Although difficult to believe, the provocative, showy lipstick plant is a cousin of the demure African violet, as both are members of the Gesneriad family. Grown mostly in hanging baskets or as an indoor plant, Aeschynanthus is best known for cylindrical blooms that push out of a dark tube, in hot colors like pink, orange, red and yellow. The foliage also provides interest, with a shiny surface sometimes veined with deeper color. Care is simple and straightforward, a nice quality for an indoor plant.
Choose a container with a drainage hole. Gesneriads like the lipstick plant require excellent drainage but consistently moist soil to produce their fabulous display of blooms. Hanging pots or baskets are preferred by the Aeschynanthus lobbianus, a vine species of the lipstick plant, which will grow up, out and over the sides of the container.
Well draining potting medium is essential for optimum growth and development. The University of Florida IFAS Extension suggests a mix of 50 percent perlite plus 50 percent peat moss, with 2 tbsp. dolomitic lime added per quart of mixture. Lime raises the pH level of the mixture, which makes essential nutrients more available to the lipstick plant. A store bought Gesneriad specific potting medium is also a perfect choice for the lipstick plant.
Fill the container with the prepared soil. Avoid tamping or compacting the mix, causing drainage properties decrease. Plant the Aeschynanthus carefully and tap the pot to settle soil, recommends William H. Bodnaruk and B. Tjia of the IFAS Extension. A light firming of the top soil will secure the plant adequately.
Keep water at room temperature for providing moisture to your lipstick plant. The Gesneriads may react poorly if water drastically colder than room temperature is poured over them. Water thoroughly when the top inch of soil is dry, until water drains through the bottom of the pot. Discard water from the tray under the pot when draining is completed.
Apply a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer or slow release blend once every 2 to 3 months. Follow the manufacturers recommendations for application rate, but keep in mind that a diluted or weaker dose of fertilizer is preferable to over fertilization, which can result in overgrown foliage, yellowed leaves, and a halt in bloom production.
Light and Temperature
Provide a medium level of sunlight for your lipstick plant indoors. Southern facing windows, with a curtain or screen that provides filtered light, are best. For a hanging basket that spends time during the summer on a porch or deck, provide shade so the harsh sun does not damage leaves or blooms. Aeschynanthus will not tolerate temperatures colder than 50 degrees for more than a few hours without suffering damage. Consistent daytime temperatures between 70 to 75 degrees Farhenheit, dipping into the 60 degree range at night, will keep your lipstick plant blooming and healthy.
As with all Gesneriads, a dormant period is necessary to continue the life cycle of a healthy plant. After flowering begins to taper off in late summer, the plant can be cut back to six inches growth. Reduce watering, but do not allow the soil to completely dry out. The appearance of new growth is your signal to resume watering as normal.