Lipstick plant, with its attractive displays of scarlet flowers, is a popular indoor plant. Formally known as Aeschynanthus radicans, it is easy to see, when looking at the flowers, how these plants get their more common name.
Originating in Malaysia and Indonesia the lipstick plant is an attractive vining houseplant. It is also suitable for outdoor cultivation in USDA zones 10 to 12. Also known as the Basket Vine and Blushing Rose this is an attractive option if you want to add some natural interest and color to your home.
Aeschynanthus radicans is an attractive flower that will brighten up your home. It is also pleasingly easy to grow and care for.
Pleasingly the lipstick plant is also easy to grow and care for. Thriving in fertile, well-draining soil and humid conditions. These plants do best in bright indirect light positions. They also require minimal watering, only when the soil begins to dry out.
Whether you are an experienced gardener or a nervous novice, this guide has everything you need to know about caring for a lipstick plant.
What is a Lipstick Plant?
The lipstick plant produces waxy green oval shaped leaves that sit upon long thin branches. Emerging above the foliage on small stems are the tubular flowers that, as the name suggests, resemble lipstick. These flowers are usually bright red in color but can also darken to a shade of purple-brown.
For something a little different the Variegata cultivar produces green foliage with white splashes. The pungent aroma of the flowers is attractive to birds, particularly hummingbirds, when grown outside.
Thes attractive vining plants originate in the topical, humid rainforests north of Java. Here, in their natural environment, the plants trailing vines climb along trees reaching up to the light. Like the African violet, the lipstick plant is a member of the Gesneriaceae family. Along with the lipstick plant the Aeschynanthus genus has over 150 known, mostly tropical, varieties.
The lipstick plant is part of the same family as the African violet. The two plants share similar needs and preferences. They also compliment each other nicely when grown alongside each other.
How to Grow Lipstick Plant
Lipstick plants are usually grown as houseplants. Gardeners in the warmest USDA zones and frost free areas may be able to grow these plants outside. As well as in a container, these plants are also suited to growing in a hanging basket, where their long stems can drape loosely down or be trained to grow around a conservatory or sunroom.
Finding the Best Position
The lipstick plant does best in a bright position filled with indirect light. In, or close to, an east or west facing window is ideal. Shield your delicate plants from direct sunlight. Too much exposure to direct sunlight can cause the plants foliage to become sunburnt. An overly sunny position can also cause the plants foliage to fade. You should also avoid placing the lipstick plant in a windy or draughty position.
If the lipstick plant fails to bloom, or becomes leggy, it is probably sitting in too dark a position. Try moving it to a slightly brighter place. If you are unable to provide a naturally bright enough position, artificial solutions such as grow lights are just as effective.
During the warm spring and summer months these plants can be placed outside. Just remember to set them in a shady, sheltered position away from the potentially harmful effects of direct sunlight.
Placing a net curtain or blind in your window will help to protect sensitive plants from the potentially harmful effects of the sun’s direct rays.
Finally, never expose these plants to temperatures below 60 ℉. When exposed to cooler temperatures growth may slow or cease. If the temperature falls below 50 ℉ the plants shed their leaves or suffer tissue damage. Ideally aim to provide a temperature range of 75 to 85 ℉. This temperature range promotes healthy growth and flowering.
How to Plant Lipstick Plants
Repot your lipstick plant when it outgrows its container. The most obvious sign that a container plant requires repotting is that the roots will begin to stick out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the container. Pot bound plants also dry out more quickly and may stop growing.
When repotting, choose a new container about 2 inches, or one size, larger than the current container. Don’t transplant into an overly large container, this can stress the plant. Lipstick plants prefer to sit in a nicely fitting container. The plants also produce more flowers when planted in containers that are snug. The new container should also be clean and have drainage holes in the bottom.
Planting in a hanging basket, such as these Hanging Planters, allows the plant to spread and drape. This replicates its natural habitat where the lipstick plant grows from trees. Allowing the plants to vine and climb also adds drama to your home.
The best time to replant is either in the fall, when the plant becomes dormant for the winter, or early in spring before new growth emerges.
Fill the new container about a quarter full with fertile, well draining soil. A soil mixture rich in humus is ideal. Alternatively a mix containing coco peat or peat moss can also be used. The soil should also be well-aerated. African violet potting mixes are ideal.
You can also create your own potting mix. A combination that is one part potting soil, one part peat, one part potting mix or perlite is ideal. Homemade compost can also be used instead of potting soil.
Water the soil. This helps it to settle.
Indoor plants don’t have to sit in containers on windowsills. Vining or trailing plants can also be grown in hanging baskets. This unusual way to display your houseplants can add drama to your home.
Carefully remove your lipstick plant from its container. Squeezing the sides of the pot loosens the soil. This helps you to more easily remove the flower.
Carefully brush away any soil from the root system. If the roots are entwined, gently separate them.
Place the lipstick plant in the center of the new container. The top of the root system should sit just below the lip of the containers. Avoid planting too deeply, this can cause the plants to develop root rot.
Fill any gaps in the container with more fresh soil and gently firm down. Water well, until water emerges from the drainage holes in the bottom of the container. Return the plant to its original position.
Caring for a Lipstick Plant
Once you have found a good position for your lipstick plant, care is pleasingly straightforward.
Wait until the top quarter of the soil in the container is dry before watering. Waiting until a large portion of the soil has dried out encourages the plants to flower.
