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.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  68 comments for “Red Hot Poker – Growing and Caring for Torch Lilies

  1. Mcasteen
    05/23/2017 at 9:42 am

    When I cut back a overgrown tree in my yard, I was pleasantly surprised the next spring to have this grow and blossom. Must not have been getting enough sun. Thanks for this article’s, now I kno w how to cared for it!

    • Carol
      05/23/2017 at 11:07 am

      What a wonderful find! Carol

    • Marina
      06/24/2019 at 4:21 pm

      Where do you cut the dead spent flower stalks ? I only get blooms flowering for 3 weeks . I would love all summer blooms . Where do I cut ?

      • Carol
        06/25/2019 at 11:09 am

        Cut the bloom right down near the crown. Removing the stalks will sometimes encourage the plant to send out more. The plant doesn’t bloom all summer though. This is the nature of bulbs.

        • Annette Morrow
          11/18/2019 at 10:36 am

          I live in Colorado I have my plants in pots how do I keep them over the winter

          • Carol Speake
            11/18/2019 at 12:15 pm

            If you have plants in pots and the weather freezes, the only way to keep them over the winter is to bring them inside, or into a heated garage with some light in it.

        • Cindy
          07/22/2020 at 7:01 pm

          Carol, my pokers are about 5 years old now. We’ve gone from the wetest month and half to now a heat wave. One of the pokers is blooming beautifully but it’s leaves are beginning to turn orange like the blossom. Do you know why and/or if there’s something I need to be doing? I have others nearby and they have healthy green leaves with their blossoms. Thanks for your help!

          • Carol Speake
            07/23/2020 at 11:38 am

            It’s hard to diagnose plant problems on the internet instead of in person. It sounds to me like the heat is just being hard on the plant. We have a heat wave here in NC and all my perennials are suffering.

    • Ray
      04/26/2020 at 3:52 pm

      What do i do if there are two bulbs trying to grow on the same stem

      • Carol Speake
        04/27/2020 at 12:15 pm

        They will both flower, so just let one open and then don’t cut until the second one opens.

    • Rebecca Weaver
      06/24/2020 at 4:53 pm

      So when they stop flowering what do I do with the little green bulbs that are where the flowers used to be? Is it still blooming or do I just cut the stalk completely?? I don’t want to cut the stalk if it’s not done blooming. And are these green little bulbs the seeds? If they are can I take them then dry them out and replant them? How many would I need?

      • Carol Speake
        06/24/2020 at 8:52 pm

        The little round parts will fall off, but then will develop into seeds.Just let all the florets drop from the flower spike and then cut off the entire stem. If you want to save them yourself, you will need to let them dry. You can pull the pods from the stems and lay them out to dry for at least 24 hours.

  2. dolly padilla
    06/09/2017 at 9:15 am

    where fo i buy them

  3. Katy
    04/30/2018 at 11:38 pm

    When you say deadhead the flower what exactly do you mean. My flowers only bloom once. How do I get them to bloom all summer.

    • Carol
      05/01/2018 at 10:11 am

      Hi Katy, Red hot pokers will continue blooming if you remove the spent blooms. This encourages the plant to produce more flower stalks and you can extend the bloom time. Just cut the whole stalk off when the flower has finished. Carol

  4. William
    06/24/2018 at 6:01 am

    When deadheading, don’t just remove the flower, cut the flower stalk off just above the rhizome. Be careful not to damage any growing tips that may exist on the rhizome.

    The flower stalks seem to take a fairly long time to decompose. I throw mine on the brush pile I have for a small animal hideout/shelter. That also places any remaining seeds where birds can get to them easily.

    • Rita Baldwin
      05/21/2019 at 10:21 pm

      where is the rhizome?

      • Carol
        05/22/2019 at 10:02 am

        Hi Rita

        Rhizomes are similar to bulbs and corms. They are what the plant grows from and are located under the soil level. To learn more about them, check out this article.

  5. Carrie Wright
    06/27/2018 at 3:17 pm

    I wanted to let you know you have the best advice on growing red hot pokers than anyone on the internet. Thank you for such a good article.

    • Carol
      06/27/2018 at 3:20 pm

      Thank you for such a kind message Carrie. I’m so glad you found the article useful! Carol

    • Carol bartfeld
      06/21/2019 at 9:36 pm

      Why do my pokers stems bend while the bloom is on the stalk?

