Lipstick plant care is easy, and there are many different beautiful varieties of lipstick plants to choose from. Here’s everything you need to know!
Lipstick plant care
I’ve recently started getting really into lipstick plants. I love how they have such thick, succulent-like leaves. Some varieties climb, while others bunch and trail. Some even have curly leaves that remind me of the more rare hoya rope plants. They are pretty versatile—and their lovely vines can grow multiple feet long.
The scientific name for a lipstick plant is aeschynanthus (genus) radicans (species). The genus aeschynanthus has about 150 different species of evergreen subtropical and tropical plants—generally they are trailing plants with bright flowers. The common name “lipstick plant” comes from the fact that the buds look like lipstick before they bloom.
Different lipstick plant varieties
Although there are well over 100 different species of lipstick plants, there are a few that you’ll mostly commonly encounter at your local nursery. I have three different varieties, and all were labeled as just “lipstick plant,” so I have done a bunch of research on which versions I likely have.
Aeschynanthus radicans Mona Lisa: This is the first lipstick plant variety I got (I think). I got mine as a teeny tiny $2.99 terrarium plant, and it has tripled in size since then. The leaves are thick and shiny, and the stems have more of an upward growth pattern. It’s said to be a prolific bloomer, but mine hasn’t bloomed yet.
Aeschynanthus radicans Curly/Rasta: I haven’t found much information differentiating the two of these varieties, so I am lumping them into one here. This was a wish list plant for me for a while because it has the chunky, rope-like look of the hoya rope plant without the price tag. When I saw one at Lowes for just over 10 bucks, I grabbed it! The vines and leaves on these varieties curl and twist, giving the plant a thick, full look.
Aeschynanthus radicans variegata: This variety is much like the Mona Lisa, but its leaves have a variegated pattern with green and white. This variety has bright red flowers as well.
Aeschynanthus longicaulis black pagoda: This one has gorgeous leaves with cool-looking patterns on the leaves in a lighter green color. The flowers on this variety are small and green, so the real show-stopper for this plant is its leaves.
Lipstick plant lighting needs
No matter the variety of lipstick plant you choose, the care needs remain largely the same. Lipstick plants enjoy bright indirect light, which usually means it will be happy in a bright, sunny window. Too much direct sunlight can burn the foliage, but this typically isn’t an issue indoors.
If you want to take your plant outdoors during the spring and summer, a shady spot is best. The sun outdoors is so much stronger than when it is filtered through a window. This is one of the plants I keep indoors year round, though—no outside summer vacation.
Watering your lipstick plant
Watering your lipstick plant is another important part of its care routine—it doesn’t do well with too much water. Let the top few inches of soil dry out before watering it again. Don’t let the soil dry out completely like you would for succulents.
For my plants, this means roughly every 10 days. I find that weekly is too often and promotes gnats. I water less in the winter, roughly once every 3 weeks or so. Overwatering your lipstick plant can lead to root rot.
What is the best soil?
A good well-draining soil can help prevent over-watering. I used a regular indoor potting soil for my plants with a bit of peat moss added in. The peat moss helps to increase aeration in the soil and let more water pass through and out the bottom of the planter. It also helps to prevent soil compaction.
Does my pot need a drainage hole?
It’s probably best, yes. One of mine is in a pot without a drainage hole—that’s the smaller one that started out as a terrarium-sized plant. For that one, I just added a thick layer or perlite in the bottom of the pot and take extra care not to overwater.
Since lipstick plants don’t like their soil to dry out completely between watering sessions, using a pot with a porous material like an unsealed or unglazed clay will dry the plant out faster. Just something to keep in mind if you go with a terracotta pot for the planter.
Temperature & humidity
Lipstick plants originate from tropical environments, so they like to be kept on the warmer and more humid side. Lipstick plants enjoy household temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In the lower-to-mid 60s, the plant will become less happy—but it won’t die. So don’t worry if your house gets colder during the winter. But don’t let it go below 50 degrees!
Since lipstick plants like humidity, though, keeping them near heat registers isn’t a great idea. This can dry them out too much. In the spring and summer, normal household temperatures are fine. However, in the winter especially, your lipstick plants might enjoy an occasional misting with water from a spray bottle. A humidifier is also an option.
Pruning and lipstick plant propagation
Pruning isn’t really necessary, but you can easily snip off the ends of stems that have any drying of dead foliage. You can also encourage bushier growth by pruning the stems shorter to encourage the plant to branch out. Flowers form at the tips of the leaves, so this can also create more opportunities for flowers.
You can use the cuttings from pruning your plants to grow new plants through propagation, too. It’s a pretty simple process, too. Simply remove some of the leaves from the bottom part of the cuttings. Dip them in rooting hormone powder to help stimulate root growth. Then plant them in soil, firming the soil to support the stems on the cuttings.
This plant takes a bit longer to start rooting. It can take about 2 months to form roots when you keep the soil slightly moist. Don’t let the soil dry out too much because it will inhibit root growth. Keep the planted cuttings in moderate light. Eventually you will establish a new plant.
How do I get a lipstick plant to flower?
The plant flowers mostly in the spring and summer. Plenty of light will help encourage blooming. You can also try a high-potassium fertilizer. Generally, though, you can just fertilize your plant using a regular indoor houseplant fertilizer. No feeding is necessary in the winter.
Issues and pests?
Lipstick plants are fairly easy plants to take care of, but there are a few issues to be aware of. Let’s talk about a few.
1. Black spots on lipstick plant leaves
If your lipstick plant has black spots on its leaves, it’s potentially a fungal issue—leaf blight. Too much moisture is typically the cause. To prevent leaf blight on a lipstick plant, ensure the plant isn’t getting too much moisture. Let it dry out after misting it.
2. Leaves shriveling and falling off of a lipstick plant
If your lipstick plant has dry, shriveling leaves or is dropping leaves, it’s probably thirsty. If it isn’t thirsty, your plant could be too cold. Anything below 50 degrees Fahrenheit will cause the plant to drop leaves. Remember, warmer is better for this plant!
3. Lipstick plant is straggly and leggy
If your lipstick plant has stems that are getting leggy and straggly, meaning the leaves are smaller and more spread out on the stem, it probably isn’t getting enough light. Bright, indirect light is the best.
4. Pest issues on the lipstick plant
If you notice bunches of small cotton-looking, nest-like areas on your lipstick plant, I’m sorry to say that you likely have a mealybug infestation. Mealybugs slowly suck the life out of your plant. Aphids do something similar.
If you notice very fine webbing on your plants, you likely have spider mites and need to take immediate action—spider mites can totally obliterate your poor plant in a few days! Check out my post about how to get rid of spider mites on houseplants.
You can combat all of these nasties using neem oil spray. Neem oil is a natural insecticide. You’ll get used to the smell when you see how well it works 🙂 Spray the plant’s foliage down and spray all over the top of the soil. Let it sit for a bit and then wash down the plant, flushing the soil with soapy water to kill any larvae.
Curly lipstick plant care
I mentioned that I have a curly lipstick plant as well. I want to highlight a few care tips about this plant because I think it’s just a bit trickier than regular lipstick plants. Although I have had a regular lipstick plant for a few years and have all but totally ignored it for weeks at a time in the past, it still has done great.
My curly lipstick plant, however, seems to need a bit more attention. The leaves tend to wilt and dry out easier than the regular lipstick plant’s do. It needs me to give it a good deep soak instead of just a bit of water. And this one also seems much happier with some misting on the foliage. 🙂
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