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Aeschynanthus, also known as the lipstick plant, lipstick vine, or basket vine, is a genus of about 140 different species and cultivars of perennial shrubs, vines, and climbing plants. Plants in this genus are native to the warm and humid subtropical forest climates of China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Himalayas. In the wild, some species of lipstick plant can be found growing in the crevices of tree branches. Like its cousins the African violet and Cape primrose, lipstick plants are very popular, low-maintenance houseplants with attractive long flowers.
Some types of lipstick plant are epiphytes. This means that they grow directly on another plant. In this case of lipstick plants, they grow in the crevices of trees where the branches meet the tree trunk. They grow in the decomposing leaves and twigs that collect in these crevices. Since the tree is unharmed, the lipstick plant is not considered parasitic.
In late summer and early fall, the lipstick plant produces clusters of long, red flowers resembling tubes of lipstick, near the ends of branches. The size of the flowers varies between species, but the plants themselves typically grow to a height of 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm). If kept in a pot that is too large, the plant will not flower because its energy will be diverted to growing more roots and foliage instead of producing flowers. Root bound plants in a properly sized pot tend to flower the most, provided they are fertilized with liquid fertilizer every two weeks during spring and summer. Its trailing foliage is a dark glossy green year round.
A lipstick plant thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture zone 11. It prefers indirect sunlight from the southern, eastern, or western skies and partial shade in the afternoon. The plants grow best in well-drained soil that retains moisture, and has a pH level ranging from mildly acidic to mildly alkaline. Soil should be kept moist, but not soggy, by watering with warm water two to four times per week. In dry climates, the plant's native humid growing conditions can be simulated by misting with tepid water several times a week; this is in addition to its regular watering requirements.
Plants in this genus are generally considered easy-to-grow and relatively maintenance free. Despite this reputation, they are susceptible to mealybugs, aphids, and cyclamen mites. Plants should be monitored for these insects regularly. If pests are found, an insecticidal soap approved for use on a lipstick plant should be used according to package directions. A healthy, pest-free plant will reward the gardener with its brilliant and showy red flowers.
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