Lipstick flowers (Aeschynanthus) are exotic plants that exude a special charm when they are in bloom.
But the plants require a little more attention because only optimal site conditions and care measures ensure year-round bloom.
Lipstick flowers represent the genus Aeschynanthus, which belongs to the family Gesneria. It includes between 140 and 185 species, which are mainly found in southern and southeastern Asia and Oceania.
Here the plants grow in the humid rainforests. Since botanists are constantly discovering new lipstick flowers or placing them in other genera, the number of species fluctuates.
In indoor culture, the species Aeschynanthus radicans and Aeschynanthus x splendidus are important.
The herbaceous or shrubby plants grow perennial and most are evergreen. Within the genus, there are two species that store water with their thickened plant parts.
The shoots are mostly drooping and only rarely erect or climbing. The shoot axis can be branched or unbranched and grow up to 24 inches (60 cm) long.
Lipstick flowers rarely grow rooted in the soil in their natural ranges. Most species are perching plants, growing on other trees or on stones and rocks.
Lipstick flowers develop opposite or verticillate leaves consisting of a stalk and a blade.
The shape of the leaf blade varies among species. There are narrow, ovate, or rounded stem leaves with wedge-shaped, rounded, or narrowed bases.
The leaves are soft-leaved or thick, downy-hairy or glabrous. Aeschynanthus longicaulis develops marbled foliage leaves with greenish-white coloration.
The flowers of the lipstick flower are solitary or in tens at the end of a shoot axis. They are hermaphroditic and consist of five funnel-shaped fused petals.
The corolla ends in two lips. The inside of the corolla is slightly hairy or glabrous. Typical for many species is the colored pattern inside the flower.
The main flowering period extends from June to September, with Aeschynanthus species developing flowers from spring through the winter months under optimal conditions.
Typically, these ornamental plants have bright red corollas and a dark purple calyx. Aeschynanthus speciosus blooms orange-red, with the interior of the flower colored orange-yellow.
After flowering, linear capsule fruits develop, protruding from the calyx. In some species, the fruits can grow to 20 inches (50 cm) long. They contain between one and 50 seeds.
Lipstick flowers are pollinated by birds. Therefore, species and varieties cultivated as houseplants develop fruit only through human intervention.
The flowering ornamental plants are used for indoor greenery. They are not suitable for cultivation outdoors.
Lipstick flowers thrive in planters that decorate winter gardens and warm houses. Their growth habit makes them optimal plants for hanging baskets.
Are Lipstick Flowers Poisonous?
There are varying claims about the toxicity of lipstick flowers. Therefore, you should cultivate the plant with caution in a child’s room or on a cat’s balcony.
While some sources present the plants as unproblematic, there are other sources that indicate mild toxicity.
What is a Suitable Location for Lipstick Flowers?
The appropriate location provides the plants with adequate light. Lipstick flowers do not tolerate direct sunlight, though.
A spot by an east or west window will not cause the plants any problems. And a few hours of sun in the morning or evening are not problematic.
Lipstick flowers require high humidity. So you should place the pot in a planter with the bottom filled with pebbles. Then pour some water into the planter.
When the water evaporates, it improves the microclimate for your lipstick flowers. In addition, you should spray the plants with water every day.
In this way, you will ensure an optimal microclimate:
- Cultivate lipstick flowers in an indoor vitrine.
- Alternatively place it in a closed flower window.
- Or grow it in a mini-greenhouse at an east or west window.
What Soil Do Lipstick Flowers Need?
It is best to plant lipstick flowers in a slightly acidic substrate with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0. You can use commercially available compost-based potting soil.
You could also use sand to improve the permeability of the substrate, as plants prefer loose and coarse-grained soil. It is also a good idea to mix in some clay-based potting soil.
Propagating Lipstick Flower
Aeschynanthus species are propagated via head and shoot cuttings, which you can prune year-round. Cut four-inch-long shoot cuttings and remove the lowest pair of foliage leaves.
In a mixture of peat and sand in equal parts, the cutting forms roots in a suitable location. It is important to keep them out of the direct sun. And you should ensure a temperature between 72 and 86 °F (22 and 30 °C).
A uniformly high air and soil moisture is the prerequisite for successful root formation. Fresh leaf sprouting indicates that roots have developed.
After one to two more weeks, you can prick the young plants out or place them in a hanging basket in groups of 10 to 15.
Lipstick Flowers in a Pot
Pots made of natural materials are ideal for cultivating lipstick flowers. It is important to use pots that have a porous structure that absorbs the watering water like clay, stone, or terracotta.
