Costus woodsonii (Red Button Ginger) with exotic torpedo-shaped blooms

Costus woodsonii (Red Button Ginger, Scarlet Spiral Flag, Red Cane, Panamanian Candle Ginger, Dwarf French Kiss)

Costus woodsonii (Red Button Ginger, Scarlet Spiral Flag, Red Cane, Panamanian Candle Ginger)This stunning and colourful plant that displays exotic and vibrant red torpedo-shaped inflorescences, rising above a sea of lush green foliage as if ready to be launched into space, is definitely an attention grabber and demands notice.

No wonder Costus woodsonii, is very much favoured as a decorative landscape and garden plant or container specimen. Like the Cheliocostus speciosus, another spectacular plant, it is becoming more and more popular in Malaysia in recent years. It is often planted at home gardens, recreational areas and parks, as well as in containers at entrances to hotels, restaurants and shopping malls.

Costus woodsonii (Red Button Ginger, Scarlet Spiral Flag, Red Cane, Panamanian Candle Ginger)Red Button Ginger, named thus because of its lovely flower head that comes forth as a luscious red button, is one of the robust spiral gingers in the Costus family that has more than 100 species.
It characteristically features leaves that are spirally arranged around the graceful and succulent stems.

Calathea lutea (Cuban Cigar), an exotic tropical stunner!

Calathea lutea (Cigar Calathea, Cuban/Havana Cigar, Pampano)

Weren’t you surprised that these majestically tall plants, up to 3 meters in height, with green and unpatterned foliage bears the name, Calathea lutea? We definitely were as most calatheas not only have beautifully patterned and variegated leaves but are rather dwarfish (about 60 cm) in stature, unlike this rather tall species.

Nevertheless, whatever it lacked is made up by its other unusual characteristic features that makes it popularly sought by landscapers, interiorscapers, gardeners and florists alike.

Flowering Calathea lutea (Cuban/Havana Cigar) at Felda Residence Hot Springs in SungkaiCigar Calathea is an exotic tropical stunner that easily forms an attractive clump of extremely large paddle-shaped leaves that are gracefully held on long stalks that emerge from its underground rhizomes.

Like the beautiful Heliconia species of the tropics, their bluish-green to green blades with reflective silver undersides are appealing and exotic-looking . As exotic too are the erect, 30-cm long inflorescences that are produced year round, having a cigar-like structure and coloured reddish-brown, maroon or chocolaty, appearing rather unusual and unique in shape and shade. Besides, the tiny yellow flowers that peep from the uniquely coloured bracts present a fabulous contrast!

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Cheilocostus speciosus (Costus speciosus) with crepe-like flowers

Cheilocostus speciosus; syn: Costus speciosus (Spiral Ginger, Crepe Ginger, White costus, Cane Reed)

Cheilocostus speciosus, syn: Costus speciosus (Crepe/Crape Ginger, Spiral Ginger, White Costus) in the neighbourhoodFree-flowering Cheilocostus speciosus (its current accepted name) is one of the most attractive and well-known cultivated species of the genus Cheilocostus. A lovely clustering plant with tall reed-like stems that are topped with large snowy-white and crepe-textured flowers on terminal cones.

These last 4-5 years, we’ve observed them fast gaining popularity as eye-catching garden specimens or dramatic landscape plants in our neighbourhood and elsewhere. And, we never realized earlier that we’ve also grown it before in a container!

Spiral stem of Cheilocostus speciosus (Crepe Ginger, White Costus, Cane Reed, Spiral Flag) in our garden, June 25 2007What a wonderful surprise! In researching to write this post, I’ve finally discovered that the NOID plant as seen in the left photo with marvelous spiral stems that sprung mysteriously in our garden in 2007 is Cheilocostus speciosus after all!

Its growth pattern had fascinated us so. Some stems grew strong and upright while others would be contorted in a spiral manner at the upper end, or start in a spiral pattern but may suddenly change course and straighten undecidedly.

We found this manner of stem growth weird, yet amazingly beautiful and attractive in the same breath.

September 2011: our tropical garden update

We’ve been growing Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum) for umpteen years, so long that we won’t give them a second look when we visit garden centers – or so we thought. Recently though, we were spellbound by their presence at a nearby garden center that we dropped by early last month.

Chlorophytum comosum 'Variegatum' (Spider Plant, Ribbon Plant) with green leaves and white margins, Sept 6 2011 in our gardenWith outstretched limbs and crying to be adopted were three hanging pots of Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’, the most fabulous and healthiest Spider Plants that we’ve ever seen. So fertile and showing off countless baby spiders on a great number of branched stolons that gracefully arched and swayed like can-can skirts in the gentle breeze. Really had us fascinated and we stood gawked at them, transfixed by their beauty.

Mutual attraction – they wanted us and we definitely wanted them too! Without delay, we excitedly grabbed a pot, choosing the loveliest of the lot, to grace our home. It was dirt cheap – cost us only RM10/= which truly surprised us! And, visualizing the great number of plants that can be propagated from the dancing babies kept us smiling all the way home! :)