Sunday, July 13, 2014

Costus spectabilis, a Spectacular Plant Indeed

Me with the costus rhizome as a fashion statement



When it comes to buying plants I admit it, I am usually quite thrifty (or cheap).  I grow a lot from seeds, and I'd rather buy a small inexpensive plant than buy a big expensive plant in most cases.  I take pride and joy in growing seeds or small propagations into nice specimen plants.   But there was this one plant I absolutely had to have that was on ebay, and I spent a whopping 70 dollars (about) to get it.  I can be seen wearing my trophy right out of the box in the first photo, it looked like a large brown circular tapeworm.  In this case it was money well spent (unlike the real money I have spent on orchids during the NY orchid shows, most of which was not a good investment).  This fabulous plant is a native of tropical Africa, from Zimbabwe on up and west.  It forms flattened rosettes on the ground from which rise huge exquisitely beautiful yellow flowers.  Individual flowers don't last long but new ones keep coming for some time.  In nature the rhizome branches and a whole colony of plants can form which look sort of like waterlilies on the ground.  Check out this link to see what I mean:
   http://www.spirit-of-the-land.com/galleries/amenshi/images/LZmL.534%20Yellow%20Trumpets,%20Costsus%20spectabilis,%20N%20Zambia.jpg

This has proven very easy to grow, I am surprised it is not more common in cultivation, at the time I got it I could find no other sources for it other than the expert plant grower I got it from in California.  It goes dormant in fall and I store the pots dry and relatively warm in the house, I havent yet stuck them in the garage where it is about 50 F during the winter.  They arent much warmer, maybe 60s in the room I keep them in.  Each piece of rhizome that breaks off will generate a new plant, and the questing rhizomes often come out of unexpected places like drainage holes in pots.  They also circle around the pot edge trying to escape.  So this is a plant to grow in as large a pot as you can, and even then it should be divided up periodically so you dont get too many rosettes crowding each other in the pot.  It goes outside in semishade for the summer, it does get some hours of sun but too much may scald the leaves in very hot weather.  Too much shade would likely cut down on flower production, but I have found it easy to please. It growth cycle coincides well with our eastern US climate, and it is no bother to keep during its dormant period.  It wont come up too early, rather it waits until conditions are warm enough before it really starts to grow.  I doubt it has much in the way of frost hardiness, if it has some it would be a great plant to grow outside in parts of Florida perhaps.  By now I have about 4 pots of it growing and gave away a small prop to a friend recently.  They will need dividing again next year after they complete another growth cycle, 3 of the pots are blooming now and I expect the fourth to most likely flower later on.  So far I have been unable to set seed on it but I will have to try again. ginger flowers have columns like orchids do so their pollination is slightly more complicated than with some other flowers.

4 comments:

Panayoti Kelaidis said...

The Costus is spectabilis! Blog on!

Joseph Tychonievich said...

Wow! Gorgeous! I think I need one of these!

EMMANUEL THOMAS said...

Hello, I need to buy some of these costus spectabilis for my project. How do you sell. I am from Nigeria. Please respond to my mail box "tomasconsult@yahoo.com". I ll be expecting your response soonest. Thanks.

Andrew Block said...

Love the photo of you:-) I'm the friend who he gave a pup to and it is doing great! I love this plant and have a second from that plant that I potted up last spring. Both are still smallish but look good. One I grow in the shade and one gets sun from about 9:30am to noon or so and both seem fine though the one in the sun looks more robust and darker. One of them survived a deep frost for one night and came back but not until late June. What a great plant!!