New 'Lipstick' / Aeschynanthus addict seeks info!

ashkebirdSeptember 15, 2004

I was at a local nursery today and noticed the 'Lipstick' (Aeschynanthus) plants for the first time. They looked like excellent plants for my year round hummingbirds, so I snagged three different ones they had, all in bloom.

I was surprised by the small 5" or so pots these long vines came in. No labels whatsoever, but the very nice employee showed me that they were Aeschynanthus from a book and gave me some info on them, although he wasn't sure exactly which ones they were. My first thoughts were: Boy, I'll get them right out of those pots... luckily I began to look around the web first, I didn't know they were epiphytes!

I found the AGGS website and you folks. I'll keep looking but I have a few questions.

What kind of soil should I use if/when I repot? I have a soil mix for my epiphytic orchid cactus, would that be good? Its fluffy and very porous although it has some bark in it, but I can make a similar mix without bark... it sounds like what little I've read suggests that the Lipsticks would like a light, fluffy very porous mix, compared to a denser cactus mix... true?

My biggest question though is: what is the appropriate pot size for these plants whose vines are 1.5-2ft in length? Do these react as badly as christmas cactus to 'overpotting'? I've learned my lesson there certainly! My overall impression so far is that these are grown very similar to christmas cactus, is that true? Do they have those similar wiry skinny roots?

And what about fertilization? Less in cooler/less vigorous growing times and more in warmer/more vigorous growing times? What is the flowering period for them? Important: Are they heavy, light or 'medium/houseplant' type feeders? Do they like rich soil?

I realize I have to figure out which three I have, or narrow it down a little, but I feel like these could be a real nice addition for our hummingbirds... I hope no fuschia addicts are hiding here, but I can't wait to get rid of the few useless hybrids I have to make room for these, fuschias use way too much water! I'd love to replace all of them with these lipstick plants if they work out well. So much more nectar for the birds and seems like much less water use as well, perfect for my climate.

So I'm excited! Where can I get more?! :) Any catalogs or nurseries which might specialize in them?

Oh and what insects are they prone to? Eons ago I got some hoyas, and I have never had such a problem with mealy bugs in my garden, in my LIFE. Horrid. Do these plants have any special suseptability to any pests that I should watch out for? Right now they're out with my tillansias, bromeliads, orchids (mainly cattelyas X's,) and christmas cactus on my covered patio in a Sunset 24 zone. (Zone 10.) We don't get too hot, but we also don't get too cold, so I think they'll like it here.

So what size pot, do they need an upgrade from the shallow 5" and to what size? (If they are as sensitive as christmas cactus to overpotting, don't worry, I'll know what to do. :) But if they can go up a little more than that, it would be nice.) Also, what kinda soil? Would they like some rich potting soil? Like with earthworm castings? As long as there is plenty of perlite? And how can I tell when they NEED to be watered, will they wilt/droop a bit? Should I error on the side of letting them dry out a bit rather than being too moist?

Thanks for all your help, especially for sources for more! :) I'm excited. These look like plants I've really been looking for and will appreciate... Yay! Tell me more! Point me towards any of your favorite informative websites!

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Wow! Nice score and lucky you to be able to grow them outside. My lipsticks are inside all year in bright indirect light. The last one I bought was 'Mona Lisa' in a 6 inch basket and I plan to keep it there until next Spring or longer. I always repot my lipsticks in african violet soil mixed with perlite or orchid mix for drainage and I feed with orchid food diluted with water. That's about all I know. I'm sure you'll get lots more advice. Enjoy your lipsticks. They're lovely plants!

Almost forgot, I agree with you about the hoyas. I had been a hoya addict but have gotten fed up with the buggy situation. All plants tend to have mealy if you're not careful but it seems to me that hoyas are the worst of the lot and so much trouble!


    Bookmark   September 15, 2004 at 10:25AM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

I live for this--seeing more people discover gesneriads! Its almost like a "cause". Why? well, because they are such neat plants and because so few people grow them compared to the variety of gesneriads out there needing to be grown. Aeschynanthus are great plants and it sounds like your basic instincts are not too far off the mark.

Epiphytes of the gesneriad family all grow in the same type of mixes. Depending on your watering style and other conditions they like anywhere from a "light mix" to a barky epiphyte mix. The first, would be like my standard mix for all gesneriads--three parts Canadian peat moss, two parts perlite and one to one and a half parts vermiculite. I am always changing these ratios and many use a 1-1-1 mix of these ingredients. But, you can also use a mix like this, with up to about 50% of a good potting mix. My friend Alan, who religiously believes in simplicity, uses straight Supersoil, and does pretty well.

Aeschynanthus don't like to dry out excessively but will do well with light drying out between waterings. They generally like to be kept lightly moist and lightly fed all the time when in growth (warm season) with a little more dryness in their drought season (winter). So, I, who underwaters, use larger pots and still I sometimes dry them out too much. I use a lot of deep 6" plastic pots or regular "azalea" pots. Smaller plants go in 4 to 5 1/2 inch pots.

