Lipstick plant is a beginner friendly houseplant that is often overlooked and underrated. I got both of my plants as small cuttings in trades, not because I sought it out, but because it just happened to be there and was basically free. What did I have to lose? Nothing! And I had everything to gain – a huge appreciation for this beautiful, versatile and easy to grow plant that flowers! If you don’t have a lipstick plant in your collection, I’d highly encourage you to add one.
Lipstick plant or Aeschynanthus Vine is (flowers aside) similar to hoya but without the ever increasing price tag. Admittedly, the flowers aren’t as incredible as hoya flowers but they bloom more reliably and I find them to be quite amusing little blossoms. They look like singing mouths with a pair of buck teeth – like something out of Alice in Wonderland. I’m always up for a bit of whimsy and Lipstick plant has it in spades.
Lipstick plant varieties
There are a number of interesting varieties of Aeschynanthus Vine or Lipstick plant including:
Tangerine (yellow flowers)
Variegated – standard and small leaved types
I currently have two varieties but I’d really love to add another – the curly leaved types are really interesting and are a good dupe for hoya compacta which is expensive and a slow grower. I’m also a fan of variegated plants so I’d love to add one of those as well. The ones I have are shown below:
Flowers can vary between varieties and while the foliage steals the show on the Black Pagoda lipstick plant, the flowers on the standard red varieties are quite nice. Foliage on the Radicans is a shiny smooth green leaf with a bit of fuzz.
General Lipstick Plant Care Tips
Light: As with most flowering plants, lipstick plants do require a good amount of light but don’t worry, they don’t need to be right in a window. Mine are about 6-8 feet from our patio doors which are west facing. Do take care that they aren’t in scorching sun – they will burn. East or western facing exposure (in North America) where the plant can get some sun for a portion of the day are ideal. Avoid low light spaces for this plant. If your plant is not blooming, try giving it just a bit more light.
Water: Lipstick plants are epiphytic and unlike other vines that climb up – lipstick plant would prefer to snuggle in a tree and dangle down. They are pollinated by sunbirds which tells us that they have no need to be growing on the ground. Because of this, a lipstick plant in nature would be watered by rain that would drench the bark and leaf litter the plant grows in, soaking the roots and draining quickly away. This is not a plant that would like to be growing in moisture heavy areas like bogs or riversides. Water your domesticated lipstick plant in the same way – thoroughly, and then let it drain and dry before you water it again. I water mine when the leaves look like the skin of a green pepper that’s been too long in the fridge.
Soil: As described above, lipstick plants grow in and on trees where roots are finding shallow places full of leaf litter and bark to grow. Make sure your soil is well draining and all will be well. Avoid peat heavy mixes that compact as they dry. Mine are planted with chunks of orchid bark and stone, potting soil, perlite and worm castings. Another thing to note is that my plants have been in small pots for quite sometime. Avoid the temptation to increase their pot size too quickly.
Humidity: While Aeschynanthus are sub tropical and tropical plants, that would normally find themselves in humid locations, I find they do just fine in standard household humidity. Our house is typically 40-50% relative humidity and there are no issues with these plants.
Fertilizer: Being a plant that is pollinated by birds, it would be safe to say that they are also fertilized by birds. Seeing as I don’t currently have birds fertilizing my plants (what a shame! haha) I use an organic fish based fertilizer with a nutrient balance of 2-1-3 during periods of growth and so far that has been sufficient enough for the lipstick plant to bloom and grow.
Pruning and propagation: This plant will not require pruning unless you wish to remove damaged or dying growth. New vines will grow from the base of the plant and as such, the growth pattern is quite pleasing and will naturally fill out with little intervention required. Propagation is fast and easy in water. Just trim the lower leaves from your cutting and place that node in water – it will root easily from there. Plant in soil when roots are approx 2-3″ in length. Water new propagations often for the first few weeks, then adjust to let dry between waterings.
Pests: I have not had any pest problems on this plant, however, if you get one, it would likely be a mealy bug or scale.
Toxicity: Lipstick plants are safe for cats and dogs yay! Please remember that reactions can occur even with ‘safe’ plants. Pets or people should generally be prohibited from chewing on plants. Review Plants safe for Cats if you’re looking for more non-toxic houseplants.
I really believe lipstick plants are fantastic for both beginners or experienced houseplant growers. Newbies will enjoy their easy care and blooms while seasoned plant collectors will enjoy the variation between varieties and the versatility in display options within their collections. With leaves as wild as these, why wouldn’t you want a Lipstick plant?