Using Kniphofia uvaria in the Landscape

Growing the Red Hot Poker Plant

Kniphofia uvaria cultivation and care. Everything you need to know about planting red hot pokers in the landscape. Which Torch lily hybrid should you grow to make the biggest impact in your garden beds?


Kniphofia uvaria at sunset.

The fiery blooms of the Torch Lily, a.k.a. Red Hot Poker plant, illuminate the landscape. This luminous effect is what sets this perennial apart from its peers and makes it worth seeking out.

This fiery glow is strongest at dusk and in the most intensely-hued cultivars.


Red Hot Poker Flower

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Tritoma Mix Red Hot Poker Seeds icon

The tubular flower buds at the top of each inflorescence are much more eye-catching than the pale greenish or yellow open flowers at the bottom. As the buds mature, open and fade, it gives the inflorescence a bi-colored effect.

As the spent blossoms die, they turn brown and hang on to the bottom of the spike adding to the just-plucked-from-the-fire effect.

Red hot poker flowers glowing like embers.

Red Hot Poker Flowers Glowing Like Embers

That this plant is not self-cleaning is an asset!

These striking blooms appear, midsummer through fall, on sturdy, upright stalks from 3-5 feet high depending on which cultivar you choose.


Kniphofia Cultivation Tips

Kniphofia uvaria in a rock garden.

Once the flowers have gone over, remove the stalks to neaten the planting. You will be left with the grass-like clumps from which the flower stalks emerge.

You can trim this foliage back nearly to the ground as winter sets in to make room for new spring growth.

Plant Red Hot Poker plants where they can enjoy full sun and will be protected from strong winds. They are heavy feeders so dig plenty of compost into the soil prior to planting them. As usual, well-drained soil is best.

Kniphofia uvaria plants will slowly form large clumps which should be divided every 5 years. Replant the divisions about 18 inches apart.

This is the best way to increase your stock. While you can also grow Red Hot Poker from seeds, seedlings grow very slowly.

I often see this plant recommended for USDA zones 5-9. I believe this to be its range with a couple of caveats: in zone 5 (and maybe 6 as well) it will need to be mulched in the winter.

Also, it may perform well in zone 9 in California but I have never seen it grown in zone 9 here in Florida. I did not have success with it in my zone 9a yard.


Planting Red Hot Pokers in the Landscape

Fire Dance Kniphofia

Fire Dance is also one of the most cold hardy Torch Lilies (zones 4-9) and deer dislike its taste.

The dwarf Fire Dance is a Kniphofia hirsuta cultivar developed by Jelitto Seeds in 2006. Its 16-20 inch height and width coupled with its drought tolerance make it a perfect addition to rock or cactus gardens.

It can also be planted in a container where its glaucous foliage will be better appreciated. During the bloom season, potted torch lilies could be moved to any area of the patio or garden that you wanted to highlight.


Red Hot Poker Flower Colors

Kniphofia uvaria planted with cool colors in a front yard landscape.

The photo above shows just how well the Torch Lily's luminous inflorescence displays against cool colors. There are no other warm tones in this planting to compete with the Red Hot Pokers.

This photo also shows how well all the garden blues pair with it. Violet and periwinkle flowers compliment Kniphofia uvaria's lava-fire tones as well as steel blue and blue-green foliage.

For the most pronounced illumination, use the deeper reds and oranges.

If you want to grow Kniphofia uvaria more for its architectural effect or your garden is a romantic one filled with pastels, go with the paler shades.

The hot varieties are most commonly planted with other yellow and red-flowered plants. While these are certainly the safest pairings, they are not the most dramatic. The showy spikes tend to get lost in a sea of jewel tones.

Contrast them with purple flowers for greater impact. The upright spires of many of the ornamental Salvias mimic their growth habit while counterbalancing their color.

In the rock garden, Kniphofia's flowers and foliage stands out against the grays and browns of the boulders.

Place it thoughtfully. When in bloom, it will draw attention to whatever is behind or near it.



Other Striking Perennial Landscape Plants:

 Double Coneflowers

Blue Beaked Yucca rostrata

 Amsonia tabernaemontana

White Perennial Flowers

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