The world of plants is incredibly diverse, with countless species that captivate us with their unique features. One such plant is the lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus). With its evergreen foliage, thick leaves, and stunning flowers, the lipstick plant adds a touch of decorative flair to any space. In this article, we will explore the origins, properties, and care tips for this tropical indoor plant, as well as delve into some of the most beautiful Aeschynanthus species and varieties.
- Lipstick Plant: Origins and Exquisite Features
- The Most Exquisite Aeschynanthus Species and Varieties
- Planting: A Home for Your Lipstick Plant
- Aeschynanthus Care: Embracing Tropical Conditions
- Propagating Lipstick Plants
- Are Lipstick Plants Poisonous?
Lipstick Plant: Origins and Exquisite Features
Named after its distinct red flowers that resemble lipstick emerging from a tube, the lipstick plant is also known as the red bugle vine or scarlet basket vine. Native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia, this plant typically grows as an epiphyte on other trees, forming vines that can reach up to 3 meters in length. However, numerous species have become popular houseplants due to their captivating charm.
The evergreen, thick, and pointed oval leaves of lipstick plants create a lush green curtain, setting the stage for the vibrant display of red, yellow, or orange flowers that bloom from June to September. It’s important to note that lipstick plants belong to the Gesneriaceae family, with approximately 185 species, each varying in characteristics and requirements. Therefore, we will focus solely on lipstick plant varieties that can be grown as ornamental plants.
The Most Exquisite Aeschynanthus Species and Varieties
The United Kingdom is fortunate to have a wide range of Aeschynanthus species available. Let’s explore some of the most popular varieties:
- Aeschynanthus radicans: This well-known species boasts different varieties, such as ‘Rasta’ and ‘Variegata.’ With dark green, thick leaves and bright red flowers, it’s no wonder this variety is commonly referred to as the lipstick plant.
The flowers of A. radicans are an excellent example of how the lipstick plant got its name.
- Aeschynanthus pulcher (syn. Aeschynanthus lobbianus): Another classic lipstick plant, it showcases dark green leaves and deep red flowers emerging from brown calyxes. Variations within this species include ‘Twister,’ which features unique curled leaves.
The leaves of Aeschynanthus pulcher ‘Twister’ twist into a roll.
Aeschynanthus marmoratus (syn. Aeschynanthus longicaulis): This unusual species, native to Vietnam, stands out with marbled leaves in various shades of green on the upper side and brown-purple marbling on the underside. Its long trailing stems bear clusters of orange flowers from summer to early winter.
Aeschynanthus speciosus: This flowering basket plant, typical of hanging Aeschynanthus species, boasts dark green vines that can reach up to 60 cm in length. Its flowers vary in colors from bright orange to scarlet. A popular variety is the ‘Mona Lisa,’ featuring deep red flowers.
The flowers of Aeschynanthus speciosus are often bright orange.
- Aeschynanthus japhrolepis: With trailing stems that can grow up to 1.20 meters in length, this species displays narrow, rich green leaves. From June to September, it delights with salmon-pink to red-orange flowers.
There are many beautiful species to choose from when selecting a lipstick plant.
Planting: A Home for Your Lipstick Plant
To thrive, lipstick plants require warm and humid conditions, replicating their native habitat. Keeping the temperature above 20 °C during summer is crucial. While these plants prefer bright environments, direct sun exposure should be avoided. A bright bathroom, for example, offers an ideal location.
When it comes to planting, autumn or spring is the best time for repotting. Choose a loose and slightly acidic planting substrate that allows water to drain easily, similar to orchid soil. You can create your own mixture by combining Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, expanded clay, and pine bark in equal parts. This not only meets Aeschynanthus’ needs but also avoids the use of peat.
The ideal location for lipstick plants is bright but not in full sun.
For maintaining the necessary high humidity, you can place the plant in a container filled with pebbles and water, allowing the water to evaporate and create the desired environment.
Aeschynanthus Care: Embracing Tropical Conditions
Caring for Aeschynanthus involves replicating the tropical conditions it thrives in.
Watering, Pruning, and Fertilizing
Proper watering is crucial for lipstick plants. They need to be kept moist but not waterlogged. It’s best to water them frequently but in small amounts. After watering, ensure any excess water is removed from the saucer or planter. Ideally, use lukewarm and low-lime water for watering, and you can also spray the plant regularly to mimic tropical conditions and prevent certain pests.
When caring for tropical lipstick plants, keep them in a humid environment.
Pruning is generally not required for lipstick plants. However, if some stems become overly long or bare, it’s advisable to cut them back in spring, leaving approximately one-third of the stem. Remove any old or dead stems as well.
During the growing season (March to August), moderate fertilization every two weeks is beneficial. Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food promotes healthy growth and leaf formation.
Troubleshooting: Addressing Leaf Loss
If your lipstick plant begins losing leaves, there might be several factors contributing to this issue. Fluctuating temperatures, changes in soil moisture, inadequate light, low humidity, improper substrate with poor water drainage, or waterlogging leading to root rot can all play a role. Counteracting these factors involves adjusting the plant’s environment, such as moving it to a brighter location or increasing humidity by regularly spraying lukewarm, low-lime water or using the pebble and water-filled saucer technique.
If the lipstick plant loses leaves, it indicates poor living conditions.
For overwintering, you have two options. You can either maintain warm and adequately bright conditions throughout the year or keep the plant in cooler conditions with reduced watering during winter. A temperature of around 16 °C induces a dormant phase, often resulting in increased flowering the following year. If a conservatory or similar space is not available, cool overwintering is preferable to prevent the lack of light when kept in a warm place.
Propagating Lipstick Plants
Aeschynanthus lipstick plants can be propagated year-round, with cuttings being the easiest method. Unlike some plants, lipstick flowers do not produce seeds when grown as houseplants since they rely on bird pollination in their natural habitats. Here’s how you can propagate lipstick plants through cuttings:
- Fill 10 cm diameter pots with a loose and low-nutrient substrate like Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost.
- Take cuttings of 10 to 15 cm length, cutting diagonally below a leaf node. Remove lower leaves and place up to three cuttings in the same pot, ensuring they are at least 5 cm deep.
- Thoroughly water the substrate and cover the pot with a plastic bag to maintain constant high humidity.
- Place the cuttings in a warm and bright location with temperatures around 23 °C. Keep the soil slightly moist at all times.
- As soft cuttings are prone to fungal diseases, remove the plastic bag daily to allow ventilation.
- Once new shoots appear, indicating root growth, the young plants can be transplanted into their permanent pots. Planting 7 to 10 plants together creates a fuller, bushier appearance. For planting instructions, refer to the previous section.
Once the first new shoots grow, the young plants can be transplanted to their final home.
Are Lipstick Plants Poisonous?
Lipstick plants are mildly poisonous, meaning they offer no health benefits when consumed. However, they are generally considered non-toxic for cats. To ensure safety, it’s best to keep these plants out of the reach of children and pets.
For safety, hang the lipstick plant out of reach of children.
The elegant and vibrant presence of the lipstick plant brings joy to any indoor space. By understanding its origins, exploring different varieties, and providing the necessary care, you can enjoy the beauty of this tropical gem. Remember to create the ideal environment, water carefully, and propagate as desired. With these insights and tips, you can embark on a captivating journey with the mesmerizing lipstick plant.
For further information and to explore more indoor plant options, visit the Ames Farm Center, where you can find a wide selection of plants to enhance your living space.
Like the lipstick plant, medinilla is an indoor plant with extraordinary flowering. Find out more about Medinilla magnifica and how to care for it.