Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia spp.) is generally not recommended for pots and planters because of its fast-growing nature and large mature size. However, there are a few dwarf varieties that may do well in containers for a time. If a non-dwarf variety is chosen for use in a pot, it will do best transplanted into a garden bed after a season or so. The vibrant flower spikes can add some height and texture to your planters, thriving in full sun and well-draining soil.
Planting Red Hot Poker in Pots
Red Hot Poker can be added to pots and containers in the spring once the threat of frost has passed. Needing full sun, Red Hot Poker will do best poolside, in a garden accent pot, or on an uncovered porch. Because these plants can spread a bit even within one summer, it is best to provide them with a large ceramic or non-porous pot with adequate drainage holes.
Best Soil For Red Hot Poker in Pots
Though they are drought tolerant in the ground, Red Hot Poker will do best in a pot with well-draining soil and mulch to assist in moisture retention. When a pot or container is in full sun, soil tends to dry out much quicker than that in the ground, so daily checks will be needed to assure the soil is not drying out entirely. Adding rocks to the bottom of any pot is not beneficial as it can impede drainage. Instead, stick to high-quality, well-draining potting soil. You will have to find the right balance for keeping soil moist without saturating the roots, which can lead to root rot.
Caring For Red Hot Poker in Planters
When placing Red Hot Poker in a mixed planter, it is best to choose other plant varieties with similar light and water needs. For this reason, you will want to avoid plants that need consistently damp soil, shade, or heavy fertilization. In addition, because Red Hot Poker is fast-growing, pair it with other plants that may need a little less space or that will not grow as aggressively.
Watering Red Hot Poker in Pots
Red Hot Poker is tolerant of dry periods. In order to ensure that you are getting as many blooms as possible, though, you will want to check your soil daily, only allowing the top few inches of soil to dry in between waterings. Consistent, deep watering (when water flows out the bottom of the pot) will help your Red Hot Poker to grow deep roots and continuously bloom. If you are in a region that gets regular rain during the summer, you may not have to water that frequently. In the hottest, driest parts of the year, however, water regularly.
Fertilizing Red Hot Poker in Pots
Potted plants tend to need more frequent fertilization than those in the ground because nutrients leach out of potting soil faster; there is not a whole garden bed full of naturally occurring nutrients, insects, and decaying organic matter contributing to potted soil. While Red Hot Poker will appreciate the occasional fertilization during its growing season, it is important to choose a fertilizer that encourages flower production.
Fertilizers that are high in nitrogen will increase leaf and root growth in Red Hot Poker, taking energy away from the coveted and continuous blooms. A slow-release fertilizer that supports blooms or a bloom boosting liquid fertilizer a few times through the growing season will support Red Hot Poker as it grows and blooms.
Winter Care For Red Hot Poker in Pots
Plants in pots, even cold-hardy perennials, are more likely to be damaged by extreme temperatures than those in the ground. Even in large planters, there is less soil to insulate the roots from both extreme heat and cold. If you are in a colder climate that experiences cold winters with temperatures below freezing, it is best to move your pots and planters into a basement or garage if possible.
This will further the life of your containers as well, as even high-quality ceramics can crack in extremely cold temperatures. Another option is transplanting Red Hot Poker into the ground in the early fall, giving the plant some time to adjust to the garden and protecting its roots in the winter.
Growing Red Hot Poker Indoors
Red Hot Poker is not a plant that can thrive indoors for long. However, if you are bringing it in for protection in the winter, there are two options. First, Red Hot Poker can be placed in a south-facing window where it can get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. In the warmth of your home, the plant can stay alive through the winter, continuing to use the sun to make food for itself and grow a bit. You will have to continue to water regularly, allowing the top few inches to dry out in between watering.
The second option is to leave the plant outdoors long enough for it to go dormant and die back for the winter, but not so long that the roots experience a deep freeze. The container can then be moved into a garage, which will protect the pot from freezing and thawing cycles. When dormant, Red Hot Poker will not need to be watered.