Like most members of the Lily Family, Kniphofia, or “Red Hot Poker Plant” is a showy plant in the perennial garden. Often called simply “Poker Plant” or “Torch Lily,” this easy-to-grow, drought tolerant plant is not as commonly grown as it should be. A favorite of hummingbirds, this stalwart plant is the star of many summer gardens. The cone-shaped bloom is made of dozens of tiny flowers in brilliant colors such as yellow, red and orange atop strong 2-3’ stems. Each plant produces several bloom spikes that also make good cut flowers. Poker plants can add a bit of drama to a garden. And, if one is looking for that trendy “Southwestern” look, this is the plant to add!
The plant can be grown from seed if un-named plants are satisfactory. Other methods of propagation are cutting off the top of the crown to produce side shoots that can be rooted, or by divisions in early spring. Poker plants do best in sunny locations slightly raised so the crowns do not rot in wet weather. Some authorities suggest tying the strap-like leaves together over the crown tightly before winter to prevent rot, and for years I followed their suggestion. However, one year I neglected this chore and could so no apparent damage, so I have discontinued the practice. This is a tough plant that can survive neglect and summer heat. It is a good candidate for xeriscape, and most types are hardy Zones 5-10. There are a few species from South Africa, but they are generally not available in the U.S. There are also several dwarf forms, found in European garden centers, but not often found here.
There are several species and varieties available in the marketplace.
Alcazar 40”, tangerine red, long-blooming
Amazing Fun 36”, huge orange on strong stems, patented
Border Ballet XXXXX
Cobra 36”, coral changing to ivory, large blooms, strong stems
Elvira XXXX bright orange, patented
Fire Dance (K. hirsuta selection) 18-20” Short selection, coral-red and yellow.
First Sunrise 30-36”, solid orange, patented
Flamenco (K. uvaria selection) 30”, showy 8”blooms are red at top, orange changing to
Nancy’s Red 24”, all red blooms, large spikes
Pfitzer’s 36” seed grown, full color range, some solids, some bi-colors
Regal Red Hot Poker (K. caulescens) 30-36”, crimson tops, golden middle, cream
Royal Standard 35”, scarlet buds open to yellow spikes
Yellow Hummer 36”, huge golden flowers on chocolate stems