      • Carol
        06/21/2019 at 11:40 pm

        I am really note sure Carol. Mine are all very stiff and sturdy. Do you get a lot of rain? That is the only thing I can think of. My climate is quite dry.

      • Cathy
        05/31/2020 at 3:18 pm

        Our leaves are turning an orange color what are we doing wrong?

        • Carol Speake
          06/01/2020 at 12:15 pm

          Red hot poker leaves will often turn yellowish orange as they degrade. This could be as simple as older leaves dying down. It’s impossible for me to diagnose plant problems specifically without actually seeing a plant, since there could be many reasons for disease in plants.

  6. Diana
    06/27/2018 at 3:59 pm

    Thank you for posting some of the best information I have seen on Red Hot Pokers/Torch Lilly. I am in somewhat of a bind at my new home (Zone 9) and would welcome input.

    I bought Red Hot Poker bare roots from a well-known supplier through a national retail store. At the same time, I also planted gladiolas and liatris bulbs. That was over 60 days ago and I have seen three plants sprout in total, after which the emerging stalks were immediately chomped down to ground level. During this period squirrels began making a regular appearance in my newly-landscaped yard.

    I was able to confirm through a Google search that squirrels will eat bulbs, which is what I presumed happened (although I only saw three holes dug in that immediate area — not enough to account for how few bulbs actually came up). Problem is, I have been unable to confirm anything about whether squirrels or rabbits could account for why my efforts to grow Torch Lilly has also failed.

    I have a second area elsewhere on my property that hasn’t had any attention from the squirrels (no sign whatsoever of digging or squirrels cavorting about). However, by the time the second area was planted the second batch of Torch Lily bareroots had been in the retail packaging for over a month post delivery (the instructions didn’t say whether they need to be refrigerated so they were kept at room temperature). The roots still looked viable to my eye but I suppose it’s possible they were dead. In any event, no sign of growth — it’s been about 40 days — despite daily watering. (The soil in my area is sandy and well draining, which was amended with a mix of garden soil and Miracle Grow Moisture Control.)

    I lived in a suburban area previously that was also home to numerous squirrels without any significant issues. Where I live now, which is a semi-rural desert foothill region, there are a limited variety of nearby trees and the squirrels spend a lot of time on the ground and in hedges as opposed to the tree canopy (as they did in my old neighborhood).

    Squirrels and/or rabbits not only ate all emerging growth from my bulbs/torch lilies but removed all the flowering stalks from my Sea Lavender. They also set into my tomato, which had been out just one day and had no fruit on it whatsoever (silly me, I thought they wouldn’t be interested until it had green or red tomatoes on it). On day one, mystery critter stripped the leaves. On day two it ate the tomato plant stem half way down (after which I caged it in wire).

    Q 1: Why don’t gardening guides — including the encyclopedic Sunset Western Garden Guide — indicate squirrel resistance? I carefully selected landscaping plants that indicated they were deer/rabbit resistant and drought tolerant. However, in hindsight I appreciate that squirrel resistance was not indicated on tags or plant info at garden centers — or in the information I looked up online about how to care for each plant specifically. And because squirrels didn’t deflower the garden where I previously lived, I didn’t see the problem coming.

    Q 2: Is there any resource out there that indicates not just “resistance” but what plants are toxic to what animals so that I can landscape with plants these critters cannot eat? I had read, as an example, that Larkspur is toxic but that didn’t stop something from stripping the leaves right off the stem. I have an asiatic lily that suffered the same fate (unlike the Larkspur, it survived being stripped of its leaves).

    Q 3: I have heard of using cayenne pepper and some types of essential oil, such as clove, as a deterrent. However, there are a lot of products on the market many of which have only mediocre reviews on Amazon. What products, if any, have you tried and found worthwhile to repurchase for use in your garden as a deterrent?

    I had a garden at my previous home but the above experience has made me feel as if I am re-learning everything from scratch. Any input would be welcome!

    • Carol
      06/27/2018 at 4:11 pm

      Hi Diana. Lots of things to deal with here. Sometimes the critters just seem to appear. I have not had a problem with anything eating my bulbs until this year. Not a single tulip, liatris, or gladiola come up in my front bed this year in spite of having dozens and dozens of them in past years. The voles got them all. They left the daffodils and daylilies.

      In my back garden (which also has voles) none of the day lilies were affected. But my red hot poker only had ONE bloom this year so it wouldn’t surprise me if they were in there.

      Cayenne does work pretty well with squirrels. Here is a page that deals with squirrel repellents.