Thus, the pots provide natural regulation of soil moisture. Excess water is removed from the substrate and directed to the outside.
When it evaporates on the outside, the humidity automatically increases. The pot should have several drainage holes to prevent water from collecting at the bottom of the pot.
Lipstick Flowers On a Balcony
During the summer months, lipstick flowers enjoy an outdoor spot, as long as it is well shaded. The exotic plant does not tolerate the harsh midday sun.
Place the pot on the balcony when night temperatures no longer fall below 59 °F (15 °C). Also, continue to provide high humidity for your lipstick flowers.
Lipstick Flowers in the Greenhouse
A mini greenhouse for the windowsill ensures a warm and humid microclimate, so it is perfect for cultivating lipstick flowers. Make sure to place a small bowl on the bottom that is always filled with water.
Warm temperatures cause the water to evaporate and provide the high humidity the lipstick flower needs. Regular aeration sessions should be the order of the day so mold spores don’t have a chance to grow.
Watering Lipstick Flower
From spring through fall, lipstick flowers only have moderate water needs. Be sure to water them evenly and sparingly so that the root ball does not dry out between waterings.
When the lipstick flower is in full bloom, you should increase the amount of watering. From October to March, keep the substrate drier to stimulate bud formation.
Here are some things to watch out for when watering lipstick flowers:
- Cold water harms the plants
- Always use room-warm water for watering
- Water and spray with soft or stagnant water
- Filtered rainwater is optimal
Fertilizing Lipstick Flowers Properly
During the growing season, you can fertilize lipstick flowers every two weeks. Use a liquid complete fertilizer, which you administer weakly concentrated through the watering water.
When the plant is dormant, one or two applications of fertilizer are sufficient.
Pruning Lipstick Flowers Properly
In early spring, before the growing season begins, lipstick flowers will tolerate pruning.
Cut back shoots that have grown too long by two-thirds. Use a clean, sharp knife to cut off non-woody shoots, while you should use pruning shears for woody shoot axils.
If you do not cut back the plant, it will grow progressively more spreading. Lipstick flowers become more beautiful as the years go by.
How Do I Repot Lipstick Flowers Properly?
You should repot lipstick in early spring or in the fall after flowering. The plant is extremely sensitive to changing conditions.
If you repot just before or during the blooming season, lipstick flowers will suddenly shed their flowers.
As soon as the root ball takes up the entire pot or roots grow out of the drainage holes, the plants need a larger pot. Gently tap the root ball on a pad to loosen any substrate debris.
Also, remove any dead roots. You can prune live roots to maintain a balance between leaf mass and root ball. We recommend this measure if you want to continue using the old pot.
After repotting, protect the lipstick flower from direct sunlight for the next two to three weeks.
Wintering Lipstick Flowers
Lipstick flowers do not go dormant in a greenhouse with consistent conditions year-round. But as the light supply dwindles, growth slows noticeably.
To stimulate flower formation, keep the plant at temperatures between 54 and 59 °F (12 and 15 °C) and keep it as dry as possible.
Various pests can occur on a lipstick flower. The pests prefer to spread in winter and spring when site conditions are suboptimal. Let’s take a closer look at 3 more common pests.
Occasionally, lipstick flowers are attacked by aphids in spring and early summer.
They reproduce en masse within a short period of time because the females do not need a male partner to reproduce.
Weakened and over-fertilized plants are more frequently infested.
If you notice fine spider webs between the leaves, this indicates an infestation of spider mites.
Spider mites prefer to sit on the underside of the leaves and suck plant sap from the conducting channels near the leaf veins.
Initially, small spots are visible on the leaves. If the infestation is severe, the leaves die.
Thrips are one of the rarer pests of lipstick flowers, causing growth disturbances and leading to leaf loss.
These pests reproduce in dry and warm conditions, which often occur in winter quarters.
Aeschynanthus bracteatus: Climbing or hanging growth, leaves are up to 4 inches (10 cm) long. Flowers scarlet in color, in clusters.
Aeschynanthus longicaulis: Semi-creeping habit, leaves are 3 inches (8 cm) long and dark green. One to three flowers, orange-red. Shoots are up to 35 inches (90 cm) long.
Aeschynanthus marmoratus: Creeping perennial. Leaves are shiny green with dark marbling, reddish tinge underneath. Flowers are greenish-yellow with a brownish gorge. Shoots are up to 35 inches (90 cm) long.
Aeschynanthus radicans: Initially ascending, later overhanging shoots, woody. Leaves are dark green and glossy. Flowers bright red with cream stripes in the center. Calyx is black-red.