Rouge plant is an herbaceous perennial plant growing from a woody taproot and with stems that are somewhat woody at the base. The red fruits are gathered from the wild to be used for dyeing. The plant is widely grown as an ornamental in the tropics and subtropics, where it is particularly valued for its brilliantly colored, rather handsome berries. It ranges from across the southern US to Arizona and through Central America and the Caribbean to South America. This tough little perennial makes an attractive border plant or ground cover in shady areas. It grows in low clumps with dark-green wavy-edge leaves. During much of the growing season, it supports short stalks of small pinkish-white flowers and red berries, both at the same time. In late fall, the leaves and stems turn purplish-red.
The slender stems become slightly woody with age, especially near the base of the plant. Younger stems are greenish in colour and mostly hairless (i.e. glabrous). The simple leaves are alternately arranged along the stems and are borne on stalks (i.e. petioles) 1-5 cm long. Their blades (3-13 cm long and 1-5 cm wide) are oblong or narrowly egg-shaped in outline (i.e. narrowly-ovate) with entire margins and pointed tips (i.e. acuminate apices). They are hairless (i.e. glabrous) or sparsely hairy (i.e. puberulent). The whitish flowers are arranged in elongated clusters (4-8 cm long, lengthening to 5-15 cm long in fruit) in the forks of the upper leaves (i.e. in axillary racemes). Numerous small flowers are produced in each of these clusters, each being borne on a short stalk (i.e. pedicel) 1-4 mm long. These flowers have four small 'petals' (i.e. perianth segments) 1-3 mm long and four stamens. The 'petals' are initially white or pinkish but turn greenish as they mature. Flowering occurs mostly during spring and summer. The fruit are small rounded (i.e. sub-globose) berries that contain a single seed. These fruit (3-4 mm across) turn from green to bright shining red (occasionally orange) as they mature. The rounded seeds are 2.5-3.5 mm across.
- Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
- Put the seeds on the soil.
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
- Water the seeds.
- Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade.
- When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.