People love anything different or unusual. It is a characteristic of being human, as most animals avoid anything different. Gardeners fall into the same patterns as others and are intrigued by plants resembling something else. In this case, the plants in question look like lips.
As people have begun occupying smaller living spaces due to housing shortages, the demand for indoor pot plants has grown. There are still those avid gardeners that have large gardens to fill with plants and many of them carefully theme their gardens, searching out unusual or exotic-looking plants.
Some gardeners like to make plant murals or pictures and using plants that look like lips can be very useful in this pursuit.
1. Palicourea Elata
Palicourea elata are probably one of the most unusual looking plants on the planet. They were formerly known as Psychotria elata but have some wonderfully descriptive common names. They are commonly referred to as girlfriend’s kiss, hot lips, or hooker lips.
This eye-catching plant is native to Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Ecuador where it grows in the rain forests. It has very specific growing requirements that are only met in rainforest conditions, making them difficult plants to grow elsewhere. Some dedicated gardeners have managed to grow them, but they are time consuming and hard work.
Palicourea elata are part of the Rubiaceae or coffee family of plants. They are shrubs with leaves arranged opposite each other on the stem. They grow from three to ten feet tall, with occasional specimens reaching thirteen feet. The height and appearance of the plant are affected by their position with regard to light and the surrounding plants.
The large leaves are green with very clear vein pathways on the surface. Young leaves are light green and darken as they mature.
The most noticeable feature of this plant is paired bracts (modified leaves) which are bright red and arranged to look like a pair of crimson painted lips. The bracts surround the flowers, completely overshadowing them. The flowers are small white star-shaped flowers that grow in the center of the ‘lips’ or bracts.
Before the flowers emerge, the red bracts look like a pursed mouth ready to deliver a kiss, hence the common name, girlfriend’s kiss. Once the flowers bloom, the bracts spread apart and fold backward.
Palicourea elata does not have a scent and relies on the elaborately colored bracts to attract insects to pollinate the flowers. Once fertilization occurs, the flowers wilt, giving rise to dark blue or black berries, popular with birds.
2. Conophytum Pygmy
Conophytum pygmy plants are sometimes referred to as the plant with human lips. Conophytum pygmy plants are succulents belonging to the Aizoceae family. They grow indigenously in South Africa and Namibia. They are known by other names such as knopies (Afrikaans) or buttons, waterblasies (Afrikaans) or water blisters, cone plants, butt plants, or dumplings.
These plants are described as dwarf succulents that form a cushion. They are very small plants with leaves a quarter to half an inch long. The cushion is formed when the green leaves fuse together at the center. Most conophytum pygmy plants only have one pair of leaves at a time.
Like all succulents, they can survive long periods of drought. They are intolerant of frost and die at temperatures below freezing. They grow in sandy or rocky soil with excellent drainage. They rot and die if planted in clay or other soil that retains water.
The plant grows differently according to its environment and surroundings. So each plant may be slightly different. Conophytum pygmy plants have the unusual characteristic of having pink coloration at the center of the cushion, where a small gap appears. This formation looks like a pair of human lips.
The lips may form on the top of the leaves or to the side. Two conophytum pygmy growing side by side may resemble two pairs of lips kissing each other.
3. Salvia Hot Lips
Salvia hot lips are a species of salvia or sage that belong to the family Lamiaceae. Their official name is Salvia x jamensis. It is a perennial plant that blooms for the entire summer. Salvia originated in Central and South America, Eastern Asia, Central Asia, and the Mediterranean.
Salvia hot lips have evergreen leaves that grow along a thin green stem. The plant grows as a small shrub that has a preference for moist well-drained soil. It reaches heights of two to three feet and is a low-maintenance plant for beds and borders.
Salvia x jamensis produces racemes or flower spikes in spring. The flowers bloom along these spikes giving rise to a mass of color. The flowers are open-mouthed red and white splashes of color that persist until the weather cools in the fall.
The flowers have lipstick-red petals that resemble lips early in the flowering season. As the seasons progress, the flowers change to include white so that in midsummer, they are bi-colored. By late summer the flowers are pure white.
Salvia hot lips carry a sweet scent that is attractive to birds and insects. They can be propagated by cutting in early spring.
Related: 10 Plants That Look Like Salvia
4. Cyclamen persicum
Cyclamen persicum is also known as the Persian cyclamen and belongs to the Primulaceae or primrose family. They grow indigenously in Algeria. Tunisia and the Greek islands.
They are small plants that reach thirteen inches in height. The leaves are heart-shaped and fleshy with lighter green upper surfaces and pale green or red undersides. The leaf edges are serrated and the leaves are six inches long.
Persian cyclamen are best known for their fragrant blooms. Some gardeners describe cyclamen flowers as having a light pink tongue and red lips.
The flowers may be white, pale pink, dark pink, or red. Some flowers are bi-colored, and these are typically the ones that are described as looking like lips or a mouth. Cyclamen flowers bloom for about three months of the year.
Persian cyclamen may be grown outdoors in a well-drained loamy soil. They are best planted in partial sun and have low to moderate water needs depending on the ambient temperature.
These plants are popular as indoor pot plants or for sheltered window boxes. When grown indoors, they should be watered regularly, taking care not to saturate the soil. They prefer cool temperatures but will dry out in drafts from fans or air conditioners.
Persian cyclamen are toxic to all animals and should be kept out of reach of small children.
5. Lipstick Vine
The lipstick vine is officially called Aeschynanthus radicans and is from the family Gesneriaceae. It is a vine that grows as an epiphyte on other plants or a lithophyte on rock surfaces. Some cultivars grow as terrestrials. They are indigenous to rainforests in Malaysia and Thailand.
The stems are thin and pale green and trail down over the structures the plant grows on. The leathery, glossy green leaves are arranged opposite each other or in whorls. The leaves are approximately two to three inches long.
The lipstick vine is most well-known for its tubular flowers, which grow at the end of the stems. The flowers are often red, but some cultivars have other colors. They are described as resembling tubes of lipstick. The flowers bloom in the summer and last for a few weeks.
They are fairly demanding plants to grow indoors as they are sensitive to over and underwatering. They are best watered using the bottom-up method where water is absorbed from a drip tray under the pot. They need a moderate level of humidity and bright indirect light.
Although this plant does not look like lips, it looks like tubes of lipstick which may fit in with a themed garden display.