full sunlight daily.

15. Wineberry 

Wineberry
Image: PictureThis
Scientific NameRubus phoenicolasius
Common NameWineberryJapanese wineberryDewberryWine raspberry
FamilyRosaceae
NativityJapanEast Asia
Toxicity (Touch)No
Toxicity (Ingestion)No
Unique CharacteristicsReddish stem covered in spiky hairs

The wineberry is a spiny invasive shrub that originated from Japan and nearby east Asian countries. Hence, it’s also sometimes referred to as the “Japanese wineberry”. 

Its reddish stem is covered in spiky hairs, which can be quite sharp. They’re also glandular which means they excrete a gluey substance from its pores. 

Hence, you’ll want to be careful to ensure you don’t get pricked by accident. You can typically find them along roadsides and woodlands.

The wineberry prefers humid and moist environments that receive about full to moderate shade. Despite being a dense bush, its stalks grow to about 10 feet high.

It’s pretty unique that its heart-shaped leaves sprout in threes. The topside has a vein-like pattern, which kind of resembles a poison ivy leaf while its underside has a tinge of silver.

As for its bright red berries, they look just as sweet and juicy as they taste. So, don’t be surprised if you see songbirds and similar small mammals munching on these fruits in the wild.

Even then, the wineberry is still considered an invasive species in areas where they don’t have any natural predators.

While bears a resemblance to blackberries and raspberries, the wineberry is actually less flavorful and contains more seeds. It may also not be the best option for baking as it has a higher water content, which can put off your recipe if not adjusted.

FAQs about plants with red stems

What causes a plant to have red stems?

There are several kinds of plants that have naturally reddish stems. Most herbaceous plants contain a pigment called ‘anthocyanins’ that’s responsible for giving them a red color.
Otherwise, a change in color may be caused by extreme changes in weather, temperatures, light, and excessive stress.

Do plants with red stems and leaves require more sunlight?

Red plants require more sunlight as their anthocyanins often cover their chlorophyll, reducing the quantity available to properly photosynthesize.

What stressors can cause a plant’s stem to turn red?

All stressors such as overwatering, underwatering, extreme temperatures, and pest infestations, among others, can cause your plant’s stem to turn red.

What kind of nutrient deficiencies can cause a plant’s stem to turn red?

Stems turning red is a result of inadequate amounts of magnesium and phosphorus in the soil. This can easily be remedied by correcting the soil’s pH levels.

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