The lipstick plant is a tropical vine commonly kept as a houseplant. It brightens up any room with its eye-catching flowers and shiny foliage. When you first set eyes on the lipstick plant in bloom, you will immediately know how it got its name. The dark maroon bud blooms into a bright red flower, resembling an extended lipstick. The plant's bright display of flowers will remain in bloom year-round, with proper care.
Your lipstick plant only needs to be repotted if it outgrows its current home. If you can see its roots in the drainage holes at the bottom of the planter, it needs repotting. Of course, you may want to repot it into a planter more suitable for your home decor than the one it was in at the store.
Select a pot that has drainage holes and is one size larger than your plant's current home. Add several inches of lightweight potting mix, and lightly water the soil. Remove the lipstick plant from its current pot. Gently loosen the root ball before placing it into its new home. Add soil around and under the roots as needed, being careful not to place the plant too high or low in the pot. Water the soil, gently pressing down on the surface to remove any air pockets.
The lipstick plant prefers lightweight soil that drains well. Many commercial potting mixes will hold onto more moisture than this plant likes. Potting mixes designed for houseplants are often lighter weight and a good choice for the lipstick plant. If you have a traditional potting mix, add some peat or perlite to improve drainage.
The lipstick plant does best in an area that receives plenty of bright, indirect sunlight. It needs sun to produce its abundant blooms, but placing it in direct light may damage its foliage. If your lipstick plant is not blooming, or the stems are becoming long and sickly-looking, move it to an area with better sun exposure.
If you have a spot outdoors, the lipstick plant does well when placed in a partially shaded area during the warmer months. Making the transition during the spring allows it to become accustomed to outdoor exposure before the weather heats up. They need less sun exposure when outside since the light isn't filtered through glass. Too much sun can damage the foliage.
To prevent overwatering, allow the top quarter of the soil to dry out each time. During the spring and summer, when the lipstick plant is actively growing, you may need to water it weekly. When growth slows down through the fall and winter, it may only need watering every three weeks. The leaves starting to lose their luster can be an indication of overwatering, while shriveled leaves mean you aren't watering enough.
Several types of pests can attack the lipstick plant. They feed on the juices, damaging or even killing the plant. Spider mites cover the plant with webs. Aphids are also attracted to the lipstick plant. Look on the underside of the flower buds and stems; if you see clusters of small bugs, they are probably aphids. You can recognize mealybugs by the cotton-like substance that appears on the plant's stems. Treat pests on indoor plants by mixing water and dish soap. Spray the plant with this solution every few days until the issue is resolved.
Botrytis is a fungus that can attack the lipstick plant, creating black spots on the leaves and stem. Warm daytime temperatures combined with cool nighttime temperatures create the perfect environment for botrytis. Too much moisture can also make the plant susceptible to this disease. Treat with a fungicide to clear up the problem, but catch it early before it causes too much damage.
Pruning your lipstick plant will help it achieve a more attractive, bushy appearance. Without pruning, it will develop uneven, straggly stems. Prune after it blooms to maximize the number of flowers you get next year. Trim back the stems by about one-third, using a clean pair of hand pruners or scissors. Applying fertilizer at half-strength every other week can give the plant the nutrients it needs to fuel its vigorous blooming cycle. Fertilizers designed for houseplants will provide essential nutrition.
Propagating the lipstick plant is relatively easy; you can even use the cuttings you trimmed while pruning. Plant 6-inch cuttings in well-drained soil. Water thoroughly after planting and place them in an area that has bright, indirect sun exposure and stays warm and draft-free. Roots typically develop on the cuttings after about one month.
The lipstick plant adds beauty and a touch of tropical flair to your home. Few houseplants provide such an abundance of blooms. As long as you have a spot that meets its lighting needs, the plant is low-maintenance. An added benefit is its ability to dress up a porch or other outdoor living space during the warmer months.