Lipstick plants are popular among gardeners for their unique, tube-shaped flowers that resemble tubes of lipstick. These tropical flowering vines are also fairly easy to grow, and can be enjoyed as indoor decorative plants or as semi-trailing vines in hanging baskets.
Unfortunately, a lipstick plant’s leaves can be vulnerable to certain environmental stressors that can cause them to wilt and drop off the plant. If you are struggling to figure out why your lipstick plant is dropping leaves, we might have the answer for you in this article, so read on!
Lipstick plant care overview
The lipstick plant, botanically known as Aeschynanthus, is a flowering plant with vining stems. It is well known for its waxy, curly foliage and tubular flowers that bloom annually. This tropical plant is native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia, where it grows as an epiphyte, reaching up to ten feet long.
Due to their tropical native habitat, lipstick plants generally grow better in warm and humid environments. They also enjoy regular misting, especially when environmental humidity levels are low – provided it is done during daylight hours.
As with most other houseplants, lipstick vines prefer moderately moist soil and are best grown in areas with bright, indirect sunlight. Slow-release liquid fertilizers, preferably with a 3:1:2 ratio, are recommended for these plants to promote lush foliage.
Why is my lipstick plant dropping leaves? Common causes
If your lipstick plants start dropping leaves, it is likely caused by one of the following issues:
Lipstick plants are generally quite drought-tolerant. That said, however, these tropical epiphytes do not like to sit in excessively dry soil for too long. If they do, their leaves will begin to turn brown and fall off due to dehydration.
Underwatering is a common gardening mistake. If you suspect you may be guilty of neglecting your lipstick vine for too long, it may be time to correct your watering habits to ensure that your lovely plant survives. Otherwise, it will continue to lose its vibrant foliage until the whole plant dies.
To rehydrate your plant, you just need to give it a good soak to allow the soil to become saturated with water. Once the soil is fully saturated, let the excess water drain out of the pot. From then on, make sure to water your plant before the soil dries out completely. Its rootball should be consistently moist – never completely dry, but also never waterlogged.
Dropping of leaves that are also yellowing and shriveling is an indication that your lipstick plant is overwatered. As tropical perennials, lipstick vines mostly prefer to be just on the moist side of dry, and thus do not take well to being overwatered.
Waterlogged soil can be problematic for most garden plants, in several ways. First, it causes deterioration of the roots. Without healthy roots, a plant’s nutrient uptake is compromised, causing it to lose vigor and reducing its ability to fight off common pests and diseases. One such disease is root rot, which is caused by soil-borne fungi. Lipstick plants with root rot develop soft or mushy roots, stems, and foliage, due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients that would normally be absorbed by the roots. Eventually, the disease will kill your plant and may also spread to nearby plants in the garden.
Plants with severe root damage can be difficult to revive, but you might still save your lipstick plant if the issue is diagnosed in its early stages. First, remove the plant from its current pot and wash the roots under running water. Cut off any dead roots you see, as well as any dying branches and leaves. Then repot your lipstick plant in a new pot, using fresh, well-draining soil.
To improve soil drainage and prevent overwatering in the future, we highly recommend mixing your potting soil with perlite and coarse sand. Make sure to allow the soil to dry (but not completely) in between waterings.
3. Low humidity
Lipstick plants are native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia where the climate is warm and humid. Hence, emulating these conditions is important if you want your vines to grow and bloom profusely.
There are many ways to make your indoor climate friendlier for your plants, especially during the cold seasons. Installing a humidifier is generally the most effective solution to boost the humidity levels in your home. Misting might work too, but we recommend misting your plants only in the morning so that the leaves have the entire day to dry. Never keep the leaves wet for longer than necessary, especially at night, as this can attract fungal pathogens that cause leaf spots, rotting, and dieback of the leaves and stems.
4. Cold temperatures
Lipstick plants hate the cold. Temperatures ranging from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit encourage the best growth and flowering of these plants, and any temperature outside of this range can negatively impact their health.
