Lipstick plant: care, propagation & the best Aeschynanthus species

Verena
Verena
Verena
Verena

I grew up on a small, organic family farm and after a gap year spent working on an American ranch, I started studying agricultural science. Soil, organic farming practices, and plant science are what I am most drawn to. At home, when I'm not in our garden, you can find me in the kitchen, cooking and baking with our harvested fruits and vegetables.

Favorite fruit: Even if a bit boring - apples
Favorite vegetables: Bell peppers, red beets, zucchini, white cabbage

The lipstick plant requires a bit of care, but has lovely decorative flair thanks to its evergreen, thick leaves and unique flowers.

Hanging foliage of lipstick plant
Lipstick plants look best in hanging pots [Photo: ellinnur bakarudin/ Shutterstock.com]

The lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus) is very decorative with its evergreen foliage and beautiful flowers that bloom every year. It makes an excellent hanging plant as it thrives in warm, humid environments. However, there are a few things to bear in mind when caring for it, so that you can enjoy your lipstick flowers for as long as possible. Read on to find out everything about this tropical indoor plant, including how to care for Aeschynanthus as well as how to propagate it.

Lipstick plant: origin and properties

The lipstick plant is named after its unique red flowers, which resemble lipstick emerging from a tube. It is sometimes called red bugle vine or scarlet basket vine. The lipstick plant is native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia, where it usually grows as an epiphyte on other trees and forms vines up to 3 metres long. However, some species have become popular houseplants. Lipstick flower plants captivate with their evergreen, thick and pointed oval leaves that form a green curtain, and red, yellow or orange flowers that bloom from June to September.

By the way: Lipstick plants are a genus within the Gesneriaceae family, with an estimated 185 species that vary greatly in their characteristics and requirements. As a result, this article only discusses lipstick plant varieties that can be grown as ornamental plants here.

Lipstick plant flowers on branch
In nature, lipstick plants are mostly found as epiphytes on other plants [Photo: NIRUN NUNMEESRI/ Shutterstock.com]

The most beautiful Aeschynanthus species and varieties

Among the approximately 185 different species, there is a wide range available here in the UK. We have compiled a list of the most popular Aeschynanthus species. All of these grow epiphytically in nature, that is, as non-parasitic epiphytic plants on other plants, and prefer bright environments.

Aeschynanthus radicans: This is one of the better known species, so it is easy to find different varieties, for example Aeschynanthus radicans ‘Rasta’ or Aeschynanthus radicans ‘Variegata’. Most varieties have dark green, thick leaves and bright red flowers giving the lipstick plant its common name.

Red lipstick flowers
The flowers of A. radicans are an excellent example of how the lipstick plant got its name [Photo: kttpngart/ Shutterstock.com]

Aeschynanthus pulcher (syn. Aeschynanthus lobbianus): This species is also a typical lipstick plant with its dark green leaves and deep red flowers that emerge from brown calyxes like lipsticks. Nevertheless, there are also great variations within this variety. For example, Aeschynanthus pulcher ‘Twister’ has unique curled leaves.

Curled leaves of twister Aeschynathus
The leaves of Aeschynanthus pulcher ‘Twister’ twist into a roll [Photo: Stanislav71/ Shutterstock.com]

Aeschynanthus marmoratus (syn. Aeschynanthus longicaulis): The long-stemmed basket plant is an unusual Aeschynanthus species that is native to Vietnam. It is distinguished by its leaves, which are marbled on the upper side in various shades of green. The marbling on the underside is brown-purple. Its leaves grow on trailing stems that bear clusters of orange flowers from summer to early winter.

Aeschynanthus speciosus: This is a flowering basket plant, typical of the hanging Aeschynanthus species. Its vines can reach up to 60 cm in length and have dark green leaves that are up to 10 cm long. Its flowers vary in colours from bright orange to scarlet. A particularly popular variety of this species of lipstick plant is Aeschynanthus speciosus ‘Mona Lisa’ with deep red flowers.

Bright red and orange lipstick flowers
The flowers of Aeschynanthus speciosus are often bright orange [Photo: Nick Pecker/ Shutterstock.com]

Aeschynanthus japhrolepis: The trailing stems of Aeschynanthus japhrolepis can reach a length of up to 1.20 metres and are adorned with narrow, rich green leaves. From June to September, this species delights with salmon-pink to red-orange flowers.