      There is a lot of info on toxic plants for animals but it is usually mentioned in a “how to” post about that plant.

      Not sure why the guides don’t mention squirrels. In our neighborhood, they were not a problem until the owl population dropped. Then they were everywhere!

  7. Judy
    07/27/2018 at 5:00 pm

    I have my red hot poker in a pot in the sun. The stalks are really short and just started showing up. Had begun to think it wasn’t going to bloom. This is the 2nd year I’ve had it in the same pot/location. Last year it did great. Any thoughts? Should I fertilize it? I’m zone 9 btw. In the winter, I’m supposed to cut all the foliage back, yes? I didn’t do that last year…didn’t know I was supposed to.



    • Carol
      07/27/2018 at 5:33 pm

      Hi Judy.

      Plants grown in pots do need to be fertilized, since they will use all the original nutrients in the soil they were planted in. It’s also possible that the plant needs to be repotted, since the roots can fill the original container quickly for this type of plant. Carol

      • GayLynn
        06/27/2019 at 4:19 pm

        I have 3 red hot poker plants given to me from a relative. I have had them about 4 years. They have never turned red. They stay yellow. They were red at her home. Is there something I need to put in the soil? Thanks !

        • Carol
          07/01/2019 at 10:59 pm

          I have many plants that perform differently for me than the did in their original home. I think it has a lot to do with the soil pH. Carol

  8. Lynne Johnston
    08/31/2018 at 3:04 pm

    None of my red hot pokers bloomed this summer…..I have had the plants In The ground for at least 3 years….and they have bloomed each year..I have 5-6 plants…None bloomed…any ideas?

    • Carol
      09/01/2018 at 12:06 pm

      Hi Lynne. I had that happen to mine after a few years. Many plants of this type will stop flowering when they need division. You could try that to see if it helps. Adding organic mater or fertilizing them might also help. Carol

  9. Audra
    04/18/2019 at 11:39 am

    Hi! I received a few cuttings about 3 years ago. I planted them and each year the foliage and leaves grow long and well- but never a bloom ;( full sun, well draining soil. They have multiplied since I planted (in the ground) since then, but nothing more. Each year I hope I’ll see something- everything else does pretty out there. Thanks for any tips!

    • Carol
      04/18/2019 at 10:21 pm

      Hi Audra. The only thing I can think of is lack of sunlight. Red Hot pokers really want full sun to set blooms. Carol

  10. Su
    04/21/2019 at 6:10 pm

    I divided my red hot pokers in March this year. I am wondering if they will bloom this year or will I have to wait until next year.

    • Carol
      04/22/2019 at 11:33 am

      When I divided mine last year, they didn’t bloom after division that year. I think it would depend on how early you divided them, perhaps.

  11. Dan
    05/05/2019 at 6:40 pm

    I’m new to this plant which the landscapers planted late last year while blooming.
    When might I expect to see new foliage growth emerging. It’s 5th May, here, and everything else is up including the Liatris which was planted at the same time.

    • Carol
      05/05/2019 at 9:43 pm

      Hi Dan. For me torch lilies are a later plant. I am in NC and mine have green foliage now, but no flower stalks. Torch lilies generally flower in late spring to early summer for me.

  12. Jay
    05/11/2019 at 2:51 pm

    I am in Canada, zone 5. I have no signs of growth yet. I left the leaves on all winter and only cleaned them up when they came off on their own about 2 weeks ago. They were new plants last summer and thrived. Since there is no sign of growth shall I assume they did not winter? I know they do grow in my area. Thank you!

    • Carol
      05/13/2019 at 6:13 pm

      I never give up on hoping a plant will appear, but some do not winter, even if they have in the past. Mine have just started flowering and I’m in North Carolina.

  13. David
    05/25/2019 at 6:01 pm

    I planted about 6 different plants, most were producing multi-colored flowers, one was mango colored. Now all of the plants put out 100% yellow flowers.

    Is this a problem with the pH?

    BTW, I’m in Asheville and here on May 25 I have had one blossom come and go but see several blossoms that should bloom this week.

    • Carol
      05/26/2019 at 10:38 pm

      Soil pH is unpredictable. I planted some foxglove seeds last year and have two plants with two different colored flowers on them. The flowers of red hot pokers do change as the bloom progresses. The younger blooms are more vibrantly colored and they get more uniform as the bloom is passing.

