Costus pictus belongs to the group of plants known as spiral gingers. So-named because of the way the leaves spiral around the stem as they grow. This species only grows about three foot tall (in full sun) and the leaves are densely arranged on the stem, making the spiraling difficult to detect. The leaves have a wavy edge.
When the stems reach their mature height, a green cone will form made of tightly compressed bracts.
The bright yellow flowers develop out of the bracts, one or two at a time. Each flower lasts only a day, but a clump of stems will provide flowers every day, all summer long. The flowers are tubular, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in length.
Costus pictus flowers are edible. They have a pleasant flavor and are juicy and crunchy. They make a great addition to fruit salads. The leaves are also edible and, in clinical studies, have been shown to reduce diabetes.
This species grows in full to dappled sunlight. The height of the canes will be taller in less light (up to 6 feet). The canes are red at the base where they emerge from the ground.
Even when frozen to the ground, they make quick growth and will be in bloom by early summer. It is reportedly hardy to USDA Zone 8 or possibly less.