Insulin Plant (Costus igneus)
Live Insulin Plant
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Costus igneus, also scientifically known as Chamaecostus cuspidatus, is the name for the so called 'Insulin Plant'. The Insulin Plant is also known by the common names of 'Fiery Costus' or 'Spiral Flag'. This plant is a member of the Costus family of plants, Costaceae, which are close cousins to the ginger family of plants.
Insulin Plant is a herbaceous, perennial flowering plant that hardly grows past 2 feet in height. It is native to South America, particularly the country of Brazil. It thrives in sunny areas with a little shade. It is a rapid growing plant, that spreads from rhizomes that form attractive foliage around the original root stock. It has large, smooth turmeric-like spiral leaves that are dark green on top with light purple undersides.
The plant features beautiful, orange flowers that are produced in the Summer and the Fall. These flowers appear on cone-like heads at the tips of branches. The flower petals are edible! Costus igneus does well planted in the ground year round in USDA zones 9-11, but is also very suitable for a container garden or above-ground planter. The plant is moderately tolerant of drought. The Insulin Plant makes a beautiful indoor or house plant, perfect for cascading down a wall!
Studies suggest that Insulin Plant has antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antiproliferative, hepatoprotective properties. The plant is also traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of diabetes. Recent research indicates that compounds within the Insulin plant help regulate blood sugar levels, supporting these traditional uses and claims. The plant does not actually contain insulin, which is a misnomer, and can lead to confusion. The blood sugar regulating effects of the plant are it's prominent medicinal value, and are currently being assessed by pharmaceutical companies for use in over the counter and prescription based diabetes treatments.Growing & Managing
Grow Costus igneus in either full sun or partial shade. Costus igneus needs fertile soil, with plenty of moisture. Due to these requirements, it is often planted near water. It makes a nice aesthetic accent in landscaped shrub borders, where the orange flowers will contrast the greens of the shrub border. Planted on two to three foot centers, Costus igneus can act as a tall ground cover, and can help 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.