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Costus igneus Spiral Flag, Fiery Costus

Edward F. Gilman, Ryan W. Klein, and Gail Hansen


The large, smooth, dark green leaves of this tropical evergreen have light purple undersides and are spirally arranged around stems, forming attractive, arching clumps arising from underground rootstocks. Plants reach to about two feet tall, with the tallest stems falling over and lying on the ground. Beautiful, 1½ diameter, orange flowers are produced in the warm months, appearing on cone-like heads at the tips of branches. They are especially showy and will stimulate compliments from visitors to your garden.

Leaf - Costus igneus: Spiral Flag, Fiery Costus
Figure 1. Leaf - Costus igneus: Spiral Flag, Fiery Costus
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS


Flower - Costus igneus: Spiral Flag, Fiery Costus
Figure 2. Flower - Costus igneus: Spiral Flag, Fiery Costus
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Costus igneus

Pronunciation: KOS-tus IG-nee-us

Common name(s): spiral flag, fiery costus

Family: Costaceae

Plant type: perennial

USDA hardiness zones: 9B through 11 (Figure 3)

Planting month for zone 9: year round

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round

Origin: not native to North America

Invasive potential: not known to be invasive

Uses: specimen; container or above-ground planter; mass planting; cascading down a wall; accent

Availability: grown in small quantities by a small number of nurseries

Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 3. Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Credit: UF/IFAS


Height: 2 to 4 feet

Spread: 2 to 4 feet

Plant habit: upright; spreading

Plant density: open

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: oblong

Leaf venation: parallel

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches

Leaf color: green

Fall color: no fall color change

Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: orange

Flower characteristic: summer flowering; fall flowering


Fruit shape: unknown

Fruit length: less than 1/2 inch

Fruit cover: dry or hard

Fruit color: green

Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems

Current year stem/twig color: green

Current year stem/twig thickness: very thick


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun

Soil tolerances: occasionally wet; slightly alkaline; clay; sand; acidic; loam

Drought tolerance: moderate

Soil salt tolerances: poor

Plant spacing: 18 to 24 inches


Roots: usually not a problem

Winter interest: plant has winter interest due to unusual form, nice persistent fruits, showy winter trunk, or winter flowers

Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more

Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Growing in either full sun or partial shade, spiral flag needs fertile soil and ample moisture and is often planted near water. It makes a nice accent plant in a shrub border, where the orange flowers will contrast the greens of the shrub border. Planted on two to three foot centers, it acts as a tall ground cover and can brighten a partially shaded location.

Propagation is by division of the clumps, cuttings, or by separating the offsets or plantlets that form below the flower heads.

Pests and Diseases

Mites and nematodes can be a problem, especially on light, sandy soil.

No diseases are of major concern.

Publication #FPS151

Release Date:October 9, 2023

Related Collections

Part of Shrubs Fact Sheets

Related Topics

  • Critical Issue: 1. Agricultural and Horticultural Enterprises
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is FPS151, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Revised October 2023. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture; and Gail Hansen, professor, sustainable landscape design; Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Gail Hansen de Chapman