Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker) is a genus of perennial flowering plants in the family Asphodelaceae, first described as a genus in 1794. Common names include tritoma, torch lily and poker plant. With over 70 species of this South African native plant, Red Hot Poker grows in USDA zones 5-9. Kniphofia is an upright perennial plant growing 2-5 feet tall. It boasts tubular flowers in red, orange, yellow, pink or cream with blue/green foliage. Growing on tall stalks, the clumps of flowers resemble torches. Best planted in full sun, Red Hot Poker is a gardeners choice for a specimen plant, edging, or in a rock garden
Planting Red Hot Poker
Kniphofia can be planted in the spring or fall. This plant can tolerate most types of soil as long as it is well-drained. For best results, plant in compost amended soil that has a neutral or slightly acidic pH level. Typically, Red Hot Poker plants should be spaced 18-24 inches apart, with larger varieties a little further apart. Dwarf varieties can be planted closer together. Plant each crown 3 inches deep or a bit less. Water well after initial planting.
Watering Red Hot Poker
Red Hot Poker is hardy and somewhat drought resistant. Despite this, regular watering will help the plant reach its best flowering. During hot summer months, give your plant one inch of water each week. Saturate the soil around the base of the plant, 5-6 inches deep. While the roots and crown of a Red Hot Poker plant are hardy, it is best to not to let the plant sit in soggy soil. Allow the plant to thoroughly dry out between waterings. Applying a 2-3 inch layer of mulch will help to retain moisture in the soil.
Fertilizing Red Hot Poker
Typically, Red Hot Poker plants do not require additional fertilizer for successful growth. In the spring, when new growth appears, the plant will appreciate a light application of fertilizer. Avoid getting fertilizer on the foliage or crown of the plant as this can cause burn injuries. Water well after applying fertilizer. An organic mulch will work as well. The organic mulch will break down and add nutrients to the soil.
Pruning Red Hot Poker
Cutting back a Red Hot Poker’s tall stalks after blooming is not recommended. Allowing the foliage to remain all season long helps the plant to store food for the winter. However, you can cut off the spent blooms after they fade. Deadheading during the growing season encourages continuous blooming. Fresh blooms can be cut at any time to enjoy in floral arrangements. In early spring, the old foliage can be cut back 3 inches to clean up the plant and prepare the plant for new growth.
Caring For Red Hot Poker in Pots
Typically, Red Hot Poker plants are not recommended for use in a container due to the fact that mature plants can measure 2-3 feet across. If you are still thinking about Kniphofia for a container, select a dwarf variety. They will grow if given the right conditions. Plant in a container with drainage holes as the plant likes well-drained soil. Place the pot in full sun water regularly. Prior to the first freeze, you can move the container indoors and enjoy it as a houseplant over the winter.
Winter Care for Red Hot Poker
As winter weather approaches, it is best to leave the foliage and stalks of Red Hot Poker intact. The leaves will continue to feed the plant over winter. In some growing zones, this plant can be sensitive to the cold temperatures. Gather the leaves and tie them to the crown of the plant. This will prevent the main crown of the plant from getting too wet and too frozen. In the spring, after the threat of frost is over, remove the tie and trim the plants to prepare for new growth.