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Red Hot Poker – Growing and Caring for Torch Lilies

The red hot poker is a showy and dramatic plant.  If you love growing perennials that give color all summer long, this is the plant for you. Other names for this showy plant are torch lily and poker plant. The botanical name for this plant is kniphofia uvaria and there are more than 70 known species of it.Red hot pokers are a drought resistant and heat tolerant perennial that is very easy to grow and care for.

The red hot poker is a member of the liliaceae family which is home to common lilies. These drought and heat tolerant perennials do well in the heat of mid summer, long after some of the other plants in your garden have started to suffer from the heat.  If you live in an arid area, it is the ideal plant for you. The plant is native to South Africa.

Growing a Red Hot Poker plant is very easy.

Want a showy flower in your garden? Try red hot poker plants! Click To Tweet


Red hot poker plants like sunlight.  I originally had one planted in a semi sunny location and it was always reaching for the sunlight.  Plant it in full sunlight and watch it really grow! This plant is a tough summer bloomer that does well in the hot days of summer.Torch lily, also known as red hot poker, or poker plant


Although not particularly picky about soil, red hot poker does seem to do well in loose soil that drains well. It will benefit from the addition of organic matter, such as compost, before planting.


This perennial actually likes the soil to be a bit dry as long as it is not TOO hot. If it sits in wet soil, the crown of the plant can easily rot. They don’t need a lot of watering, but you should take care to keep an eye on the watering during the hottest days of the summer. This torch lily plant is in my hottest garden border and does not need much watering, but I set up a sprinker when the days get really hot.Torch lily plant needs room to grow


The flower spikes start to appear in the spring.  They have a muted color and are smaller at first but soon become rich with color and shape. The flowers are quite long lasting.

If you take care to deadhead the spent flower stalks, it will continue blooming all the way through to fall.  This means that you can use the blooms for cut flowers indoors! The most well known color is red, of course, but red hot poker flowers also come in shades of yellow, coral, cream and yellow. My flowers start out yellow and turn to bright orange and yellow when they mature.Young red hot pokers ready to take on color

It is easy to see where the common name for kniphofia uvaria comes from.  The flowers really do have the look of a burning torch!Flower of the torch lily

Hummingbirds love to feed on torch lily plants. See how to grow them. Click To Tweet


A mature red hot poker plant can be quite large.  The one I have in my southwest garden bed that is about 3 feet wide now and it is only 3 years old.  They can tolerate a bit of crowding. In addition to leaving room for the widely spreading crown, the plant also needs height, since the blooms can be as high as five feet.Divide a mature plant to keep it flowering


The leaves of red hot poker plants are long and slim, very much like the look of a daylilyThe leaves are very much like other lilies

Propagating and hardiness zones.


Red hot pokers can be grown from seeds. If you plant from seed, be sure to allow 18 to 24 inches between the seeds to give them room to grow.  Cold stratification of the seeds is a good idea before planting for best results. You can purchase seed or collect them from the pods of mature plants. Be sure to let them dry out before trying to plant them.Seeds of a mature torch lily plant

Generally, these plants are propagated from divisions of a mature plant. Fully grown plants should be divided every three to five years for better flower production.  The plants will also send off offsets that can be divided and planted separately.  Division is generally done in early spring or late fall. Plant divisions just below the soil level.

Hardiness Zones

Torch lily does well in zones 5-9.  In the colder zones, be sure to lay down 2-3 inches of mulch before winter to protect the crowns of the plant.

Uses for Red Hot Pokers

Where you find this plant you are also likely to find hummingbirds. They love the bright colors of it and sweet nectar, and are attracted to the tubular shape of the flowers.  Birds, bees and butterflies are also attracted to it. The plant is moderately deer resistant. (if there is such a thing!)Hummingbirds love the tubular flowers of torch lilies

After blooming has finished for the season, don’t cut back the foliage. Let it in place so that it will nourish the roots for the next season. Once the cold weather really starts to come in the fall, (or early the next spring) is a good time to remove the foliage.

With some easy care and the right spot, red hot pokers will give you season after season of vibrant color and hummingbird attracting flowers.

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