Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus radicans)

Lipstick Plant, Lipstick Vine

When covered in an elaborate display of its scarlet flowers, it’s easy to see why Aeschynanthus radicans gets its common name Lipstick Plant. Provided proper growing conditions and care, this easy-to-grow houseplant will grace indoor spaces with its robust growth and colorful blooms for years to come. We have outlined a quick summary of Lipstick Plant care below.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Aeschynanthus radicans is a vine-like plant native to the humid tropics of the Malay Peninsula south to Java.

It is an epiphyte or lithophyte growing to 1.5 m tall, with leathery, green leaves that are 4–8 cm long, ovate to lanceolate, opposite or whorled. The flowers are terminal, tubular, 5–7.5 cm long, with the upper lobes shorter than the lower. They are usually scarlet with yellow throats.

The common name lipstick plant, shared with other plants of the genus Aeschynanthus, comes from the scarlet flowers that open from buds resembling tubes of lipstick.

This plant is noted for its excellence as an interior plant and is perfect for hanging baskets. It requires a great deal of light, but not direct sunlight. Humidity is also noted as having an important positive effect. Clipping the plant makes it fuller. New plants may be started in water from clippings. This particular plant is also distinctive due to its pungent smell.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

To promote the best production of blooms, it’s imperative to place the Lipstick Plant in an indoor location receiving bright indirect light. However, do not place it in a location where the plant receives direct sunlight or the foliage can burn.

If your Lipstick Plant is failing to bloom and the stems are long and scraggly looking, more than likely the plant isn’t receiving adequate light.

Once the weather warms in springtime, if you want to allow your Lipstick Plant to have a bit of a break from indoor growth, you can set it outside in a partially shady location. The direct rays of the sun are stronger outdoors than when they are filtered through a window coming indoors, so just be sure not to place it in a location that’s too sunny or you will end up with fried leaves.

Temperature and Humidity

Twisted lipstick plants prefer tropical conditions with ample warmth and humidity. However, they adapt well to household conditions provided temperatures remain above 65°F during the day and do not regularly drop below 60°F at night.

If humidity is too low, twisted lipstick plants may develop browning leaf edges and leaf and flower drop, leaving stems bare. Locating plants in more humid areas of the house such as the kitchen and bathroom will help to maintain humidity. You can also place a humidifier nearby.

Watering

Although lipstick plants 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.

Soil

In their native damp and tropical regions, these plants typically grow in an almost soil-free environment often rooting onto branches or rock crevices. Heavy potting soil can cause root rot to develop.

Potted lipstick plants 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 to help ensure good drainage, prevent over-compaction, and promote absorbency.

Fertilizing

As epiphytes, your twisted lipstick plant will not require large amounts of fertilizer. However, your plant will benefit from a little fertilizer while actively growing or flowering. Use a houseplant fertilizer at half strength or an organic fertilizer such as fish or kelp emulsion every third watering.

Pruning

To promote bushier growth, you can prune back the long stems on your Lipstick Plant, cutting off about a third. This keeps the plant from becoming leggy and looking straggly. It’s best to wait until after the blooming has finished before pruning.

In addition, since the flowers form at the leaf tips, pruning will create more blooms for you to enjoy. A pair of scissors or hand pruners will work well and always cut right above a leaf node.

Always make sure the blades of your pruning tools are clean so you don’t transfer disease to your Lipstick Plant. Wiping the blades off with rubbing alcohol does the trick.

Propagation

These plants are easy to propagate from soft stem cuttings at any time of year. Here’s how to do it:

  • Look for healthy, new growth and cut a piece around five 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 the container 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. 

Grow from Seed

Although it’s easier to grow these plants from cuttings, it’s still possible to germinate lipstick plants from seed. Sow plants in a seed starting mix. The medium should only lightly cover the seeds. Keep the container at a temperature of around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Seedlings should begin to germinate in around two weeks.

Pests and Diseases

Common Disease

The fungal problem Botrytis blight (Botrytis cinerea) is the biggest disease problem affecting Lipstick Plants grown as houseplants. The problem rears its ugly head through black spots and lesions appearing on the foliage or the entire stem.

