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Costus speciosus 'Variegatus' Variegated Crepe Ginger1

Edward F. Gilman 2


The large, soft, variegated leaves of this tropical evergreen are borne on red stems emerging directly from the ground (Fig.1). Each leaf has a narrow white strip along each margin with occasional light streaks through the blade. They alternate in a spiralling fashion around the stem, forming attractive, arching clumps arising from underground rootstocks. Plants reach 6 to 8 feet tall, with the tallest stems occasionally falling over and lying on the ground. Beautiful, 1.5-inch diameter, white flowers are produced in the warm months, appearing on cone-like heads at the tips of branches.

Figure 1. Variegated crepe ginger.
Figure 1.  Variegated crepe ginger.

General Information

Scientific name: Costus speciosus 'Variegatus'
Pronunciation: KOS-tus spee-see-OH-sus
Common name(s): variegated crepe ginger, variegated spiral flag
Family: Costaceae
Plant type: perennial
USDA hardiness zones: 9B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: specimen; container or above-ground planter; mass planting; cascading down a wall; accent
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant

Figure 2. Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 2.  Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 6 to 8 feet
Spread: 3 to 4 feet
Plant habit: upright; spreading
Plant density: open
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: undulate
Leaf shape: elliptic (oval)
Leaf venation: parallel
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 8 to 12 inches
Leaf color: variegated
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: white
Flower characteristic: summer flowering; fall flowering


Fruit shape: unknown
Fruit length: less than .5 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: reddish
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: 36 to 60 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
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Growing in either sun or partial shade, crepe ginger needs fertile soil and ample moisture, and is often planted near water. Plants receiving regular fertilization often look the best. It makes a nice accent plant in a shrub border, where the variegated foliage will contrast the greens of the shrub border. Planted on 3- to 4-foot-centers, it forms a loose, open mass of foliage, and can brighten a partially shaded location. Foliage can burn up in full day sun.

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.


1. This document is FPS152, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #FPS152

Date: 5/21/2015

      Organism ID


      • Gail Hansen de Chapman