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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

Sunlight

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

Soil

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.

Watering

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

Flowers

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

Size

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

Leaves

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.

Propagation

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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Verda

Wednesday 23rd of December 2020

I have a RHP in a large pot in Tucson Az. This past summer had only a had full of blooms but year before it bloomed constantly. Im confused about winter care, Do I cut the folage back, if so when. Are winters rarely see freezes more than 2-3 consecutive nights, and even more rarely do the temps get into the 20's Can I winter it under a south facing porch?.What is general care for continious summer blooms. Our summers are VERY hot

Carol Speake

Saturday 26th of December 2020

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. This is the general time and way to prune a Red hot poker. It is cold hardy in zones 5-9. Cutting back blooms will give potential for additional flowers, but this is not guaranteed. There is no way to get continuous blooms on them.

Thomas Doubleday

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

I did not see anything on cutting the foliage on these red hot pokers. I heard that you should leave it on for winter protection and early spring trim it down to a couple of inches from the ground, is this so.

Carol Speake

Wednesday 18th of November 2020

Yes, most bulbs need the yellowing foliage to nourish growth over the winter. Spring is a good time to cut it back.

Robert

Tuesday 21st of July 2020

I just (late July) received a bulb clump from a Florida nursey. I'm in Wisconsin. Would it be best to let it acclimate, then keep in a pot until fall, then move it outside in the fall next to my other full sun natives, and cover it and mulch it?

Carol Speake

Tuesday 21st of July 2020

I don't give garden recommendations for specific zones, since I don't live in them. However, I have successfully transplanted daylilies into the ground even in summer here in NC. The key is watering. They will need to really be watered well daily until the plant is established.

Ginger Wagner

Sunday 21st of June 2020

Last year my poker flowers were orange. This year they stayed yellow. Anyone have and comment on that?

Carol Speake

Sunday 21st of June 2020

I haven't heard of this happening or observed it but I'll leave the comment to see if readers have experienced it.

Emily

Thursday 11th of June 2020

Appreciate all your helpful info. Everything I've read indicates they should be planted in full sun.

I have a spot where I want to plant some, butt it gets full sun only spring through fall. Can Hot Pokers be in mostly shade when they are dormant in winter? I'm in zone 8b.

Carol Speake

Thursday 11th of June 2020

Growing conditions and sunlight are given to get the most out of plants. I do know that flowering would be an issue for red hot pokers in shade. They would grow but be unlikely to flower well.

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