Long-term exposure to temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit can permanently damage your lipstick plant’s leaves and cause them to drop off. Always keep in mind that these plants are not cold-tolerant and need to be protected from freezing winter temperatures and cold drafts.
5. Inadequate light
Lipstick plants require bright, indirect sunlight to thrive and produce flowers. Keeping your plant in a shaded area will cause its leaves to wilt, yellow, and drop.
Sunlight is essential for a plant to synthesize its own energy and chlorophyll, so if your lipstick vine is light-deprived, its leaves will turn pale and its stems will become leggy. Essentially, your plant will starve to death, regardless of how much you feed or water it.
This issue in lipstick plants can be easily corrected by moving your plant to a location with better access to filtered sunlight. You can also prune away the dead leaves to make room for new growth. Just make sure not to expose your plant to full, direct sunlight, or you risk leaf scorch and other irreversible leaf damage.
How often should you water a lipstick plant?
There is no specific schedule to follow when it comes to watering this flowering vine. Rather, knowing the right time to water involves understanding your plant’s needs as well as the other contributing factors like weather, the type of pot you are using, and the environmental temperature.
The best indicator for watering your lipstick vine is the soil condition. If the top layer looks crumbly, dry, and light in color, then the soil is likely a bit too dry and needs some watering. You can also poke your finger about two inches into the soil to assess its dampness or dryness beneath the top layer. From here, you should be able to determine whether your plant needs a drink.
Additionally, here are a few guidelines to prevent underwatering or overwatering your lipstick plant:
- During spring and summer, lipstick plants should be watered roughly once a week, depending on your local climate.
- During fall and winter, reduce the watering since the plants will become dormant and temperatures are lower. On average, watering once every two or three weeks should usually suffice.
How much light do lipstick plants need?
To encourage vigorous growth of foliage and flowers, your lipstick plant must be placed in an area with bright but filtered sunlight. Never keep it in full shade or full sunlight. Typically, these evergreens need about five hours of indirect sunlight each day to achieve optimal growth.
What does it mean if a lipstick plant’s leaves turn purple?
Heat stress is the most common reason your lipstick plant’s leaves might start turning from green to purple. This might not sound alarming to you, but you need to correct the issue promptly to prevent further damage to the foliage. As already mentioned, lipstick plants are best placed in spots with indirect light. To maintain their healthy green color, always avoid exposing them to full sunlight.
What does it mean if a lipstick plant gets black spots?
Black spots on the leaves are a sign of Botrytis, a fungal disease that can affect almost any ornamental plant. The disease is more likely to strike in lipstick plants that have constantly moist leaves and are kept in a humid environment.
To prevent this issue, water your plants directly at the base, instead of watering from overhead. Also avoid misting at night, as there will not be enough time for the water to evaporate from the leaves, thus allowing air-borne pathogens to attach to the leaf surface. Instead, mist your plants in the morning so that the leaves have enough daylight hours to dry.
Why is my lipstick plant not blooming?
There are two possible reasons your lipstick plant might fail to produce flowers. First, it might be lacking adequate light. Keeping this plant in full shade is not good for its health overall, so try to move it to a brighter area, especially during the spring and summer, for more vigorous growth.
Another possible reason for a lipstick plant not to bloom is a lack of fertilizer. To deal with this issue, we recommend applying a water-soluble, potassium-rich fertilizer, at reduced strength, every two weeks during the plant’s growing season.
Watching your lipstick plant drop its leaves can be very worrying, especially if you are not sure what has triggered the issue. Improper watering is the leading culprit behind unhealthy leaves, followed by inadequate sunlight, lack of humidity, and exposure to cold temperatures. Hopefully, you can determine the true cause of your lipstick vine’s dropping leaves and apply the appropriate solutions mentioned in this guide.
Image: istockphoto.com / sKrisda