Flowers that look like lips

Flowers aren’t always pretty and they can be quite shocking too — in a good or bad way. There are the boring and the colorful flowers, plus the ones that don’t look acceptable at all, just like when you see the uninviting smiles of a Venus Flytrap.

But there’s a flower that’ll be nice enough to meet you or maybe kiss you with its luscious red lips. These lips belong to a plant with the scientific name Psychotria Elata, or commonly known as the Hooker’s lips. Yes, you’ve read it right.

These aren’t from Angelina Jolie nor Mick Jagger, but from a plant that belongs to the 2000 species of the Psychotria genus plants which are the flowering plants of the Rubiaceae family. This genus is even known to produce psychedelic chemicals like dimethyltryptamine. It’s funny to know that this plant contains something psychedelic that it matches its seductive look.

Just like an attractive woman with lips so red you can’t resist looking, the Hooker’s lips pucker up to attract pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds.

The truth is, the red lips you see on the Hooker’s lips isn’t the flower itself but just the kissable bracts that remain only for a short span of time until it reveals the plant’s white flowers that’ll emerge from its center. Its fruits are oval berries that turn blue or black when mature. It also acts as a host plant for the golden silkmoth (Xlophanes Adalia).

It isn’t that easy to grow Psychotria Elata due to some certain climatic conditions that you should replicate for the plant. First, make sure you can effectively provide a warm, humid and moist climate. Then, you’ll need to place it in a sheltered environment, unexposed to the harsh sun rays as this can have an adverse effect on the growth of the plant.

Even though the name “Hooker’s lips” can be a bit inappropriate especially if you want to give it as an admirable gift, the people of Central America actually consider the plant as the perfect gift every Valentine’s day and other occasions. They buy it for their friends and family to express their love.

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Besides its use as a Valentine gift in Central America, the Hooker’s lips actually have its health benefits as well. People from Central America use the barks and leaves of the plant for treating skin rashes, cough, and earaches. Moreover, the Ngäbe-Buglé and Kuna Native Indians in Panama use this plant for treating dyspnea.

The Hooker’s lips can be found in the rain forests of South American and Central American countries like Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama and Columbia as the climatic conditions are favorable for this plant.

You may now be interested in getting your hands on the lips of Psychotria Elata. But unfortunately, there’s bad news for you: the Hooker’s lips are now endangered due to deforestation and its popularity among plant collectors. It’s even hard to find Psychotria Elata seeds online nowadays.

Despite this sad fact, let’s hope that it doesn’t go extinct. Furthermore, importance and great care should be given to this unique plant before it kisses us goodbye.

Wondrous World of Flowers That Look Like Something Completely Different

Over thousands of years, plants and flowers have had to evolve in order to continue to attract pollinators. Their astounding adaptations have resulted in a myriad of distinct and unusual sizes, shapes, colors, patterns, and smells. Some even coincidentally resemble non-floral subjects, including a diverse range of animals, objects, and human figures. The same way we find shapes in clouds or faces in architecture, this series of flora photos also proves that the natural world is a gallery of never-ending entertainment.

Below, you’ll find everything from monkey faces and happy aliens to plump red lips and white doves. Scroll through to see the botanical gifts that surround and mimic the world around us.

Above photo: The White Egret Orchid (Habenaria Radiata) looks like a bird soaring into the air. (Photo: Rachel Scott-Renouf)

This tropical tree (Psychotria Elata) is found in the rain forests of Central and South America. The bright red lips attract pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies, but only remain for a short time until the full flowers are revealed. (Photo: Sofia Mestre Linda Velasquez)

This orchid (Dracula Simia) is epiphytic and forms the face of a monkey. It blooms at any season and emits a citrus scent. The orchid was extremely popular in Japan to ring in the 2016 Year of the Monkey. (Photo: Expats Again)

This ballerina orchid does pirouettes in the wind. (Photo: Terry Montero)

This type of orchid (Anguloa Uniflora) resembles a tiny swaddled baby. (Photo: tudosobreplantas)

