Red Hot Pokers Aren't Blooming

Also called torch lily, red hot poker (Kniphofia spp.) stands out because of its flower spike, displaying unique tubular flowers that fade to ombre as they mature, like coals cooling in a fire. These perennials produce continuous yellow to orange blooms through the summer. However, there are a few conditions that may lead to stunted flower growth and a lack of blooms. If your red hot pokers are running cold, there are a few things to address: location, soil quality, and watering habits.


Common Reasons Why Red Hot Poker Isn’t Blooming

Red hot poker does best in full sun where it can get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Without adequate light, plants can struggle with blooming because they are unable to produce enough food to support flower production. While some plants can flower with minimal direct light, Kniphofia does not fall into this category. If your red hot poker is not getting enough light, you may want to try moving it to another location, ideally in the spring or fall. 

Another factor that can impact blooms is soil quality. Red hot poker thrives in well-draining soil. If your garden has compacted, clay-based soil, roots can stay soggy. Try mixing compost into your soil, especially during the planting process, to improve drainage. 

While red hot poker is drought tolerant when established, too little water while the blooms are developing may affect its appearance or prevent it from blooming altogether. In particularly hot and dry climates, regular watering during drought can improve blooms.


Pruning Red Hot Poker To Help It Bloom

Red hot poker has a long blooming period, starting in late spring and continuing into the fall, depending on the variety. During the blooming season, trimming spent bloom spikes, called deadheading, can encourage additional blooms. While it can be tempting to cut back the grass-like foliage after blooming has wrapped up for the year, it is best to leave the foliage until the spring. In colder regions, this leftover foliage can serve as a form of protection from cold temperatures. In warmer regions, intact leaves can even continue to provide food for the plant through the winter. 


Fertilizing Red Hot Poker To Help It Bloom

For red hot poker, a lack of fertilizer is rarely the reason behind a lack of blooms. This perennial may appreciate light fertilizing in the early spring as new growth is forming, though additional fertilizing through the summer is not necessary. In fact, fertilizers that are high in nitrogen can often take energy away from flowering as the plant focuses on leaf and root growth. 

Get Red Hot Poker To Produce More Blooms

To get the most out of your red hot poker, make sure it is getting adequate sunlight, planted in well-draining soil, and watered periodically during times of drought. To encourage continued flower growth, deadhead spent flower spikes as they fade and dry up. 

Why Red Hot Poker Isn’t Blooming

  • Lack of sunlight
  • Poor soil quality and drainage
  • Inadequate watering
  • Pruning foliage too soon
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 Author Lynn Gusman - Published 9-21-2022