INFORMATION ABOUT RED HOT POKER PLANT…
By: Nikki Phipps
Image by ClatieK Native to South Africa and produced from rhizomes, Red-hot pokers (Kniphofia) range in color from red and orange to yellow, cream and lime green. The genus Kniphofia was named in honor of Johannes Hieronymus Kniphof and consists of about 70 species.
These interesting looking plants are also commonly called Torch Lilies as well because of their torch-like appearance. Most species are evergreen, while a few are deciduous and sprout again in the early summer. They bear dense, erect spikes in either winter or summer depending on the species.
Red-hot pokers make a brilliant display in the garden with long-lasting blooms, making them excellent candidates for cutting. The showy, bright-colored flowers are great for adding drama to lifeless areas. These plants can be used at the back of a mixed flower border or massed in groups along the front of a shrub border.
Red-hot pokers tolerate wind and are often seen growing close to the coast. Most species of red-hot pokers are found growing near rivers or in places where conditions will become damp or marshy for part of the year. A small number of species prefer dry conditions with good drainage.
Red-hot pokers grow well in rich, well-drained soil located in an open area receiving full sun or partial shade. Most species enjoy plenty of water during the growing season. Red-hot pokers are generally hardy to semi-hardy with most species tolerating frost; however, the winter-flowering species should be protected. Some summer-flowering species die down in winter and grow again in the early summer.
Some commonly cultivated species include K. praecox, K. linearifolia, K. uvaria, K. multiflora, and K. caulescens.
These plants can be propagated by seed or by division. Division will produce the quickest results since growing from seed takes a long time to produce flowering plants. Large clumps can be lifted and divided, using a spade and then replanted. Generally, however, red-hot pokers do not appreciate being disturbed once established and may take about a year or so after division before flowering again as a result. Therefore, it’s probably best not to bother them unless absolutely necessary due to overcrowding, which can be several years.
The flowers of some species of red-hot pokers are used as food and are said to taste like honey. K. parviflora is used as a snake repellent, while K. rooperii and K. laxiflora are used traditionally as a medicine to relieve or treat the symptoms of certain chest disorders.