Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
When it comes to exotic flowers, tropicals are nard to match. Among the ones that are commonly available are some flowering gingers, also known as costus.
Members of the ginger family, these have gorgeous spikes of vivid blossoms and colorful bracts. They have a vase life of several weeks. Typically, the flowering gingers are used as a form flower because of their distinctive
For modernist or minimalist designs, these are often combined with other tropical flowers. Usually, ginger blossoms are red. However, there are some species or cultivars with flowers in other colors, including whites, and yellows. Surrounding the leafy spikes of blossoms are colorful bracts.
Most species of costus are generally called spiral ginger due to the spirally arranged foliage.
There are so many kinds of costus. It is estimated that there may be 200 different species growing worldwide. These are native to the Caribbean, South and Central America, Africa, India, Madagascar, and parts of tropical Africa.
Among the more commonly grown species are the following. Emerald spiral ginger (Costus zebrinus) grows to about three feet in height. This features lovely yellow blooms with reddish-brown markings. This is native to Central America.
Spiral flag (Costus sanguineus) can be used for its foliage as well as for its blossoms. This one has orangish-green stems with bright red leaf stalks. The foliage is gray-green with silver. This species is native to Central America.
Spiral ginger (Costus speciosus) is native to India. This one produces white blossoms that have yellow centers. Also known as the stepladder plant, spiral ginger is noted for the distinctive arrangement of the leaves.
Fiery costus (Costus igneus) is named for its dark orangish-red flowers. This species also features very nice foliage that can be used for floral design. The maroon stems have spirally arranged foliage that is red underneath.
All of the costus can be grown outdoors in warm, frost-free climates. Elsewhere, they are often grown as container plants for patios or in conservatories and greenhouses. Some species can get quite tall. For containers, choose smaller types. The plants are evergreen, but they sometimes die back to the ground after they finish blooming. The heaviest period for blooms is usually during the summer months.
Commercially, the cut stems of costus are available year-round.