You might have to be a fan of the once popular television show MASH to know Loretta Swit, the actress who played Hotlips Hoolihan. However, you don’t have to be a fan to find an excellent representation of the name in the plant world. Hot lips plant has just the kind of pucker you might expect from the moniker, but the pair of lips are actually the plant’s flower.
What is hot lips plant? Read on for more hot lips plant info and tips on growing this unique specimen.
What is Hot Lips Plant?
There are over 2,000 species of Psychotria, the genus under which hot lips falls. Where does hot lips grow? Psychotria elata is part of the tropical rainforest understory flora of the Americas. It is a unique plant with uninteresting flowers but fabulous lip-like bracts. The plant can be difficult to grow and has very special cultivation conditions.
Hot lips grows as a shrub or small tree. The plant has deeply veined simple leaves of matte green. The flower is actually a pair of modified leaves that pout around the tiny star-like white to cream flowers. These become small bluish-black berries. The plant is very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Unfortunately, the plant is severely threatened due to habitat destruction and development. It is nearly impossible to get the plant or seeds here in the States. It is a common gift plant in Central America, however, usually for Valentine’s Day.
Additional hot lips plant info tells us that the plant is also called hooker’s lips but hot lips is a little more family friendly. Interestingly, this plant contains the chemical dimethyltryptamine, a psychedelic. It is also used as traditional medicine among the Amazon people to treat aches and arthritis, infertility and impotency.
Where Does Hot Lips Plant Grow?
Hot lips plant is from Central and South America, especially in areas like Columbia, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama. It grows where the soil is rich and humic from leaf litter — moist and sheltered from the most powerful sun rays by upper story trees.
Interior growers turn to plants from around the world to add exotic touches to the home. Hot lips plant fits the bill but requires a tropical environment. For this reason, it is mostly a collector’s plant for much of the United States. Growing hot lips plants requires a heated greenhouse or solarium, high humidity and shelter from harsh solar rays.
Growing hot lips plant means mimicking the understory tropical environment for which it is suited. Most potting soil will not have both the excellent drainage and moisture retentiveness necessary to raise these plants. Add a bit of vermiculite and peat moss before potting up the plant.
Place it in an area with temperatures of at least 70 F. (21 C.), humidity of at least 60 percent and indirect bright lighting.