Lipstick plant bright red-orange flowers
There are many beautiful species to choose from when choosing a lipstick plant [Photo: Svetlana Mahovskaya/ Shutterstock.com]

Planting: location and soil

Due to their native habitat, lipstick plants thrive in warm and humid conditions. In summer, it is important that temperatures do not fall below 20 °C. Keep your lipstick plants in a bright place, but not in full sunshine. For example, a bright bathroom is ideal. Lipstick plants can be sensitive to changes in location or repotting at the wrong time, resulting in the loss of flower buds. As a result, it is best to repot them in either autumn or spring. Always use a particularly loose and slightly acidic planting substrate so that water can drain away easily, and the pot must have drainage holes. As all of the species presented here are naturally epiphytes, they require a substrate similar to that of orchids.

Trailing stems of lipstick plant
The ideal location for lipstick plants is bright but not in full sun [Photo: ellinnur bakarudin/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Keep the plant in a container filled with pebbles and water. The water evaporating in this manner provides the required high humidity.

Aeschynanthus care

As lipstick plants naturally grow in tropical climates, growing them indoors is a difficult task. The aim of caring for Aeschynanthus is to replicate these tropical conditions as closely as possible.

Watering, pruning and fertilising 

Watering lipstick plants properly requires some attention because the plants need to be kept moist, but never left sitting in water. This means watering frequently but in small amounts. Always remove leftover water in the saucer or planter 15 minutes after watering. Use lukewarm and, if possible, low-lime water for watering. To replicate tropical conditions, you can also spray the plant regularly with lukewarm water.

Tip: Spraying the lipstick plant regularly with water also helps to prevent some pests.

Red lipstick flowers
When caring for tropical lipstick plants, keep them in a humid environment [Photo: Yanawut.S/ Shutterstock.com]

As a rule of thumb, lipstick plants do not need pruning. However, if some stems have become too long or bare, cut them back in spring. To do this, use a sharp knife or secateurs, leaving one third of the stem on the plant. Remove any old, dead stems as well.

During the growing season from March until August, lipstick plants benefit from a moderate fertilisation once a fortnight. Our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food is ideal for this as it promotes healthy growth and leaf formation.

Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food
Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food

Liquid fertiliser with an NK ratio of 3-4, for all houseplants, promotes healthy plant growth, child & pet friendly

What to do if your lipstick plant is losing leaves?

Reasons for why Aeschynanthus plants lose their leaves include:

  • Fluctuating temperatures or soil moisture
  • Location is too dark
  • Change of location
  • Too little humidity
  • Incorrect substrate and poor water drainage, causing waterlogging and root rot

If one of these applies to your plant, try to counteract it, for example, by moving the plant to a brighter place. If the humidity is too low, spray the plant regularly with lukewarm, low-lime water or place it on a saucer filled with pebbles and water. As the water evaporates, the humidity around the plant rises as well.

Lipstick plant flowers & leaves
If the lipstick plant loses leaves, this indicates poor living conditions [Photo: Cheng Wie/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: There are two ways to overwinter lipstick plants. They are either grown in warm and sufficiently bright conditions all year round or they are kept in cooler conditions and watered less frequently in the winter months. At around 16 °C the plant goes into a dormant phase, which usually results in increased flowering the following year. If you do not have a conservatory or similar, cool overwintering is preferable, as the plants often lack light if they are kept in a warm place over winter.

Propagating lipstick plants

Aeschynanthus lipstick plants can be propagated all year round. The easiest way is via cuttings. In nature, lipstick flowers are usually fertilised by birds, which is why they do not produce seeds as houseplants.

Propagate lipstick plants via cuttings

  • Fill 10 cm diameter pots with low nutrient and loose substrate.
  • Remove the lower leaves, cut the cutting (10 to 15 cm) diagonally below a leaf node and place up to three lipstick plant cuttings at least 5 cm deep in the same pot.
  • Water the substrate well and then cover the pot with a plastic bag to ensure constant high humidity.
  • Place the cuttings in a bright and, above all, warm place with temperatures of 23 °C. Keep the soil slightly moist at all times.
  • As soft cuttings are more susceptible to fungal disease, remove the plastic bag daily to air them.
  • When the first new shoots appear, it usually means that roots have grown. The new plants can then be moved into their final pot. Put 7 to 10 plants in one container to create a bushy shape. You can find more information about planting Aeschynanthus in the section above.
Young lipstick plant in a pot
Once the first new shoots grow, the young plants can be transplanted to their final home [Photo: Gheorghe Mindru/ Shutterstock.com]

Are lipstick plants poisonous?

Lipstick plants are mildly poisonous. Basically, as with most houseplants, eating it has no health benefits. For cats, lipstick plants are rather non-toxic. If you still want to be on the safe side, simply put your plant out of the reach of children and pets.

Lipstick plant vines with flowers
For safety, hang the lipstick plant out of reach of children [Photo: ellinnur bakarudin/ Shutterstock.com]

Like the lipstick plant, medinilla is an indoor plant with extraordinary flowering. Find out more about Medinilla magnifica and how to care for it.

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