Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.
I grew up in a house full of houseplants. One of my favorites was the lipstick plant. It gets its name from its flowers which look like lipstick emerging from a tube.
What is Lipstick Plant?
Lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus spp.) is a genus of tropical plants that are related to African violets. They are native to Indonesia and Malaysia. The species most commonly grown as a houseplant is A. radicans which grows as a vine and is the one that I know.
In their native lands, they grow as epiphytes or what we call air plants. They don’t grow in soil. Instead, they attach themselves to trees or rocks.
Their leaves are dark green and shaped like ovals. Their most distinctive feature is their flowers. They are brightly colored, red, pink, purple, yellow or orange and strongly scented. They are cylindrical and grow out of tubes like a lipstick. Sunbirds, which are native to Southeast Asia, find them irresistible. Here in the US, if you put your lipstick plant outdoors during the summer, you will attract hummingbirds.
How to Grow Lipstick Plant
Lipstick plants are hardy in zones 10 – 12 so here in the US we grow them as houseplants. Indoors, they are happiest in a temperature range of 65⁰F - 85⁰F. If you want to move your plants outdoors during the summer, you can do so when the nighttime temperatures are consistently above 60⁰F. In the fall, they will need to be moved back indoors when the nighttime temperatures drop to 60⁰F.
When grown indoors as a houseplant, lipstick plants like bright indirect light. Don’t place it on a sunny windowsill. The leaves will burn. Instead, try a north facing window which doesn’t get direct sunlight.
Even though they don’t grow in soil naturally, we can grow them in well-draining potting soil in our homes. Try adding some extra perlite to make the soil lighter and drain better. Your aim is to provide soil that can keep the plant roots moist without being soggy.
Water enough so that the soil is moist, then don’t water again until the top ½ inch of soil is dry. During the spring and the summer, mist your plant lightly each day to provide extra humidity.
Fertilize with a liquid houseplant fertilizer that has a ratio of 3-1-2. If you can only find 9-3-6, dilute it to half strength. Fertilize once a month in the spring and the summer. Avoid using fertilizer in the fall and the winter when the plants are resting.
How to Prune a Lipstick Plant
If you are growing a vining lipstick plant, you will need to prune it to keep it from getting too leggy. You can either pinch the ends to make it bushier or prune the stems back to 6 inches long after your plant blooms.
To pinch the ends, just cut off the growing tips or ends of each stem using pruners or even just your fingers. To use your fingers, squeeze the tip of the plant between two fingers until it breaks off. That’s why it’s called pinching!
When you pinch the ends, you are removing the growing tip of the stem. The plant will react to that by growing 2 or more new growing tips which will produce 2 or more new stems. So what you end up with is a plant with many bushy stems instead of a few scraggly stems. A bushy plant is healthier than a scraggly one.
Whether you prune or pinch, only do it after your plant has bloomed because the buds for each year’s flowers form the year before. If you prune before your plant blooms, you risk cutting off the buds resulting in fewer or no flowers.
How to Grow a Lipstick Plant From a Cutting
The easiest way to propagate a lipstick plant is through cuttings. In the spring, choose a stem with new growth and make a cutting about 4 inches long. To hasten root formation, you can dip the stem into some rooting hormone. Gently push the cut end of your cutting about 2 inches into a container filled with pre-moistened soil. Cover the container and cutting with a plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse and put it in a room with bright indirect light such as a north facing window.
It will take 4 – 6 weeks for your cutting to start growing roots. You will know that it is growing roots when you see new leaves. Plants without roots cannot grow new foliage.
© 2020 Caren White
Caren White (author) on July 27, 2020:
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Lipstick plant is one of my favorite houseplants.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 26, 2020:
The flowers of lipstick plants look very attractive. I love their colors.Thank you for sharing the information about the plants, Caren.
Caren White (author) on July 26, 2020:
Thank you! Pruning is always a challenge.
Caren White (author) on July 26, 2020:
That's wonderful to grow veggies on a window sill.
Abby Slutsky from America on July 25, 2020:
Your pruning tips were especially helpful, although I rarely grow anything but artificial (and even that sometimes dies). This plant looks like a lovely addition for the house though.
Danny from India on July 25, 2020:
Caren, you have touched the topic which I like the most. I love African Violets. And anything related to it is appreciated. Lipstick plants are amazing. I am a part-time gardener, and I grow veggies on my window sill.