By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
If you’re looking for something grand in the garden or something to attract wildlife friends, then look no further than the red hot poker plant. Growing and caring for torch lilies is easy enough for newbie gardeners too. So what is a red hot poker torch lily and how do you grow red hot pokers? Keep reading to find out.
What is a Red Hot Poker Torch Lily?
The striking red hot poker plant (Kniphofia uvaria) is in the Liliaceae family and is also known as poker plant and torch lily. This plant thrives in USDA zones 5 through 9 and is an upright evergreen perennial with a clumping habit. Over 70 known species exist of this South African native plant.
Torch lilies grow to be up to 5 feet tall and attract hummingbirds, butterflies and birds to the garden with their bright flowers and sweet nectar. Attractive sword-shaped leaves surround the base of a tall stem upon which red, yellow or orange tubular flowers droop down like a torch.
How Do You Grow Red Hot Pokers?
Red hot poker plants prefer full sun and must be given adequate spacing to accommodate their mature size.
Although poker plants are not fussy about the type of soil in which they are planted, they do require adequate drainage and do not tolerate wet feet.
Plant torch lilies in the early spring or fall for best results.
Most of these plants are available as potted transplants or tuberous roots. They can also be seed grown. Start seeds indoors anytime. Seeds do best if they are chilled before planting.
How to Care for a Red Hot Poker Plant
Although this beautiful plant is hard and moderately drought resistant, regular water is required in order for the plant to reach its full potential. Gardeners should be diligent with watering during hot and dry spells.
Provide a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch to help with water retention and for protection during cold winters.
Cut foliage off at the base of the plant in late fall and remove spent flower spike to encourage more blooms.
Poker plants can be divided in the fall for new plants. Do not bury the crown of the plant any deeper than 3 inches. Water new plants thoroughly and cover with a liberal amount of mulch.