  14. Kathy
    06/08/2019 at 1:45 pm

    My Red Hot Pokers are doing fine except the flower stems are flopping over. Should I cage the plants or just wait for them to get sturdier and stand up straight?

    • Carol
      06/08/2019 at 4:15 pm

      Hi Kathy. Normally, red hot pokers do not need staking. I have had reports from a few readers that their flower stems need support. In my garden, the plants are about 5 years old and they have never needed to be staked. The only ones that I seem to always have to stake are gladiolas.

  15. Adrienne
    06/21/2019 at 11:23 am

    I have a couple Torch Lily’s that I planted last year in a really sunny spot in my front yard in some river rocks. One died, one propagated (from one to three), and one grew really big. No blooms last year or this year. This year, I bought a new one for the one that died and it hasn’t died yet, but it’s not doing super great either. The big one’s leaves are turning yellow and brown. The propagated one is doing awesome (but still no blooms). They are all located in the same patch of land (about 3 – 4 feet from one another), so I don’t understand why they are growing differently. I am especially concerned with my big one because it seems like it is not doing well this year and I hate to lose another one. Any suggestions?

    • Carol
      06/21/2019 at 11:41 am

      The PH of soil and it’s acidity can change over time. From what you are saying, I would have the soil tested to see if it is deficient in some major nutrients. That would account for plants that used to do well not growing so well now.

  16. Ronnie Carrasco
    07/01/2019 at 10:12 pm

    Hello! Thank you! I have learned so much about Red Hot Pokers by reading about growing and caring for them and also by the questions of others and the responses. Again, thank you!

  17. JD
    07/25/2019 at 10:44 am

    your info is so very helpful, straight forward and easy to understand. Have been flower gardening for over 50 years but still learn a thing or two from your comments. Thank you! You rock!

    • Carol
      07/25/2019 at 10:58 am

      I’m glad you are enjoying the content JD.

  18. Rosie
    09/28/2019 at 4:52 pm

    I’m supposed to cut down or trim foliage each year or pull out old dry foliage? Leaves are getting long and floppy

    • Carol
      09/28/2019 at 4:54 pm

      I usually cut my leaves down close to the crown in late fall or early spring, older red hot pokers do have long strappy leaves though.

  19. Cindy Carter
    12/29/2019 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Carol, I too live in the pedimont area of NC and need to divide my pokers. Today is Dec. 29 and expected to be as high as 75 but the following days are expected to be in the 50s. When would be the best time to dig up the bulbs? Do you have any information on how to divide poker bulbs? Thanks

    • Carol Speake
      12/30/2019 at 1:16 pm

      Hi Cindy. I find that late fall or early spring is the best time to divide the poker bulbs. You can use a spade to just dig out a part of the clump and plant it in another location, or dig up the whole clump and carefully divide them into smaller clumps. They are pretty easy to care for and don’t mind division.

  20. Deb
    05/01/2020 at 3:52 pm

    Can you give more detail on collecting seeds from the Red Hot Poker? I just cut my stalks as the florets have all dried up. But out of 12 stalks I only see the “green seed pods” on 2. Do the seed pods form later or perhaps they’ve already dropped off of the stem? And of the 2 stems that have the green pods, when do I pull them off or do they fall off on their own? And then I break them open and dry the seeds? Thanks!

    • Carol Speake
      05/01/2020 at 9:16 pm

      Hi Deb.The whole flower stem will have small pods on it that are filled with dark brown seeds. Once the flowers have died, cut the stem with the pods and let them dry. To do this break off the pods and split them open into a small dish. They seeds will need to be chilled to break dormancy for about a month before they will grow.

      Red hot pokers, also grow by naturalizing so the plant grows larger over time.

  21. Lindsay
    05/28/2020 at 5:29 pm

    I’m having trouble figuring out exactly where to deadhead our red hot pokers!

    Do I simply pull the spent flower/bloom off to expose the small green bud-like attachment? Do I remove the flower and that bud? Or do I cut it off at the stalk?

    • Carol Speake
      05/29/2020 at 11:58 am

      You cut down the entire stalk close to the ground.

  22. Emily
    06/11/2020 at 5:32 pm

    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
      06/11/2020 at 9:13 pm

      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.

  23. Ginger Wagner
    06/21/2020 at 9:35 am

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

    • Carol Speake
      06/21/2020 at 11:48 am

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

  24. Robert
    07/21/2020 at 9:51 am

    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
      07/21/2020 at 6:44 pm

      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.

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