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Aeschynanthus—How to Grow Lipstick Vines and Basket Vines

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Aeschynanthus 'hot flash', May Chris Burrows/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Including the lipstick vine and basket vine, the Aeschynanthus genus includes remarkable hanging plants with showy red, orange or yellow terminal flowers that emerge from "tubes" which resemble lipstick cases. Better suited to its native rainforest habitat, Aeschynanthus presents a challenge for the indoor gardener. They generally require high humidity and warmth during the summer months, followed by a brief period of cold during the winter to stimulate a bloom. But if you can grow a phalaenopsis orchid, you can probably grow one of these, and the reward is no less visceral.

Growing Conditions:

Light: Bright, strong light, but not direct sunshine.
Water: Keep soil continuously moist throughout spring and summer, and reduce watering in the winter. Don't let it completely dry out. Very high humidity is preferred.
Temperature: Keep it warm and humid in the spring and summer, above 65ºF. In the winter, a brief period of 55-65ºF will cause inflorescence.
Soil: A well-drained potting mix.
Fertilizer: When new growth appears in the spring, feed with a controlled-release fertilizer or liquid fertilizer according to label directions.

Propagation:

Take cuttings in the spring, when the plant resumes normal growth. To successfully root cuttings, use a rooting hormone and provide bottom heat or use a covered rooting container.

Repotting:

Repot every year as needed. If the plant is to remain in the same container, refresh the exhausted potting soil with new potting media to provide better aeration and growth.

Varieties:

Of the 180 or so species of Aeschynanthus, only a few are found in cultivation. These include:
  • A. radicans (Syn. A. lobbianus). The popular lipstick vine, with red tubular flowers that emerge from a "lipstick" case. The flowers have a yellow or creamy throat.
  • A. speciosus. An epiphyte in its natural environment, with orange flowers up to 4 inches long. Sometimes called the basket vine.
  • A. pulcher. Similar to A. radicans, with light green flower tubes.

Grower's Tips:

Aeschynanthus are perfect as hanging or trailing plants. They require high humidity and warmth throughout the growing season, as well as strong (but not direct) light. After the season is over, cut the trailing stems back in preparation for another year—otherwise, it will tend toward leginess. Do not spray plants in bloom. These are perfect for a greenhouse, sunroom or conservatory.

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