When viewed from the side, this special species of Basalm called “Impatients Psittacina” looks like a flying parrot. (Photo: Jittin Flowers)

This is no ordinary tiger lily. Look closely and you’ll see a tiger’s face in the center of this orchid. (Photo: ScienceForums)

If you are need of a skull to decorate with, look no further than a Snap Dragon Seed Pod. Although snap dragons flowers are quite beautiful in bloom, they are born from slightly macabre beginnings. (Photos: laajala)

The flower Aristolochia Salvadorensis looks awfully similar to Darth Vader’s mask! (Photo: Garden of Eaden)

The Prosthechea cochleata is a flower native to Central America, parts of South America, the West Indies, and southern Florida. It is sometimes referred to as an upside-down orchid, which makes it look like a green squid or some sort of floral version of Kang and Kodos. (Photo: Doris.L)

Hallelujah! Habenaria Grandifloriformis is an orchid with a voice (and visage) of an angel. (Photo: sumukha)

The Ophrys Bombyliflora is named after the Greek word bombylios, meaning bumblebee. (Photo: Graham Gavaghan)

Flying Duck orchids (Caleana Major) are found in eastern and southern Australia. (Photo: Bill Higham)

The Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera) is such a deceptive looking flower that male insects are attracted to its appearance, coupled with its sweet scent. (Photo: virole_bridee)

This species of impatiens (Impatiens Bequaertii) grows to only about half an inch in size, and are thought to look like dancing girls. (Photo: Strange Wonderful Things)

The Calceolaria Uniflora is a mountain plant found in Tierro del Fuego, but could possibly be some distant alien cousin of ET. (Photo: Butterfly voyages)

The Stapelia flavopurpurea flower looks like a starfish, but smells like beeswax. (Photo: Martin Heigan)

An orchid of peace—Peristeria Elata has a petal dove at its core. (Photo: Michael Manners, Ricardo Valentin)

Not only is the Phalaenopsis orchid a stunning shade of fuchsia, it also looks like a bird nesting within a wall of petals, though some have compared it to a moth in flight. In fact, the flower’s scientific name may be a reference to the genus Phalaena, which describes a certain species of moth. (Photos: Christian Kneidinger, José Roberto Rodrigues Araújo)


Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’
Botanical Name: Salvia x jamensis

Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ is an evergreen perennial that may reach up to 90 – 1 meter high, with a similar width. However, many reports suggest that the plant is not as wide as it is tall, perhaps reaching 60-90 cm. It has a tightly branched form, with small mid green leaves and darker stems. It has a fruity black currant aroma, which is released when the leaves are bruised. The bracts turn almost black at the tips and this contrasts with the red and white flowers quite nicely.

The bi-colour flowers have a red hood and the double lower lobes are white. Spring and autumn are the most common flowering periods. The flower colour changes with the weather and sometimes solid red or white flowers may appear with the bi-colour blooms. When the weather is cooler there are more red flowers and more white flowers appear as the temperature increases in summer. Water and nutrient availability also affect the floral display. More water and nutrients result in red flowers as is typical in cool weather, while heat and nutrient stress results in the blooms turning white.

Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ is a cultivar from the parent Salvia jamensis, which is often used as a synonym for Salvia microphylla. However, they are different plant species, so this is incorrect. This ornamental sage is also known as a type of Autumn Sage or Mountain Sage because the parent plant grows naturally in the Mexican mountains. Caution should be used with identifying salvias with broadly descriptive names like Autumn Sage, for example, because they are often quite generic. ‘Hot Lips’ was introduced to California by Richard Turner, who was fortunate to be offered the plant by his maid who collected it from her home region in Mexico.

The salvia family has over 900 members with an extensive history as culinary, medicinal and ornamental plants. Ornamental salvias have become collectors items, as gardeners try to find a place in their garden for each and every one. There are salvias that will suit every type of soil and climate. More information on the Salvia genus and Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) may be found on our Common Sage page.