During the spring and summer months, when the plant is actively growing, it may require watering as frequently as once or twice a week. In the fall and winter months, as growth slows, watering may only be required once every two or three weeks.
Knowing how often to water houseplants can be difficult. The easiest way to check how dry the soil is, is to stick your finger into the container. If the top inch to a quarter of the soil feels dry, it is time to water. A soil moisture meter, such as the Sonkir Soil pH Meter provides a more accurate means of monitoring the condition of the soil.
When watering, water the soil around the plant. Try to avoid getting the foliage wet. Damp leaves can be a breeding ground for disease.
The most obvious sign that the plants are in need of water is the foliage becoming shrivelled.
Plants that are overwatered tend to become duller. Thirsty foliage loses its shiny green color.
If you are unsure whether to water or not it is best to wait a few more days. Remember, underwatering is easier to correct than overwatering. Allowing plants to sit in overly wet positions can lead to root rot and other serious problems.
Harvesting your own rainwater to reuse on houseplant is easy and a great way to cut down on your water usage.
The lipstick plant is native to tropical rainforests. This means that they prefer humidity to be consistently high. To replicate this you can mist the plants several times a week.
Plants in regular containers can be placed on trays filled with pebbles and water. As the water evaporates the humidity levels rise. Just remember to regularly refill the tray.
Finally, if your bathroom is light enough you can place your lipstick plant there. Bathrooms are naturally humid environments.
Avoid placing your lipstick plants near heating or cooling vents. These dry the air, lowering humidity levels.
If the potting mix contains a slow-release fertilizer you won’t have to worry about fertilizing your lipstick plant for, at most, three months. After this, apply another dose of slow-release fertilizer. A good application keeps your plants happy and healthy for another three months.
Alternatively you can apply a general purpose houseplant feed. A liquid soluble feed, diluted to half its strength, is easily incorporated into your watering routine. You can also make your own plant feed. Homemade fertilizers are just as reliable as commercial products and allow you to know exactly what you are putting into your soil.
Feed your plants once every two weeks during the spring and summer. Cease feeding during the fall and winter when the plants are dormant.
Houseplants and container plants are prone to salt building up in the soil. This can cause the tips of the foliage to turn brown. To prevent soil from building up, flush the plant once every three or four months.
To flush the soil take the container to a sink or outdoor tap. Allow water to slowly run through the soil, rotating the container occasionally so that the soil is evenly soaked. Soak the soil for about five minutes. Allow the water, and excess salt, to finish draining from the container before returning the lipstick plant to its original position.
Pruning or pinching out the plant’s long stems promotes a bushier growth habit. To do this prune away about a third of each stem with a clean pair of garden scissors. Cut each stem just above a leaf node. These cuttings can then be potted on to grow into fresh plants.
Regular pruning helps to prevent the plants from becoming leggy as well as encouraging more flowers to form.
The best time to prune is after the plant has finished flowering.
If new growth fails to emerge after pruning, cease feeding and watering the plant. This encourages the plants to begin growing again.
Clean cuttings taken just above a leaf node can be propagated into new plants. The cuttings should be between 4 and 6 inches in length. Use a clean, sharp pair of garden scissors to take the cutting.
Fill small or medium sized containers with rich, well-draining soil. Make a hole in the soil about 1.5 inches deep and place the cutting cut end down in the hole. Firm down the soil around the cutting and water.
Place the cuttings in a warm location filled with bright, indirect light. If the cuttings are successful roots will form within 6 weeks.
To test whether roots have formed begin to gently pull the cutting from the soil. If you feel resistance it is an indication that roots are forming and your cutting is successful.
Common Pets and Diseases
A healthy, happy lipstick plant is usually problem free.
Pests such as mealybugs, aphids, spider mite and white flies can all target these plants. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of infestation.
If you spot any pests gently rub the affected foliage with cotton wool or paper towel dipped in warm soapy water. Neem oil can also be applied in a similar manner. Remember to rub both the top and underside of the foliage.
Overwatering can be a problem, particularly during the winter months. Allowing plants to sit in overly soggy soil can cause problems such as root rot. If you are unsure whether to water, it is best to wait until the soil has dried out a little more. It is far easier to correct underwatering than cure the problems solved by overwatering.
Botrytis blight is a fungal problem that commonly affects the lipstick plant. This can cause black spots and lesions to appear on the foliage and stem of the plant.
Blight is often caused by excess moisture. To cure this avoid misting the plants in the evening. Instead water or mist the plants during the morning. This gives the foliage time to dry before the cooler nighttime temperatures arrive. Bad cases of botrytis blight can be treated with an application of a copper fungicide.
Unhealthy Looking Plants
Leaf drop or shrivelling foliage is a sign that your plants are thirsty and underwatered. Leaf drop can also be caused by exposure to temperatures below 50 ℉.
Thin or leggy looking plants are probably sitting in a position that is too dark. If you are unable to provide enough natural light, try placing the plants under grow lamps. These are a great way to artificially increase light levels.
Plants in light positions that are correctly watered will need little encouragement to flower. If your lipstick plant is reluctant to flourish try applying a water-soluble or liquid fertilizer that is high in potassium. Dilute the feed to half its strength and apply once every two weeks.
Pleasingly easy to care for, the lipstick plant is a fascinatingly distinctive houseplant.
Pleasingly easy to care for, the lipstick plant is a great way to add color and interest to your home. For something a little different, try growing the plants in hanging baskets or as part of an indoor living wall. This allows their rich green vines to cascade down your walls, filling the space with living drama.