Aeschynanthus - Lipstick Plants


Aeschynanthus radicans

Listen to the Lipstick Plant Podcast here!


Top Tips

  • Keep the soil evenly moist, allowing the pot to feel a little light in between hydrations. It's advised to water the plant using the bottom-up method of submersion, for the prevention of rotting foliage (caused by excess moisture above the soil line).
  • Provide a good level of humidity by misting the foliage weekly or situating in a bathroom.
  • Bright indirect light is best, avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, especially in the summer. A few hours of winter sunlight is highly beneficial for new growth, though.
  • Supplement monthly using a houseplant fertiliser, all year round.
  • Flowers will develop in the summer and will last up to a few weeks. Be sure to avoid persistent droughts whist the plant is in the blooming process.
  • In spring, repot every three years with houseplant compost. Water the plant 24hrs beforehand, to reduce the risk of damaging the root hairs. (Transplant shock).

•Water - πŸ”ΈπŸ”Έ

The rule of thumb with Lipstick plants is to allow the top couple of inches to dry out in between irrigations - once the pot begins to feel light, it's time for another water. Reduce this further during winter to replicate their dormancy period. Whilst in bloom, avoid the use of cold water due to the species' sensitive nature to cold temperatures. Under-watering symptoms include little to no new growth, a much-needed transplant, and drying leaves - these issues are caused by too much sunlight, a much needed transplant or pure forgetfulness. Over-watering symptoms include yellowing leaves that soon drop off, no or little growth and root rot.


•Humidity - πŸ”ΈπŸ”ΈπŸ”Έ

High humidity needs to be empathised greatly. A weekly mist, or introducing a humidity/pebble tray will help replicate its natural habitat in the Brazilian forests. Botrytis petal blight and southern blight are caused when excess moisture (from misting or messy irrigations) is allowed to settle in the cubbyholes of the flowers or stem.


•Location & Light - πŸ”ΈπŸ”Έ

Bright, indirect light is favourable; however a darker location won’t do too much harm. A position that offers more than two hours of strong direct light must be kept off the cards, due to their susceptibility to sun-scorch. A location within three metres of a north, east or west-facing window, or below a skylight window are the ideal areas.


•Fertilisation - πŸ”ΈπŸ”Έ

Use a fertiliser high in potassium to prolong its flowers during the summer - an excellent example would be Tomato Feed. Regular fertilisers will still do the job but will favour foliar growth instead. For the rest of the year, houseplant feed or a standard fertiliser can be used for supplementation, at monthly intervals.




Common Issues with Lipstick Plants

Dry soil is a big issue when cultivating Lipstick plants. Despite their ability to withstand short-lived droughts, persistent dry spells will considerably weaken the plant, potentially causing flower loss. Stunted growth and flower loss are the typical signs of under-watering. Be sure to avoid direct sunlight and potentially create a watering-schedule if you're a forgetful gardener.

Green aphids are also a common issue - small, lime-coloured critters can easily blend in with the foliage, thus leading to rapid infestations. They are most likely to infest the new foliar growth, or the flowers and stalks themselves. Each aphid can lay up to five or six eggs per day, meaning that a infestation can be imminent. The best way to prevent an attack before it becomes a threat is by keeping the windows and doors shut, with regular pest inspections. For those that have already bitten the dust, click on this link to learn about addressing these issues.

Yellowing leaves or a naked base are products of excess moisture being allowed to sit on the foliage, commonly sped up by too little light or poor air circulation. Although watering from the top is best, it's recommended to use the bottom-up method if you're a messy waterer. For specimens that have a bare head, improve growing contains by using this method and increasing light levels slightly. Promote a bushier appearance by taking vine cuttings and placing them halfway down into the soil. Immediately remove yellowed or rotten debris as this will harbour both bacterial and fungal diseases that can both spread across to other sections of the plant.

Root rot is another issue. Typical symptoms include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth and stem collapse. Those situated in darker locations and/or too-soggy soil are most likely to be hit with this issue. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect its root systems - if they sport a yellow appearance, you're okay, but if they're brown and mushy, action must be taken immediately. More information about addressing root rot can be found on this link.

Never situate it within four metres of an operating heat source, for instance a radiator or fireplace. Due to the heightened temperature, the plant will soak up far more moisture than those situated in cooler locations, increasing the chance of droughts and browning leaf-edges.

Too much sunlight will lead to sun scorch, with typical signs including the browning or crisping of leaves, dry leaf-edges, sunken leaves or stunted growth. Although too little light will cause over-watering issues, too much sunlight will be a detriment, too. If yours has fallen short of this, reduce the amount of sunlight considerably and always be mindful of environmental shock (when too locations offer too different growing conditions). Remove some of the affected leaves and increase waters slightly.

As mentioned before, powdery mildew and southern blight are major threats among heavy foliage plants when excess moisture is allowed to sit on compacted foliage. Remove the affected areas and improve the growing conditions by situating the plant in a brighter location and keeping the leaves dry.

