Costus barbatus has one of the showiest bract structures of the spiral gingers. The spiral growth is not as obvious on these as on some of the other Costus species.
The bright red bracts appear on top of 6-8 foot tall canes and bright yellow tubular flowers emerge one at a time from between the bracts. The flowers are edible.
Each individual flower lasts only a day but the red bracts provide a showy display all summer long. The red inflorescence continues to grow through the summer and can often reach a length of eight inches or more. It is sometimes known as the Red Tower Ginger. The bracts have a thick, waxy texture and the blooming stems make excellent cut flowers.
Costus barbatus is listed as hardy to USDA Zone 9. Unfortunately, this species will not bloom in a year following a freeze so the flower photos are from last year. The blooms normally only appear on two-year-old canes, although I have had them send up a bloom direct from the ground.
The canes are striped with red horizontal lines at each joint near the ground,
and the underside of the leaves is covered with dense hairs, giving it a soft velvety texture.
You can't really see the fine hairs in this photo, but just imagine the softest thing you ever rubbed your fingers across!