Aeschynanthus radicans, more commonly known as a lipstick plant, is a popular and striking tropical evergreen perennial, often grown as a houseplant. It gets its name from the vibrant red and tubular flowers that appear above a burgundy bud. These flowers grow in clusters and, along with the waxy, glossy, green foliage, they have a cascading, vine-like habit. This makes them an ideal choice for use in hanging baskets or tall containers.
In its native habitat, this is an epiphytic species, found growing from tree branches and in cracks in rocks in tropical regions of Southeast Asia. As a houseplant, though, it is generally planted in an ordinary well-draining potting mix. Provided the plant gets enough warmth, humidity, and filtered sunlight, you'll enjoy a prolific display of flowering through much of the year. Generally, though, lipstick plants flower most abundantly in the summer and fall.
One thing worth noting is that the lipstick plant isn't one to select to add a fragrant aroma to your home. Although the blooms don't have a strong scent, it isn't particularly pleasant!
|Common Name||Lipstick plant, lipstick vine, basket vine|
|Botanical Name||Aeschynanthus radicans|
|Plant Type||Evergreen perennial|
|Mature Size||3 ft. long|
|Sun Exposure||Bright filtered light|
|Soil Type||Very well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer, fall|
|Hardiness Zones||10–11 (USDA), usually grown as a houseplant|
Lipstick Plant Care
Even with its impressive, tropical appearance, the lipstick plant is generally considered to be a houseplant that's relatively easy to care for. It's all about just getting it right in terms of lighting and moisture levels. Although these plants are epiphytic in their native habitat (growing on trees and deriving moisture and nutrients from the air), when grown as houseplants, they are generally planted in an ordinary potting mix. However, they are sensitive to overwatering, and the potting mix should be watered very moderately. Lipstick plants will do well in any spot that receives bright filtered light and where a relatively high level of humidity can be maintained—either through use of a humidifier or regular misting. Avoid placing them near windows exposed to direct sunlight that can scorch them.
In their native damp and tropical regions, these plants grow as epiphytes often rooting onto branches, rock crevices and even other plants. Care is required to ensure they don't suffer from root rot when planted up.
Potted lipstick plant will benefit from being grown in a medium that is well-aerated, evenly moist, and light. Many enthusiasts include sand and sphagnum moss in their mix as this helps ensure good drainage, prevents over-compaction, and promotes absorbency.
Although lipstick plant like consistent moisture, particularly during their most prolific growing period, overwatering and saturated conditions can lead to root rot, leaf drop, and fungal issues.
Moderate watering is best. Ideally, you want to avoid allowing the potting medium to dry out completely and offer water when the top couple of inches are no longer damp.
Temperature and Humidity
Ideal temperatures for healthy blooming lipstick plants range somewhere between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures that fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit aren't ideal, and leaf drop will usually start to occur. As a tropical species, it appreciates warmth and high humidity; regular misting is recommended to keep the plant healthy. Misting should be done in the morning, which will discourage fungal leaf spot diseases.
Sudden changes in temperatures and drafts are problematic, too. So it's best not to sit your lipstick plant close beside doors, drafty windows, or air conditioning.
Your lipstick plant will appreciate regular (once or twice a month) applications of a slow-release fertilizer during the growing season.
Types of Lipstick Plant
Given the lipstick plants popularity, it's not surprising that a number of cultivars have been developed. Some of the most widely available include:
- Aeschynanthus radicans ‘Curly’: The leaves on this cultivar are wavy rather than smooth in appearance, meaning it stands out from the crowd.
- Aeschynanthus radicans ‘Mona Lisa’: Known for having a distinctive orange-red shade of flowers rather than the vibrant red of a traditional lipstick plant.
- Aeschynanthus radicans ‘Variegata’: The green leaves of this cultivar have tones of yellow, whites, or cream mixed in too.
- 'Tangerine': This cultivar is unique for its yellow-orange flowers.
- 'Rasta': This variety has densely curled leaves.The bright red flowers bloom most prolifically in late summer and early fall.
With its cascading habit, pruning of the stems can help to prevent the plant from looking straggly. It can also help to encourage new and healthy growth and a fuller appearance.
Propagating Lipstick Plant
These plants are easy to propagate from soft stem cuttings. Here's how to do it:
- Look for healthy, new growth and cut a piece around 5 inches long, using sharp pruners. It should be a section without any blooms on it, and all but a few leaves should be removed.
- Dip the cut end in powdered rooting hormone.
- Plant the cutting in a container containing a mix of vermiculite and perlite.
- Keep lightly moist until the plant cutting is rooted, which generally takes about two weeks.
- When the cutting is solidly rooted, transplant it into a permanent pot filled with potting mix augmented with sand and sphagnum moss.
How to Grow Lipstick Plants From Seed
Although it's easier to grow these plants from cuttings, it's still possible to germinate lipstick plants from seeds. They should be sown in a warm indoor location. The medium should only just cover the seeds, and they should be kept at a temperature of around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Seedlings should begin to germinate in around a fortnight.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Lipstick plants don't tend to have any major problems with pests, though occasional issues with aphids, mealybugs, and mites can occur. These are best treated with horticultural oils or by washing off the pests with water spray.
If plants are allowed to get overly wet, they can be prone to fungal problems and leaf spot. The leaves should not be left damp, and the potting medium should be well-drained.
How to Get Lipstick Plant to Bloom
This plant generally is a continuous bloomer provided its basic cultural needs are met:
- Plenty of bright indirect light, but not direct sunlight
- Proper amount of water
- Consistently warm and humid environment
- Regular feeding with diluted fertilizer
Correcting deficits in any of these requirements usually returns the plant to reliable blooming.
Can lipstick plant be grown as a landscape plant?
It's nearly impossible to grow this plant in garden soil, as it is naturally an epiphytic plant that grows in the cracks of tree bark. It is difficult for gardeners to artificially establish lipstick plants in landscape trees.
Can I move plants outdoors for the summer?
Yes, potted lipstick plants can be moved outdoors onto a patio or deck for the summer months. However, they react badly to temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. And they like humid conditions, so may resent being outdoors in arid regions, such as the Southwest.
Are there other species in the Aeschynanthus genus to consider?
The genus has more than 150 species, and in addition to A. radicans, several are cultivated as houseplants. A. humilis and A. pulcher, for example, are sometimes sold as houseplants under the common name lipstick plant or lipstick vine. They are similar to A. radicans in their characteristics and care needs.