Aeschynanthus come from Asia, whereas xmas cacti come from the mountains of coastal Brazil. So, aeschynanthus have widely varying needs for minimum temperatures. The most popular of the commercial varieties are somewhat more tender, coming from Bali. These would be lobbianus, pulcher, 'Pullobia', radicans. But, other species come from cooler mountain areas and grow very well all year outdoors. The most hardy are garrettii, gracilis, parasiticus, x 'splendidus', with all the other species and hybrids inbetween. Up here in cooler SF bay area, I grow mostly indoors but have the hardy ones outside, where they tolerate dips to slightly below 32. Garrettii can take even our big freezes.

I really like nematanthus (the "goldfish plant") which comes in many varieties. They are native to mountains of coastal Brazil, and really do well for me as outdoor plants. And, they are not as water-needy as fuchsias, by a long shot. They have beautiful glossy small leaves and wonderful flowers shaped like little fishes. Nematanthus are epiphytes too, so do not generally do well planted out in the garden but make wonderful outdoor hanging basket and potted plants for bright shade. A few columneas are also hardy enough for all year growing outdoors (erythrophaea, schiediana, and 'Sundowner'). I am being a bit conservative in these recommendations. I have known people even in my area who grew many other examples of these genera outdoors all year long, with great results. You can also grow streptocarpus, chirita, petrocosmea, sinningia and quite a few other gesneriads outdoors. Its a big family.

for sources, check out the "Suppliers" page on the AGGS web site. You will find links there to Lyndon Lyon, Lauray of Salisbury, Kartuz, and other specialists in gesneriads. Kartuz in located in Vista, so could be a nice excursion for you (call in advance). Also, check out the Gesneriad Reference Web for over 1500 photos of gesneriads. I will post the link below.

Jon Dixon

Here is a link that might be useful: Gesneriad Reference Web

    Bookmark   September 15, 2004 at 3:13PM
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Thank you both! This forum seems like one of the nicest of all of gardenweb, people very passionate about their favorite plants. I'm excited to be tuning in here...

I found the Vista nursery late last night and ...oh boy, they have ALL sorts of stuff I would love to have. Some great edible passionfruits too that aren't commonly sold. I sent off an email asking for an appointment so I hope I get to stop by, it would be fabulous, they have an awesome selection!

So here's my new question.

If the plants in 5" pots (which are shallow,) are rootbound when I pull them out to look, would they be ok going into a pot a few inches wider? It seems "all" epiphytes do NOT want to be in too large a pot... is that true with this variety as well?

Also, are they very sensitive about their roots being handled, etc? Ie: if they're badly rootbound and I slice up the roots or pull them apart, should I expect the plant to go into shock or react badly? I ask because we're entering into the cool cycle so I just want to treat them very cautiously now because they're gonna slow down I assume, and I don't want to put any added pressure on them.

These plants are very 'foreign' to me, and so I just want to be cautious with my new investments. :) I'd love to have a whoooole bunch of these all over, they could really fill a 'hummingbird niche' if they work out well, so that would be great. I'll definitely start some cuttings once spring rolls around.

I like supersoil, and maybe I'll try cuttings and such in that and we'll see what happens, but the parent plants are gonna be spoiled for a while until I get the hang of things here. My christmas cactus are all in Supersoil (with some organic fertilizers and other things,) and they do great, but then I know what they 'need'. If I repot these parent lipstick plants, I'll probably just play it safe and use the african violet mix and we'll experiment on the offspring (poor things. :) )

So how do they react to repotting? Tentatively, would a 7" pot be good for these if they're currently rootbound when I look at them? I'll try and treat them like 'epiphytes' and that will hopefully keep me on the right road which I hope to fine tune.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2004 at 6:25PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Your question is thoughtful. Yes, you could repot them now and, yes, it is a good idea to treat the roots just a bit carefully since it is late in the season. Gesneriads are pretty tough and if happy root out well. You can normally break up the roots but it really isn't necessary. I would use the pot you have in mind, but when unpotting just pull out the lose circling roots and gently losen up the ball. Then put soil in the pot to the bottom of the root ball, place the plant in the center, and put new soil around, tamp just slightly and water in. Make sure you have plenty of room for watering but not too low since the soil will compact somewhat over time.

Xmas cactus by contrast are dryer growers. They generally like a more barky type mix (fine bark, perlite, peat, supersoil), and are more sensitive to watering and overpotting. Aeschynanthus cuttings will root in soil or in water. I recently found that cuttings will root uncovered in potting soil, as long as the humidity is not really low. They don't wilt and root out--the same is true for nematanthus.


    Bookmark   September 16, 2004 at 1:03AM
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