Costus (pronounced “COST-us”) is commonly known as spiral ginger because its exotic foliage is arranged in ascending spirals around bamboo like 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 cone like or pineapple shaped.
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.
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.”
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.
Costus are sensitive to cold temperatures, if proper care is administered, these blossoms will last for seven to 21 days or more.
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 also make them suitable focal points for contemporary designs.