Growing Conditions

Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ is a fast growing plant that benefits from regular water and fertiliser. Although it is considered drought and heat tolerant the white parts of the flower are dominant during warm weather and when nutrients are limited. Cooler weather, extra water and higher nutrient application result in more red colouring in the flowers. This salvia is also tolerant of cold and will do well in full sun to part shade, in a sheltered position with well drained soil. If the shrub develops floppy branches it can be pruned after flowering. Propagation is performed by taking cuttings.

Pruning woody salvias in summer:

Salvias, like other perennials, grow like crazy and give us lots of blooms during the season. They need to be cut back for overall form, health and repeat flowering. The 2 salvias that you see here were way overgrown, hadn’t been cut back the previous season at all and needed a good haircut. It should have happened in spring or fall but the gardeners missed it. This is all about pruning salvias in summer.

I recently flew up to the San Francisco Bay Area for an 8-day gardening marathon. Holy moly that done wore me out! My client, the only one I still work hand’s on for, put out an SOS call because of the overgrown state of her many plants. An alternate title to this could have been: How To Prune Overgrown Woody Salvias.

Because the garden had turned into a jungle, I concentrated on the larger anchor plants like rhododendrons, camellias, lophomyrtus’, viburnums, weeping pussy willow tree, roses, camellias, etc 1st to see if I had enough time to work on any of the perennials. I did, and these 2 salvias were amongst those which got pruned the day before I left.

The 2 that I prune here are Salvia greggii “Furman’s Red” and Salvia microphylla “Hot Lips”. Both are woody herbaceous perennials. “Furman’s Red” grows larger and woodier than does “Hot Lips”. I’ve seen it listed as a perennial, a shrub and a perennial shrub.

This was not 1 of my artistic prune jobs. I was pruning to hopefully get the plants back in a better shape and stimulate healthy new growth along with more flowering. The FR definitely looked better after its pruning than did the HL which still looked like a ratty mess, just a smaller 1. Sometimes when perennials are that far gone or look bad, it’s easier to replace them.

I usually don’t do as extensive a pruning in summer as I did here. I save that for fall or winter. Because these hadn’t been cut back in over a year, a harder pruning was needed. Be careful not to cut an older salvia back too far (both of these were planted at the same time around 6 years ago) or it won’t recover. I learned this the hard way the 1st time I pruned an over salvia – it bit the dust.

The Furman’s Red

You can see Furman’s Red blooming a bit in the foreground. It was taller than the gazing globe! (note: most of these photos were taken in the bright sun so pardon the over exposure).

The “Furman’s Red” has thicker shrub-like stems so I pruned it a bit differently than the “Hot Lips”. I pruned the FR back by 1/3 to 1/2 and the HL (which was a ratty mess!) by 1/2. In this temperate coastal California climate woody salvias can put out 3 blooms per season so the prunings I do in summer are more like dead-heading.

I 1st surveyed the Furman’s Red to see how I wanted it to look and grow. It was a wild 4′ by 4′ mess and was blocking the view of the perennials behind it. I started by taking out a couple of outer stems and worked my way in and around the plant. Some of the stems I took out completely to open the plant up and some I just cut back.

A couple of those larger stems. It’s good to get rid of them (on an established plant) to open up the center a bit.

Out came the branches which crossed over and along with any dead growth. There were some awkward nubs with quite a few small branches growing out of them. I cut those out too. Finally, I tipped the remaining branches by 1-3″ to get more fresh growth.

These are the nubs I’m talking about. If you don’t cut some of them out, there’ll be a lot of “bunchy” growth at the top.

The overall form is slightly lower on the perimeter of the salvia with the middle branches a bit taller. I never prune anything “even, even” because that’s not how plants naturally grow. It’s the look I prefer.

Furman’s Red after the pruning. I took it down by about 1/2 but there’s still plenty of growth on it. This 1 will come back fine; Hot Lips I’m not sure about!

