A fine architectural plant with striking vertical blooms, topped by blazing red, orange and yellow tapering flower heads, that really do resemble fiery hot pokers. Kniphofia are tough, long-lived plants, with a long flowering season (spring to late autumn).
Botanical Name: Kniphofia
Common Names: red-hot poker, torch lily
Foliage: Perennial evergreen. Mid-green strap-like leaves.
Flowers: Tall striking flower spikes that appear above the foliage on thick stems. The densely packed, pendent, tubular flower heads range in colour from yellow to orange, pink and bright red (depending on variety).
Flowering Period: April to October.
Soil: Moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Best in sand or loam. Acid or neutral pH.
Conditions: Full sun. South or west facing aspect. Exposed or sheltered position.
Type: Herbaceous perennial.
Origin: Southern and eastern Africa and Madagascar.
Hardiness: Hardy to half-hardy in the UK.
Plant in early autumn or spring. Best grown in a well-drained, but not over rich soil. Choose an open sunny situation for best flowers.
Easy to grow given the right conditions. No staking required. Excellent for city and coastal gardens. Ideal for borders, pots and containers. Dwarf forms are available for the rockery.
The tall stiff stems are loved by flower arrangers.
Water container-grown plants regularly over the
summer. Protect more tender species with fleece
during cold periods. Apply a light fertilizer in spring
or early summer.
Deadhead after flowering. Leave the old foliage on the plant to protect the crown over winter. Tidy plants in spring by pulling away dead and damaged leaves a the base.
Generally disease free. Can be damaged by slugs and snails. Regularly check for these pests hiding in amongst the leaves.
Easily propagated by division in the spring or by taking offshoots from the crown.
Seed can be sown in late winter under glass. Grow-on in a cold frame and plant out the following spring (Note: named cultivars will not come true from seed).
There is an extensive range of Pokers available, ranging from tall to medium and dwarf height. Not all kniphofia flowers are red however, there is a wide selection of named varieties that provide a flowering season from April to October, in colours varying from white through all the shades of yellow, red and orange.
K. caulescens (S. Africa) is one of the most striking species with evergreen long grey leaves and pinkish-red flower spikes that fade to cream. This is the only fully hardy kniphofia in the UK. Height 4ft (1.2m), spread 2ft (60cm).
K. galpinii has drooping, red orange flame coloured spikes. Height 3ft (1m), spread 1ft (30cm).
K. galpinii Bressingham Torch flame red ageing to orange yellow. Height to 3ft (90cm).
K. citrina has light yellow flowers that appear in late summer. Height 3ft (1m), spread 1ft (30cm).
K. northiae a good variety for its foliage, the agave-like leaves provide an exotic feel. Hardy. Height up to 70in (170cm).
K. rooperi – unusual rounded flowers in orange, red and yellow. Blooms from September in the UK. Height from 2 to 5ft (60-155cm).
K. triangularis has flame-coloured flowers in late summer. Height 2ft (60cm), spread 1ft (30cm).
K. thomsonii var. thomsonii 'Stern's Trip' has delicate, widely-spaced vertical flowers in red and orange that become brighter in colour as they open. Not fully hardy in UK. Height 3 to 4ft (90-120cm).
K. uvaria has various forms that can grow up to 5ft (1.5m), in a range of bold colours. One of the most commonly grown and hardiest red-hot poker species.
K. uvaria ‘Nobilis’ (syns. 'Grandiflora', 'Maxima') is taller and earlier flowering, with deep orange flowers.
K. ‘Alcazar’ bears bright red flowers. Height to 5ft (1.5m).
K. ‘Bees' Sunset’ - soft orange flower heads that fade to yellow on colourful bronze stems. Height to 4.5ft (130cm).
K. 'Bees' Lemon' has heavy spikes of luminous lemon yellow (August to September) Height to 4ft (120cm).
K. ‘Border Ballet’ is in various shades from cream to pink. Height to 2ft (60cm).
K. ‘Brimstone’ has green buds that open to yellow flowers (late flowering). Height to 2ft (60cm).
K. ‘Buttercup’ has green buds which open into yellow flowers (early flowering). Height to 3 ft (1m).
K. ‘Early Buttercup’ has large spikes of bright
yellow flowers (early flowering). Height to 3 ft (1m).
K. ‘Fiery Fred’ blazing orange-red flowers. Height to 3 ft (1m).
K. ‘Green Jade’ bears cool green flowers. Height to 3 ft (1m).
K. ‘Ice Queen’ has cream flowers tinged with green. Height to 3 ft (1m).
K. ‘Jenny Bloom’ has cream and coral-pink flowers (late flowering). Height to 3 ft (1m).
K. ‘Little Maid’ has ivory flower spikes tipped with yellow. Dwarf variety, reaching only 22in (55cm).
K. ‘Percy’s Pride’ has green and yellow flowers. Height to 2ft 8in (80cm).
K. ‘Samuel’s Sensation’ bears long spikes yellow flowers that change to red at the tips (late flowering). Height to 5ft (1.5m).
K. 'Sceptre’ has bright yellow flower spikes. Height to 3ft (1m).
K. 'Strawberries and Cream' pale yellow and rich pink. Height to 1.5ft (45cm).
K. ‘Sunningdale Yellow’ bears yellow flowers (long flowering period. Height to 2.5ft (75 cm).
K. ‘Toffee Nosed' has cream flowers tipped with brown. Height to 3 ft (1m)
K. ‘Yellow Hammer’ has pure yellow flowers. Height to 2 ft (60cm).
K. ‘Tawny King’ an unusual variety with bronze stems and tall flower spikes that change from deep orange though apricot to creamy white. Height 3-4ft (90-130cm)