A picture of a Lipstick Tree

Lipstick Tree

Bixa orellana

Also known as

Annatto, Arnatto, Roucou, Achiote

Photo by Shami Narayanan (CC BY 4.0)

Full Sun
Easy care
Moderate watering


RHS hardiness


Minimum temperature

Expected size









  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has a mild fragrance

More images of Lipstick Tree

A close up of a flower garden
A leaf on a tree branch

Lipstick Tree Overview

Traditionally used to make red ink or paint, giving it the name ‘lipstick tree’. Virtually all the ancient Maya scriptures were penned in Annatto juice. Although the fruit of the Annatto tree is inedible, its flowers, and more especially its seedpods, are the most useful parts. Annatto is currently used as a carotenoid-based food colorant used very broadly, especially in the United States. It is used as a dye, insect repellent, sun block and as spice.

Common problems with Lipstick Tree

Leaf spot and powdery mildew. Give protection from wind to protect leaves from damage.

Lipstick Tree Companion Plants

Grows naturally in rain forests and therefor enjoys the company of other trees and shrubs close-by.

How to harvest Lipstick Tree

Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed. Allow seedheads to mature and dry on the plants. Remove and collect seeds.

How to propagate Lipstick Tree


Pre-germinate seeds in a moist paper towel. For optimal germination, soil temperature should be a minimum of 24°C with a spacing of 3 - 6 m. Germinate between 2 -16 weeks.


Best from woody stem cuttings. Cutting-grown trees flower at a younger age than seedlings.

Special features of Lipstick Tree

Attracts useful insects

Large bees visit before dawn when the flowers open. Smaller bees are useful as they spread pollen.

Hedge plant

Should be pruned often to encourage bush growth at the bottom of the plant to form a dense hedge.

Attractive flowers

Attractive leaves

Shiny heart-shaped leaves.

Attractive fruits

Repels harmful insects

Other uses of Lipstick Tree


Seeds are used as a spice and food coloring.

Insect repellent

Edible shrubs

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