Feb 6, 2008

Costus in Tropical Gardens

Costus are a tropical and subtropical plant with spectacular flower spikes. They are related to gingers and were originally part of the ginger family, but now the Costus species have been reclassified into their own family. It's hard to make generalizations about costus because they are so varied. Some love full sun, some shade, some are cold hardy some are strictly tropical.

One generalization I can make about costus is that they are fabulous landscaping plants.

Costus are quick growing and quick to flower and they are much more forgiving of poor soil than heliconias. Costus flowers can often last for up to 9 months on a plant. They are also extremely well behaved and easy to remove. This can be useful if you want quick fill in a garden that can be easily removed as other plants will out and mature. Many costus like Maroon Chalice, Buddha Belly, Stenophyllus, Asplundii and Kiss of Death have exceptionally interesting stems. While some like Barbatus flower from the stem tips and also basally.

My Top Costus for Landscaping
Generally my taste in costus runs towards weird bizarre stems but my number one pick is more of a pretty costus. Costus barbatus is a cold tolerant costus that has lovely hard red bracts and small edible yellow day flowers. The deep green leaves have a soft velvety underleaf. Barbatus is tough as nails and will flourish even in poor soil. For me it's the James Brown of costus, definitely the hardest working costus out there. I recommend Costus barbatus for novice gardeners, cool climate gardeners,lazy gardeners, people looking for a quick growing garden, landscape architects and landscapers. If you can't get Costus barbatus to grow you are hopeless cause this is one reliable plant!!!
Costus spicatus is also a truly reliable attractive landscaping plant. My favorite cv is French Kiss. It is primarily used as a cut flower costus but has the same growth traits as the more commonly grown variety. It has small waxy flowers, with small waxy leaves and a very upright habit. French Kiss has deep true red flowers that jump out of the landscape. Another reliable costus I recommend it for novice, cool climate, lazy, quick fix gardeners and landscaping professionals.
Costus asplundii is a tall growing costus that prefers tropical and subtropical climates. It has deep purple hairy stems. The leaves are a deep grey green with new growth having a purple flush on the underside. The crepe flowers are an attractive soft pink but it's really the foliage that is a show stopper. It's such a beautiful plant we use it everywhere. If you are looking to get colorful, interesting plants in your garden this is a costus for you. It is easy to grow but as stated earlier prefers warm conditions.
Kiss of Death is another unique tropical costus. It represents the best of both worlds. The big oblong waxy leaves are held on hairy olive green stems that get to over 2 meters. It flowers basally, the hard bracts are a deep maroon color and the delicate day flowers resemble tiny pink orchids. Kiss of Death screams of the deep jungle. Still relatively rare in cultivation but not difficult to grow. I recommend this to collectors, people looking for the unusual and landscaping professionals.If you would like to share any information on landscaping with costus please leave a comment.
If you would like to see more costus please visit our online store where these and many other costus can be purchased. Cheers!! Ann


あい said...
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あい said...

Hi there. I find your recommendtions really interesting. Costus are tropical plants and I live in a tropical country (Singapore, South-east Asia), but even here where they supposedly grow well and are common, the ones you suggested aren't all that common here. Also, it seems that the tropical plants you choose are more suited to cold climates, which sadly isn't the climate here at all (we're 1 degree North of the equator).In any case, really resourceful work you've got there. I'm a Dipl. in Landscape Architecture student and currently on attachment at a plant nursery for 2 months. Your blog posts generally have taught me a little more, and thanks for that, though I can't use most of them here in my country.

Michael said...

Fantastic , well written More , more