The Hot Lips

As for the Hot Lips, it sure was a hot mess! The plant was overgrown and really did look like a rat’s nest. I truly would have replaced it at that point but I was flying out the next day and didn’t have time to go get a new one. It probably could have been cut with the hedge pruners but that’s a tool I don’t use. I much prefer my trusty old Felcos.

Hot Lips was a mass of tiny stems. Many were of those dead along with larger chunks in the middle.

Because this plant had a multitude of small branches, I pruned it pretty much straight across. There was quite a bit of chunky dead growth in the middle so out that came. I took the perimeter stems down a bit and called it a day on this 1. Honestly, it didn’t look any better than before I pruned it! My client is going to let me know how it comes back.

Some of the dead growth I found inside Hot Lips.

Good To Know Pruning Salvias in Summer:

It’s best to give salvias their big pruning in fall or spring. Depending on how long your growing season is, they’ll need at least one more lighter pruning. Think of it as deadheading.

Pruning salvias encourage the fresh growth which brings on the flowering. No pruning = little or no flowers.

With these woody salvias, don’t cut below the point of no growth. If you cut an old salvia back too hard, it probably won’t recover.

Besides the Salvia greggiis & microphyllas, other woody salvias that I know of are Salvias chamaedryoides & coccinea. To find out which type of salvia you have, there’s a much more complete listing here.

After 5-7 years, you might have to replace your woody salvia. In this garden, the woody salvias have been replaced a couple of times. The deciduous herbaceous salvias are different story because you cut them all the way back & fresh growth emerges every year.

Pruning 3 Types of Salvias In Fall or Summer will help you to better understand all of this. I always pruned salvias growing along the coast of California in fall.

Make sure your pruners are clean & sharp. It’s better for the plants & easier on you.

This was taken at a park here in Tucson. I believe this is Salvia microphylla “Pink Blush”. These plants are so overgrown that the center growth has fallen on the perimeter growth. Because of this, the flowering is minimal & scattered & dead flowers remain on the plant.

Taken at the same location as above. Please don’t prune your Salvia greggiis like a rectangular blob!

If you have plants in your garden, they’ll need to be pruned at some point. Salvias are no exception and these popular perennials and shrubs bloom and look so much better with regular pruning. And, the hummingbirds will thank you!

Happy gardening,

What Is Hot Lips Plant And Where Does Hot Lips Plant Grow

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.

Scientific Name

Psychotria elata (Sw.) Ham

Common Names

Hot Lips, Hot Lips Plants, Flower Lips, Hooker’s Lips, Mick Jagger’s Lips


Cephaelis elata (basionym), Callicocca elata, Cephaelis costaricensis, Cephaelis phoenicia, Cephaelis punicea, Evea elata, Palicourea elata, Tapogomea elata, Tapogomea punicea, Uragoga elata, Uragoga phoenicia, Uragoga punicea

Scientific Classification

Family: Rubiaceae
Subfamily: Rubioideae
Tribe: Psychotrieae
Genus: Psychotria


Color: White
Bloom Time: December to March


Psychotria elata is a tropical tree found in the rain forests of Central and South American countries. The plant has become internet-famous because of its flowers or rather the shape of the red bracts (modified leaves) before the flowers mature. From these bracts, tiny white, star-shaped flowers emerge. Sadly, deforestation is wiping this species off the Earth.


USDA Hardiness Zone 10b to 11b: from 35 °F (+1.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Hot Lips grows where the soil is rich and humid 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 70ºF (21ºC), the humidity of at least 60% and indirect bright lighting… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Hot Lips Plant


Native to the rain forests of Central and South American countries like Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador.


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The Most Kissable Plant

Photo Credit: Flickr

This little plant is commonly known as ‘”hot lips” or “hooker’s lips.” However, its true name is Psychortia Elata, and as you can see, it is a very unique type of plant. Contrary to popular beliefs, the hooker’s lips aren’t actually flowers. Rather, they are leaf-like bracts. Flamboyantly coloring forests and grasslands, the hot lips are the flashy cover to the small white flowers and the little oval berries that hide beneath, turning black or blue once fully grown.

