How to grow and care for a lipstick plant

Lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus) in flower. Getty Images

Lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus radicans) is a popular house plant with an almost constant display of bright red, tubular flowers, that resemble lipsticks, against trailing, green foliage. Native to the rainforests of South East Asia, Aeschynanthus is an epiphytic plant, which means it doesn’t grow in the ground but instead is found hanging from tree branches, where it gets its moisture from rain water vapour. As a house plant in the UK, it grows well in a free-draining, peat-free potting mix.

Lipstick plant thrives best in bright but indirect sunlight, in a warm, humid environment.

How to grow lipstick plant

Grow lipstick plant in a warm, humid environment, such as a bathroom, with bright but indirect sunlight. Water regularly but allow the water to completely drain from the pot and never leave its roots standing in water. Mist regularly to increase humidity. Feed weekly or fortnightly during spring and summer, and repot only when its roots have outgrown its container. Aeschynanthus can be propagated by stem cuttings.


Where to grow lipstick plant

Lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus) in a hanging pot. Getty Images
Lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus) in a hanging pot. Getty Images

Grow lipstick plant in a warm, humid environment, such as a bathroom, where it receives bright but indirect sunlight, such as near a north-facing window. However, ensure that it doesn’t sit too close to the window as it can suffer with temperature fluctuations, particularly in winter. Lipstick plant is not hardy and does best in temperatures around 25ºC but can cope with low temperatures down to 15ºC. Likewise, draughty spots, such as next to a fireplace or door, are not advised, as this can cause leaf drop.

Unlike many epiphytes, which climb, lipstick plant is a trailing plant and works well grown in a hanging pot or shelf, where its leaves and flowers can cascade to beautiful effect, as they would in the rainforest. It typically flowers from spring to summer but, with the right conditions, can produce blooms all year round.


How to plant lipstick plant

Plant lipstick plant into a very free-draining potting mix, comprising peat-free house plant compost and added sand or perlite. Heavy potting soil can lead to root rot.


How to care for lipstick plant

Close up of leaves of lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus). Getty Images
Close up of leaves of lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus). Getty Images

Water regularly, ensuring the compost never completely dries out, but always allow the water to completely drain from the plant – never allow the roots to sit in water. In drier rooms, mist regularly to emulate its natural rainforest environment.

Feed with a general purpose fertiliser once or twice a month, during the growing season.

Repot only when the plant has outgrown its pot, planting into fresh, peat-free house plant compost with added sand or perlite, to aid drainage. Repot before or after the main flowering period (spring to summer).

To encourage your lipstick plant to produce more flowers, encourage fresh new growth by pruning stems back to around 15-20cm, after flowering. Feeding with a house plant fertiliser in spring and summer, will also encourage the production of more flowers.


How to propagate lipstick plant

Propagating lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus) from cuttings. Jason Ingram
Propagating lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus) from cuttings. Jason Ingram

Lipstick plant is easily propagated from cuttings. Simply trim a few 10-12cm sections from non-flowering stems, using sharp scissors or secateurs. Remove a few of the lower leaves of each section and then leave them to one side for a couple of days to let them dry out and callous over. Then, either pop them into a soil-less potting mix (for example a mix of perlite and vermiculite or sharp sand), or place them over damp moss. Keep the cuttings moist by misting them regularly.

Once the cuttings have rooted (a process that can take a fortnight), pot them up individually into free-draining, peat-free compost. Water well but allow the water to completely drain.


Pests and diseases

Lipstick plant is relatively trouble-free although may attract aphids, mealybugs and red spider mite.  These are best washed or picked off – red spider mite thrives in dry conditions so increase humidity by spraying the plant, to stop it breeding.

Fungal problems, including yellowing of the leaves and leaf spot, can occur if the plant is over-watered. To remedy this, ensure the potting medium is free-draining and never leave the roots sitting in water.

Advice on buying lipstick plant

  • There’s a variety of Aeschynanthus plants to choose from, offering different shaped leaves and growing habits
  • Ensure you have the right growing conditions for lipstick plant before buying, as the plant can suffer if grown in too much sun, in cool or draughty spots
  • Always check plants for signs of damage, pests or diseases, before planting

Where to buy Aeschynanthus online


Varieties of lipstick plant to grow

Lipstick plant in full flower. Getty Images
Lipstick plant in full flower. Getty Images

Aeschynanthus radicans ‘Twister’– curled, glossy leaves leaves make this variety particularly attractive. Height x Spread: 60cm x 60cm

Aeschynanthus radicans ‘Mona Lisa’ – flowers are more of an orange-red than the species. H x S: 45cm x 40cm

Aeschynanthus japhrolepis – this species has leathery green leaves and pink-red flowers. H x S: 60cm x 40cm

Aeschynanthus radicans ‘Rasta’ – unusually curled leaves with most flowers produced in late summer. H x S: 60cm x 40cm

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Composting

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