Firm, succulent emerald green leaves makes the lipstick plant look beautiful any time of year, but from summer to winter, the stem tips bear red flower buds that look like lipstick tubes until they open. Grow it as a house plant if you have frosty winters and bring it outdoors in the summer to bask in the warmth, rains and humidity in a shady patio area. It will reward you with lush growth and better flowering.
Lipstick plant hails from Indonesia's island of Java in equatorial Asia. It spraws its stems like a ground cover in the dappled shade of the tropical forest.
Dark emerald green leaves shaped like ovals line the stems of the lipstick plant. Leaf edges bear a purplish tinge. From summer to midwinter, stem tips produce a cluster of tubular red flowers with lobes. The neck of the tube blushes maroon to purple. As the flower buds elongate, they resemble the waxy color shaft of a tube of lipstick. It matures to a height of 8 inches with spread of 36 inches.
Grow lipstick plant in a sand-based soil rich in organic matter so it freely drains rainwater. In a container, a peat and perlite potting mixture suffices. Water the soil freely in the warmth of spring and summer, and reduce watering in fall and winter so the soil become dry to the touch before the next watering. Provide bright, indirect light or dappled sunlight both indoors and out; it tolerates direct sunlight only when the sun is low-angled in early morning or early evening. Too little light and flowering fails to occur. A half-strength dosage of liquid fertilizer applied each month from spring to fall keeps the plant healthy.
Often this plant grows as a house plant in a hanging basket or container where its spreading stems dangle downward. It may be grown outdoors year-round only in regions where winter low temperatures never drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In these tropical regions, grow it as a rambling ground cover under the shade of large evergreen trees or as hanging patio baskets under awnings.
More than 140 species of Aeschynanthus plants exist, all of which may be called "lipstick plants". Hybrids between then species yield many ornamental plants, such as Black Pagoda. Other wild species sometimes called lipstick plants include Aeschynanthus bracteatus, Aeschynanthus hildebrandii, Aeschynanthus longicaulis, Aeschynanthus marmoratus/zebrinus, Aeschynanthus pulcher and Aeschynanthus speciosis.