This plant is from the Psychotria genus in the family Rubiaceae, which contains about 1900 different species. And the bright colors on the pouty lip-like leaves don’t just fascinate humans; they also capture the attention of butterflies and silkmoths.

This beautiful set of lips can be found in the tropical rain forests of South and Central American, in countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama. But sadly, we might have to kiss this beauty goodbye: This plant is becoming quite rare these days due to uncontrolled deforestation and an increase in popularity with plant collectors.

Image via Franz Xaver

Deforestation has been rampant during the last few decades. While you have a cup of coffee and glance through the morning paper (or every 15 min), an area equal to over 200 football fields of the Amazonian rainforest will have been destroyed. Ultimately, it is the immeasurable forces of globalization and industrialization that are invading Earth’s habitats. If left unchecked, it will have dramatic consequences for more than just the Psychortia Elata. In the past few decades, deforestation was not much of a concern; however, besides killing many thousands of species, it also killed hundreds of people in land wars, and it has left another countless number without homes.

Over the course of the past 4 decades, almost 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in order to supply us with our ever increasing demands. Ultimately, more was lost over the course of 40 years than over the previous 450 years since the start of European expansion and colonization. Moreover, these numbers do not account for selective logging, which causes significant damage but is less easily observable than clear-cuts.

Deforestation: Intact forest is deep green, cleared areas are tan (bare ground) or light green (farms) Via NASA

Of course, species extinction is a natural process. However, it has been dramatically accelerate by human activities. And although it is impossible to know exactly how many species are lost each year, one thing is certain–If we do not alter our habits and start seriously working towards a sustainable future, this beautiful plant (and many like it) will be lost.

Nature is amazing and luckily for me, I am a person who enjoys the beauty of nature and find that it keeps me interested and inspired in my chosen career. I take pleasure in cooking with fresh ingredients and showing the kids how to plant seeds, watering them daily and harvesting our produce from the garden. And whilst I do appreciate a lot of little things, sometimes I think I am a bit complacent when it comes to appreciating the beauty and majesty of Australian Native plants in particular. Whenever I work with a new florist, or an international florist, I am always amazed (and proud) at how enamoured they are with our native plants. They don’t get the variety of species to work with overseas or they are particularly costly, and they are so unique in terms of their shape, colour and texture, it provides a real challenge.

Eucalptus Macrocarpa

For me, working in Australia, I find the variety of orchid plants available internationally particularly fascinating, probably because some species appear to be pure science fiction. Tropical blooms and carnivorous plants are also particularly intriguing. These aren’t the kind of flowers we get to work with often, if at all, but it is still a subject that I like to explore when traveling to far away exotic nations, or reading.

Today I have a feast for your eyes! A pictorial blog, comprising of some of the most wonderful, and weird flowers and plants I have stumbled upon in real life as well as online.

If you want to create something extraordinary for home, or to send to a loved one, our designers can certainly recommend unique species of fresh flowers that we have available in store for collection or delivery within Sydney. We always try to stock some show stoppers, beautiful and unusual seasonal flowers that take an ordinary arrangement to a new level!

In the meanwhile, enjoy!

Fwf x

Carnivorous Plants:

Pitcher Plants Credit: Photo by Rob Lilieholm Native to Borneo Nepenthes villosa Toilet Bowl Plant (Nepenthes Jamban)

Orchid Plants:

Angry Orchid Monkey Orchid (Orchis Simia) Ballerina Orchid Flying Duck Orchid (Caleana Major)


Snap Dragon seed pod (post flower) Swaddled Babies (Anguloa Uniflora) Honeycomb Ginger Fairy Slippers (Calypso Bulbosa)Darth Vader, rare Skull Flower (Aristolochia Salvadorensis) This bromeliad plant seems extra terrestrial in appearance.

Hooker’s Lips (Psychotria Elata)

Banana Inflorescence Parrot Flower (Impatiens Psittacina)

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