Aeschyanthus japhrolepis
Dormancy Care & Annual Flowers

Trying to re-flower a Lipstick plant is quite easy, with those that have a cool room without artificial light at night will be on the upper-hand. Repotting isn't usually mandatory if you want it to re-bloom - in fact, this may hurt the chances. Only repot every two to three years and after the blooming has finished. To get it to flower during the summer months, think back to its previous dormancy period served in the autumn and winter. The ukhouseplants' acronym, SHORT, will help you through this process.

The following steps should be done in the autumn and winter, when Lipstick plants enter their dormancy. 


Sunlight

Be sure to provide a bright location with no direct sun over this period. Although the winter sunlight won't necessarily hurt the plant, you can easily fall in the trap of under-watering, potentially weakening it. In order for the plant to fully become seasoned, avoid the use of artificial lighting.

Hydration

Reduce irrigations so that the majority of the soil becomes dry. Remember, they should only be watered from the bottom-up as rotting foliage are a common issue with cooler temperatures.

Occasional Feeds

While it's bloom, use a Tomato fertiliser to provide a nourishment of potassium. During the dormancy period, only supplement once or twice to carry it through until the following spring, using a general houseplant fertiliser. 

Reduce Everything

This one is to remind you that everything needs to be reduced - especially the temperature.

Temperature

This is the most significant step - keep the temperature within 15 - 17℃  (59 - 62℉) until the springtime. It'll be highly unlikely for them to sufficiently bloom when the ambient temperatures are kept the same all year around, so we can't empathise the importance of temperature.




Origins

There are over 150 known species of Aeschynanthus, all of which have distributions in Eastern Asia, such as the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. They're part of the Gesneriad family that holds genera like Streptocarpus, Saintpaulia (African Violets) and Gloxinia. The genus was first classified in 1823 by William Jack, who used the Greek words aischuno, meaning 'to be ashamed of' and anthos referring to its flower, to empathise the negative-feeling towards the genus of that time.


Temperature

15℃ - 26℃  (59℉ - 79℉)
H1a - must be grown as a houseplant or under glass all year round. Do not allow temperatures to dip below 15℃ or permanent damage may occur (leaf or flower loss, yellowing leaves etc.).


Spread

Up to 1m in height (length) and 0.8m in width, with the ultimate height being reached in 3 - 6 years.


Pruning

Remove yellowed or dying leaves and plant debris to encourage better growth and improve the all-round appearance. Pruning must be done with clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases - remember to make clean incisions as too much damage can shock the plant. Although the aerial roots aren't exactly appealing, do not remove them as this can cause stress.


Propagation

Via seed or vine cuttings (leaf and eye propagation) in the spring. To learn about the essentials with sowing seeds, be sure to click on this link - Seed Propagation Tips.


Vine Cuttings

  1. 'Leaf & Eye' cuttings are basically the segregation of a vine into several sections, with each having just one node that houses the leaf (& eventually the roots) along with a piece of the stem. 
  2. Once the cuttings are removed, you'll need some rooting powder. Although they'll still develop roots without the need of this hormone, success rates will be far lower.
  3. Use a five inch pot that has good drainage holes - plastic or terracotta are both acceptable in this instance. Never over-pot the cuttings - blackleg occurs when the bottom wound becomes infected, typically caused by water-logging or a too-damaged wound.
  4. Set the cutting into the compost, keeping the foliage above the soil line and the node slightly below it.
  5. Place in a bright, indirect location and offer good humidity by wrapping the pot into a transparent plastic bag for the first couple of weeks. Mist the cuttings, so that the soil around it becomes slightly moist. Keep the bag open for a few hours until the most of the water droplets evaporate. This bag-trick is mandatory to slow the rate of transpiration (water loss via the leaves) - as soon as a stem is removed from its main water source, it'll immediately begin to loose stored moisture and nutrients.
  6. Remove any rotten debris as this will cause an outbreak of bacteria.
  7. After around six weeks, the cuttings should have rooted. Separate them into their own small pot and treat them like a normal houseplant. The use of the transparent bag is no longer needed, but will help reduce the rate or transpiration.


Flowers

Lipstick plants will put out flowers during the summer that can last several weeks. The shape of the flowers largely resembles a red lipstick, which is thanks to its shape of the developing buds. Supplement using a potassium-based feed during the start of spring to encourage the chance of flowers; Streptocarpus Feed is an excellent choice as it holds an ideal blend of both nitrogen (foliar growth) and potassium for flower development.


Repotting

Repot every three years in the spring, using a well-draining compost like Desert Cactus Soil. Water the plant 24hrs before the repot, as damage to the dry root hairs will cause transplant shock. For matured specimens, introduce more grit to promote a stronger root ball; click on this link for more information on how to perform the perfect transplant.


Diseases & Pests

Typical diseases associated with Lipstick plants are leaf-spot disease, botrytis, powdery mildew & root rot. Keep an eye out for spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, whitefly, root mealybugs, scale & thrips. Click here for more information about how to identify and address any of these issues.


Toxicity

This plant is classified as poisonous. due to varying concentrations of calcium oxalate crystals found around the plants body. If parts of the plants are eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite could occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly; acquire medical assistance for further information.


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