Red hot poker flower – what kind of plant is it?
Red hot poker, or torch lily (Kniphofia uvaria) is a plant belonging to the liliaceae family. Its natural habitat spans South Africa and Madagascar, where it grows on mountain hills and river banks. Red hot pokers are currently cultivated everywhere in the world. The plant is very popular in many European countries.
Despite the exotic origins of torch lilies, they can withstand light frosts. That’s why growing a poker plant in the garden is not very difficult.
What do red hot pokers look like?
Red hot pokers are often referred to as fire poker plants, or torch lilies. These names result from the very characteristic flowers these plants develop. Their shape and color indeed make them look like flaming torches.
The plant grows out of underground bulbs and develops clusters of stiff, sword-like green-grey leaves similar to liliaceae. The leaves form a rosette with a long stem in the middle, which can reach up to 1.2 meters. The top of the stems are covered with a bunch of flowers.
Red hot poker flowers bloom through the entire duration of summer, from June until October, depending on the variety. The flowers develop from bottom to top, displaying various shades of yellow, orange, and red. Torch lilies look truly attractive after a few years of cultivation. That’s when they form beautiful thick bunches.
Red hot poker plant – varieties
There are several types of torch lilies, which differ between each other in colors and shapes of flowers. The most popular red hot poker plants include:
- Kniphofia Fire Glow
- Kniphofia Ember Glow
- Kniphofia Creamsicle
- Kniphofia Redhot Popsicle
- Kniphofia Lemon Popsicle
- Kniphofia Orange Vanilla Popsicle
- Kniphofia Mango Popsicle
Particular torch lily varieties bloom at different times. Some develop flowers mid-June. Sometimes, the blooming period is delayed and starts e.g., in August – it’s characteristic for the mentioned Ember Glow variety.
Hot poker plant care and the biggest challenges
Although red hot pokers can be the biggest attraction of the garden, cultivating these plants might be problematic – mostly because of the conditions they require. A torch lily needs a warm, sunny location with partially moist and permeable soil.
Water cannot overflow the roots, as it might cause them to rot. Too damp ground might also lead to development of various fungal diseases. Grey mold is one of them.
Soil in which red hot pokers grow cannot be overly dry, either. For this reason one should water them more intensely during dry spells. Be careful not to pour water into the rosette.
Torch lilies – fertilizer and other treatments
Fire poker plants don’t need any special care or fertilizing. You can boost it once a month using a universal fertilizer for blooming plants, especially during the vegetation period. Natural fertilizing and preventative spraying against pests are becoming popular plant care methods.
Even if you don’t use any special products, your red hot pokers will manage under any conditions. Just make sure to monitor the current state of the plants.
Red hot pokers – winter care
When fall comes, tie the leaves of your torch lilies, cover them with agrotextile or a straw mat and pour a thick layer of peat at the base. You can substitute the last ingredient for dry leaves. This way, the plant is protected from low temperatures. Prepared like this, it can survive winter while being planted in the ground.
Red hot pokers can also be planted in large pots and taken to a warm interior over winter, so they don’t freeze.
How to propagate torch lilies?
In suitable conditions, red hot pokers spread quickly, developing additional root clusters – they can be used to create new seedlings. If you want to propagate hot poker plants, you can also divide large clumps into smaller ones. Both methods are easy, so even inexperienced gardeners shouldn’t have any problems with torch lilies propagation.
Are red hot pokers resistant to diseases and pests?
Torch lilies are quite durable plants, so if well maintained, they rarely fall victim to any diseases or pests. Nonetheless, it’s not impossible. Thrips, aphids, and slugs are the biggest threats to red hot pokers. Each of the mentioned pests can be eliminated using natural methods – they are surprisingly effective.
📍 Why don't my red hot pokers bloom?
Torch lilies don't bloom in the first year after planting. You have to wait a year for the first flowers, making sure to take a good care of the plant. If it doesn't bloom after this time, the soil is probably not right. You might have to replant your red hot pokers.
📍 When do red hot pokers bloom?
Hot poker plants are available in different varieties – the plant's type is the main factor affecting the blooming period. Most species develop flowers from June to October. Some varieties begin blooming later, in August.
📍 When to plant torch lilies?
A fire poker plant should be planted in spring or early autumn. You can decide between planting torch lilies in the ground and cultivating them in pots. If you prefer the latter method, the time of planting doesn't matter.
📍 How to care for red hot pokers in winter?
A good protection is an essential element of taking care of red hot pokers in winter. Tie their stems and cover them with straw, leaves, or bark. Agrotextile is also a good option.