Kniphofia or Red-hot Poker–Outdoor Cultivation

Kniphofia or Red-hot Poker plants are not nearly so difficult to grow as is often supposed. In the past they have suffered by being planted in soil which remains wet, or from the crowns being covered during the winter with ashes or soil which has caused the tops to rot.

They certainly like a position where they never lack moisture, so that the humus content of the soil should be increased, but the drainage should be good, and if they can have dryish conditions during the winter, so much the better. If the foliage is retained instead of being cut off, as it often is, it will provide sufficient winter protection, still more so if the leaves are tied together over the crowns so as to form a kind of thatch.


Although plants can be raised from seed, named varieties must be propagated vegetatively to maintain a true stock. Planting is best done in the spring. A mulching of peat or moss litter during hot weather will help the new roots to form.

Species and varieties vary in height from ti to 6 ft. The old variety, Kniphofia, abides, produces from July until September, orange-scarlet flowers on 5-ft stems. K. caulescens has 4-ft spikes of pale pink flowers which pass to yellow; K. goldelse, 2 ft, is soft yellow; K. nelsonii, 2 ft, coral-red; K. tuckii, 3 ft, red passing to yellow.

Of the shorter kinds, K. macowand has dainty 2-ft coral-red spikes, K. galpinii 4-ft apricot-orange spikes, from September to November. All of these live up to their common name of torch lilies and are dependable for cutting.

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