Costus spicatus or Red Button Ginger is a large perennial plant, usually growing 5 to 10 ft tall and wide, native to Tropical America. It is a beautiful ornamental plant that is grown for its spectacular foliage and attractive red, crimson, and vinous flowers. The foliage of Costus spicatus typically matures to a dark green color, and is often attractively variegated. The flowers of this plant typically appear in late spring or early summer, and attract pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds. The aromatic foliage also serves as a very nice backdrop for the flowers.
This plant is ideal for tropical gardens and is also a great way to add interesting texture to your garden beds. The plant prefers semi-shade, and likes to be watered regularly. The preferred organic-rich soil. Plant thrives in USDA Zone 9-11 and is usually cold-hardy at least to the 30s Fahrenheit range.
Costus spicatus is one of the few species of costus that is edible. The red cone-like inflorescence of this plant, which appears after the flowers, can be harvested and eaten when ripe. The cone is usually around 2 inches long, and has a sweet flavor with a rather unusual texture. It is said to have a range of medicinal benefits, such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Its edible parts are also believed to help reduce cholesterol levels and boost the immune system. Each mature plant can produce up to 6 cone-shaped fruits in a single season.
In cold regions, Costus spicatus can be grown in pots, as long as they are brought indoors in winter. In the winter months, care should be taken to ensure that the plants are kept in a cool, but frost-free location. Watering should be reduced in winter but used more generously in summer, when the plant is actively growing. Additionally, during the growing months, it is important to make sure that the foliage is kept clean by regular pruning and removing dead or damaged leaves.
Costus are easily distinguished from other commonly cultivated gingers because the leaves spiral around the main stem like a circular stairway. In fact they are called "spiral gingers".