1 dizzy spiral. Costus (pronounced
“COST-us”) is commonly known as spiral ginger because its exotic
foliage is arranged in ascending spirals around bamboolike stems.
Some varieties have a velvety soft texture on the backs of the
leaves while others are smooth with purple undersides. The bracts
can be conelike or pineapple shaped.
2 family facts. The Cost-aceae
family consists of four genera and more than 150 species. Costus,
the largest genus, which comprises more than 100 species, is native
to tropical Central and South America as well as Asia and West
Africa. Related genera in the Costaceae family are Tapeinochilos
(Indonesian ginger), Dimerocostus and Monocostus.
of Costus include:
C. barbatus (red
tower ginger, spiral ginger)
C. igneus (fiery
(spiral flag, spiral ginger, stepladder plant)
C. spicatus, syn. C.
C. speciosus (crepe
ginger, wild ginger)
C. spiralis (spiral
3 ancient origins. In ancient
times, Costus roots were used as a culinary spice and perfume. In
the Kashmir region of India, Pakistan and China, Costuses are used
by shawl merchants to protect their fabrics from moths. The origin
of the name is derived from the Sanskrit term “kustha,” which means
“that which stands in the earth.”
4 always on. Costuses are
generally available all year, depending on the species and growing
area, but are in heaviest production from May through July. Major
commercial growing areas include Hawaii and Costa Rica.
5 basic colors. The flowers that
emerge between the bracts of Costuses are red, yellow, orange, pink
or white. Some species exhibit two colors in their blossoms, most
often red with yellow.
6 timely selections. Cost-uses
need to be harvested and chosen at their peak of maturity because
they do not develop once they are cut. Look for blossoms that have
high gloss and vivid color, and avoid those that are creased or
7 simple care. Unpack Costuses
immediately upon arrival in your shop. These flowers frequently have
to be taped in their shipping containers, so carefully remove tape
and any packing materials. Cut at least 1 inch off each stem, and
dip or place the stems into a hydration solution. Then place the
stems into properly prepared fresh-flower-food solution.
8 warmer is good. Cost-uses are
sensitive to cold temperatures and should be stored at 55 F to 60 F.
9 freshen the water. Advise
customers to recut stems and change the flower-food solution every
other day. If proper care is administered, these blossoms will last
for seven to 21 days or more.
10 design time. A long vase life
and an affinity for warm temperature make Costuses a good choice for
commercial designs and other arrangements that must last a long
time. Their unusual shapes make them suitable focal points for
The Hawaii Tropical
Flower Council, www.htfc.com; Plants of Hawaii www.hear.org/starr/hiplants;
World Wide Words, www.worldwide
words.org; and Aloha
Steven W. Brown,
AIFD, is a professor and department chair of horticulture and
floristry at City College of San Francisco, with 28 years of
consulting and educational experience in the floral industry.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 239-3140.
Photo courtesy of
by Charles Marden
This exotic flower
from the tropics is rooted in history.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
Photo courtesy of State of
Hawaii Department of Agriculture