Red button ginger makes a bold addition to the garden thanks to its glossy green, oval-shaped foliage and bright ruby red spiky cones, which produce vibrant orange flowers. Native to Central America, red button ginger is part of the flowering ginger family, which includes 47 genera and more than 1,000 species.
Red button ginger is best planted in early spring (or year-round in tropical environments)—the plant will grow at a moderate, blooming in its second year of life and eventually reaching a mature height of 3 to 4 feet.
|Botanical Name||Costus woodsonii|
|Common Names||Red button ginger, scarlet spiral flag|
|Mature Size||3–6 ft. tall, 2–3 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Hardiness Zones||9–11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Central America|
Red Button Ginger Care
A beloved spiral ginger among gardeners in the southern United States (as well Central and South America), red button ginger easy to care for and offers year-round visual interest. It grows best in hot temperatures and other tropics-like conditions. Space each rhizome at least 18 to 24 inches apart when planting—doing so will mean you will end up dividing them less in the future. It looks great alongside plants that like similar conditions, such mondo grass, bush lily, hosta, Brunfelsia, and arelia.
Red button ginger thrives in full sun but can also do well in partial shade, especially in particularly hot conditions. As a good rule of thumb, plant your red button ginger somewhere that gets at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Red button ginger is also susceptible to sunburn if it's left in direct sunlight for too long, so if you can offer it some afternoon shade, that would be best.
Plant your red button ginger in a soil mixture that is moist but well-draining. It will thrive best in a rich and moderately fertile mixture—you can up the nutritional value of your soil by amending it with a bit of organic matter. Additionally, red button ginger can thrive in a soil mixture that has a pH level that ranges from neutral to acidic.
Red button ginger plants love water and should be soaked regularly in order to maintain moist soil. In most climates, a once-weekly deep watering is sufficient, but you may need to increase your watering cadence if you're experiencing especially hot or dry weather. Ultimately, you should never let the soil dry out completely.
Temperature and Humidity
True to its tropical nature, red button ginger loves warm and humid temperatures. In fact, if temperatures remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit all throughout the year, there's a good chance it will flower continuously. That being said, red button ginger is heartier than it's given credit for and it can survive (though not flower through) some very chilly temperatures. After light frosts, it generally wilts and bounces back and after a hard freeze, it can sometimes grow back from the roots.
Your red button ginger plant will probably do just fine without fertilizer (especially if you've planted it in a soil rich with organic matter), but it also won't hurt the plant to periodically be fed with a balanced blend. Feed your red button ginger plant once a month with a liquid fertilizer—you can also choose a fertilizer that's high in nitrogen for a chance at increased flower production.
Potting and Repotting Red Button Ginger
If you're choosing to pot up your red button ginger, group several plants together in large containers that are at least 3 gallons in size and provide excellent drainage. In cooler parts of the world, red button ginger can be cared for indoors as a houseplant. Keep in mind that plants housed in a container will dry out more quickly, so up your watering cadence to at least once a week (maybe even twice, depending on the location and size of the plant). When tended to properly, red button ginger planted in a container will grow to about 2 feet tall and can live for up to 10 years.
While it's generally resistant to disease, red button ginger can be a bit of a magnet for pests, unfortunately. When growing it in your garden, you may come across insects such as aphids, scale, mealybug, cardamom thrips, Chinese rose beetle, slugs, and more. While there is no single remedy that will eliminate all these critters, you can try to control pests with a horticultural oil like neem oil. Additionally, other natural methods of pest control, like introducing ladybugs to your garden or manually removing the insects from the plants, can help. Insecticides are also an option, though there probably isn't a blend that will tackle all these pests at once.