Conditions are worse when nighttime temperatures are cool and daytime temperatures are warm, and the plant is receiving a high level of moisture. It is worse during the winter months.

You can prevent the problem by reducing the amount of moisture the plant is receiving through either watering or misting for humidity. When you mist the Lipstick vine, make sure to do it during the daytime so the foliage has time to completely dry by night. In severe cases, you can spray the entire plant using a fungicide like copper.

Common Pest

Several pests can infest an indoor grown Lipstick Plant. It is always best to catch and treat the problem early, so be sure to inspect your plant each time you water. This also prevents the pests traveling to your other indoor plants.

With all these pests, if the infestation is small you can wipe them off the plant using a damp cloth. In the case of larger infestations, you can spray the entire plant using an insecticidal soap or neem. Follow the package direction on amounts and frequency of use.

  • Mealybugs: Mealybugs show up on the plant as large cottony masses on the stems or their crotches. The bugs suck the juices from the Lipstick Plant so quick action is required to prevent damage.
  • Aphids: Aphids are small and pear-shaped and come in a range of different colors. They congregate in masses along the Lipstick Plant’s stems and flower buds. They too suck juices from the plant, damaging it.
  • Spider Mites: Spider mites are tiny mites that spin webs covering the Lipstick Plant and suck juices from it. They are probably the most damaging because they can quickly damage or kill the plant if left untreated. Read about the best ways to get rid of spider mites in your houseplants.

If you notice a pest problem with your Aeschynanthus Radicans, be sure to check your other indoor plants to make sure they haven’t traveled elsewhere.

Potting and Repotting

The only time you will need to repot your Lipstick Plant is if it has outgrown its current pot and the roots are filling the bottom. Use a container that is one size larger than the present one and repotting is best done while your Aeschynanthus is actively growing in spring through summer.

The steps to repotting your Lipstick Plant are basic:

  • Prepare the new container by filling it about a quarter full of a fertile, lightweight potting mix that drains well. Water the soil to help settle it. Make sure the container has bottom drainage.
  • Carefully remove the Lipstick Plant from its present container and inspect the roots for wrapping. Gently tease any wrapping roots apart, if needed.
  • Set the Lipstick Plant in the new container, adding or removing soil so it will be growing at the same height it is presently. You do not want to plant too deep or problems with rot can occur.
  • Fill the remainder of the container up with soil, firming it up around the Lipstick Plant.
  • Water the container again and until it runs from the bottom drains hole. Place the Lipstick Plant back where it was previously growing indoors.

Your Lipstick Plant isn’t fussy about the pot’s material, but if the container is made from a porous material like terracotta, the soil will dry out faster than in a plastic pot.

III. Types of Lipstick Plants

  • Lipstick Vine

A cousin of the twisted lipstick plant, lipstick vine (Aeschynanthus pulcher) also produces red flowers. 

  • Basket Vine

Another plant that is often confused with the lipstick plant while not in bloom, the basket vine (Aeschynanthus speciosus) produces long, trailing stems, but with bright orange flowers that fade to yellow and green at their base.

  • Variegated Lipstick Plant

This plant looks identical in all aspects to the straight species, but the leaves of variegated lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus radicans ‘Variegata’) are mottled white and cream.

  • Curly Lipstick Plant

This variety of lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus radicans ‘Curly’) is often confused with the twisted lipstick plant, but instead of producing contorted leaves, this cultivar produces gently curled leaves giving it a tidier appearance.

III. Uses and Benefits 

Lipstick plant is widely grown as a popular indoor houseplant as the flowering plant is known for its attractive flowers and glossy foliage. If you are keeping the lipstick plant inside your living room or any other indoor area, make sure there is no direct sunlight as leaves may scorch, causing them to drop and lead to poor display of flowers. Make sure the area gets bright but filtered light. Do not place them close to windows as they may get direct sunlight. Also, when keeping lipstick plants indoors, make sure the area has humidity high levels. 

Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus radicans) Details

Common name Lipstick Plant, Lipstick Vine
Botanical name Aeschynanthus radicans
Plant type Epiphyte
Hardiness zone 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
Growth rate Medium
Sunlight Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
Soil condition High Organic Matter
Flower color Red/Burgundy
Leaf color Green