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Orange Lipstick plant does best when slightly pot-bound

December 6, 2017

Around 5,000 years ago the Sumerians crushed gems, and lipstick has been with us since. Lipstick on your collar was now a thing. Enter Hazel Bishop who, using her home kitchen, mixed up the world's first smudge-proof lipstick.

So pucker up for the holidays and try on some lipstick. Lipstick plant, that is. Orange Lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus x splendidus) lives up to its name with tubes of orange lipstick, or rather spectacular bright yellow and orange flowers that begin blooming in early spring, and go right up until fall. The long, pointed leaves are thick and fleshy, and will tumble out of the pot, so these plants are at home in hanging baskets. They grow anywhere from 12 to 24 inches tall. If you can’t find one locally, try mail-order nurseries such as Lyndon Lyon Greenhouses (www. lyndonlyon.com, phone 315-429-8291).

Like most blooming houseplants, Orange Lipstick plants need light to bloom, and the more light the better. That being said, Orange Lipstick plants will tolerate the average lighting in most homes. They can tolerate temperatures as low as 60 degrees. Put the hanging basket where it will get mottled sunlight, away from drafts. Avoid direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves. Always be sure to keep the plant well watered but not soggy.

These relatives of African violets and gloxinia are epiphytes; just like orchids, they live off of the debris that gets lodged in crotches of trees. Water the plants regularly, and don't let them dry out. Mist them often if you can, to increase the humidity. You can also place the pot on a tray of pebbles with water. Be sure the bottom of the pot or basket is held above the water by the pebbles. As the water in the tray evaporates, it will send moisture up to the leaves of the Orange Lipstick plant.

Because of all the flowers they produce, you need to feed your plants regularly. Use a good organic liquid fertilizer intended for blooming plants. Look for a ratio of 1-2-1 of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, for example, 10-20-10. Use at half strength, or you might burn the plant roots.

Orange Lipstick plants do best when slightly pot-bound. When they truly outgrow their pot or basket, repot them during spring through summer when they are actively growing. Only go up a single pot size so they will quickly become slightly root-bound and put all their energy into flowering. Use a well-draining organic potting soil. Orange Lipstick plant is rarely troubled by pests. Spider mites can be controlled with insecticidal soap. As your plant matures, it will bloom bigger and better.

As for Hazel Bishop and her kitchen-made lipstick that wouldn't smudge? Her company Hazel Bishop Inc. with its No Smear Lipstick was a sensation, selling out in one day and eventually controlling over 25 percent of the American lipstick market. Pucker up.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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