Fiery and fabulous, the red Kniphofia uvaria, or red hot poker, is part of the Asphodelaceae family. It’s also referred to as the torch lily or poker plant, is native to South Africa and has over 70 species in existence.
The plant can grow up to 1.5 metres tall and is easily identified by its sword-shaped leaves and tubular flowers. These vibrant, nectar-rich plants also attract an abundance of birds and butterflies, so they are a wonderful addition to your garden.
What is a Red Hot Poker Plant?
These herbaceous perennials are incredibly tall with spike-like, brightly coloured flowers. The flowers are most commonly yellow, red, or orange. While they are often referred to as torch lilies, they do not form part of the lily family. They commonly reach a length of 1.5 metres, there are dwarf versions that only grow to 60 centimetres.
Red hot pokers have a long blooming period. They will provide vibrant colour to any garden during the summer months and are able to rebloom, returning year after year.
How to Grow Red Hot Poker Plants
Where to Plant Red Hot Poker Plants
The seeds need to be planted in full sun with soil providing adequate drainage while being rich in organic matter. They’ll need to be grown indoors for about two months before being planted in the garden.
The red hot poker thrives in direct sunlight, although they can tolerate shade too. They need soil able to provide proper drainage because although they are hardy plants, the one thing known to kill them is poor drainage. Damp soil during the winter can also be problematic and cause root rot.
These plants are water-wise and require minimal watering. When the plant is still developing, ensure that it receives frequent watering. Once established, you can begin to decrease the watering frequency.
Try to plant the flower in rich, nutritious soil to promote blooming. Alternatively, fertilizers can facilitate the process.
How to Plant Red Hot Poker Plants
Red hot poker plants can be grown from seeds or propagated by replanting or transferring established plants.
The first way to plant the red hot poker is by dividing clumped plants to prevent overcrowding. This can take place every 3-5 years and requires removing the new plant from the existing plant.
The red hot poker also produces seeds, which you can plant to grow new plants. The seeds will need to dry out for 24 hours, followed by a chilling period of 4 weeks to “wake the seeds up” as they’re usually dormant. This can be achieved by putting the seeds in a bag and storing them in a fridge.
Plant 3 seeds in a container with potting soil and water regularly. The seeds will germinate within the next month or so. Once the indoor plants begin to grow clumps, you can transfer them into your garden. If you live in a warm area, the seeds can be planted in the garden. Their long taproots make the plant incompatible with growing in containers, other than when germinating the seeds.
To help your plant adapt to the change, slowly move them into sunnier conditions before planting them in direct sunlight. When planting the new plant in your garden, keep the depth of the whole the same as the container in which the plant was grown.
How to Care for Red Hot Poker Plants
To ensure that a red hot poker can rebloom, regular deadheading will help to encourage blooming and flowering. The lowest blooms will dry up first and fade to brown. This will eventually progress upwards, until the entire plant turns brown.
Don’t prune the foliage as it adds protection from the cold. Adding mulch also provides additional protection during the colder months. Once the spring has come, you can prune the foliage. To protect the crown of the plant, you can tie the plant’s leaves around it.
There’s a risk of the plants becoming overcrowded as they spread using rhizomes, so be sure to divide them up in the springtime to reduce the risk of overcrowding – but use caution as this can upset the rhizome structure of the plant. Of course, you can remove the offsets to prevent the spread.
Do red hot pokers come back every year?
Yes, these perennial plants will return year after year given the correct growing conditions and protection during the winter.
Do red hot pokers bloom all summer?
Yes, when planted in early spring, the red hot poker will bloom all summer long.
Should I deadhead red hot pokers?
Yes, this promotes blooming of the flowers and will help to prepare the plant for the following season.
Why is my red hot poker not flowering?
This could be due to a number of reasons that can include poor soil quality, overwatering resulting in root rot, too little water hampering the growth of the plant or damage to the plant’s rhizome as a result of dividing the plant.
Are red hot pokers invasive?
Yes, red hot pokers grow using rhizomes that can lead to overcrowding and spreading of the plant. As a result, these plants can be invasive when not properly managed.
Are red hot pokers poisonous to dogs?
No, there have been no reported cases of animal poisonings as a result of the red hot poker.
Can red hot pokers grow in shade?
Yes, while they prefer full sunlight, they are able to tolerate shady conditions.
Self-Sufficient And Easy To Grow
Red hot pokers are easy to grow, and once established, will easily return year after year. However, these plants can grow and spread without much input from your side, which means that they need to be properly monitored to prevent them from taking over!