Thu. May 19th, 2022
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Red hot poker or torch lily, Kniphofia uvaria, is an evergreen perennial bulb that belongs to the sunflower family (Asteraceae). It is quite popular among horticulturists and gardeners because of its interesting blooms and overall hardiness. The torch lily is native to South Africa but can be easily grown in gardens all over the world without much trouble due to its ability to adapt to various conditions.

The Bloom of a Red Hot Poker - Tips on Growing Torch Lily
The Bloom of a Red Hot Poker – Tips on Growing Torch Lily

I’ve always wanted to try them in my garden, but their orange and gold blooms clash with my other pastel flowers. Then, instead of seeing them in a catalog, I got to see them in person and discovered that, although their color was a wonderful match, the plants were much too enormous for my modest garden.

What Exactly are Red Hot Pokers?

Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia uvaria), often known as Torch Lilies, are South African natives. They are hardy in zones 6 through 9 in the United States. With winter protection, you may grow them as far north as zone 5.

The rhizomes of red hot poker plants are easy to spread. It has become invasive in southern Australia and southern California after naturalizing in the areas where it was introduced.

The bigger cultivars reach 4–5 feet tall and 3 feet broad, whereas dwarf cultivars reach 1–2 feet tall and 1 foot wide. Red hot poker leaves are not as thick and succulent as their aloe siblings. They are, nevertheless, sword-like in form with sharp pointed tips. Deer and bunnies are kept at bay by the sharp edges.

Like iris, the leaves emerge straight from the rhizomes. In warm regions, they are evergreen, while in colder climates, they are deciduous (lose their leaves in the autumn).

The blossoms are striking. They grow on a stem that emerges from the rhizome, similar to the iris. The blooms are red or orange when young, but as they mature, they become golden or gold, giving them the appearance of a torch, thus their other name, Torch Lily.

Late spring to early summer is when the flowers bloom. The blossoms on the bushes may persist for up to 18 days. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds are drawn to them. To stimulate fresh flower growth, remove wasted blossoms. They will start to create seeds if you don’t remove them, and the plant will stop producing new blooms.

Red Hot Pokers: How to Grow Them

Red hot pokers like direct sunlight but may tolerate light shade. In damp soils, they are subject to crown rot. The pH of the solution should range from neutral to slightly acidic.

As your red hot pokers establish themselves in your garden, keep them uniformly wet the first year. Allow the soil to dry somewhat between waterings and give them 1 inch of water every week.

How to Keep Red Hot Pokers Safe During the Winter

Cover your plants with a thick blanket of leaves to protect them from the cold and damp of winter in zones where the plants are deciduous (lose their leaves in the autumn).

Zones 5 and 6 in the far north apply both tactics. Cover the crowns with a thick covering of leaves, then knot the leaves together to hold them in place and give further protection.

How Do You Split Red Hot Pokers?

Your cluster of red hot pokers will grow every year, much like other perennials. Taking out the offsets and replanting them is the best method to keep your red hot pokers from becoming too big and crowded.

Offsets are young plants that sprout along the rhizomes’ edges. Dig around the tiny plants carefully in the spring to determine whether they have roots. Cut the offset from the main rhizome with a clean, sharp knife.

In a sunny position, space your offsets 18–24 inches apart. Keep them uniformly wet for the first year while they adjust to their new surroundings. You may return to watering them 1 inch each week after the first year.

Best Way to Plant Red Hot Poker Seeds

Allowing the blossoms to decay and go to seed is the simplest option. The seed will fall to the earth the next spring and germinate. Before they germinate, they need a period of cold weather.

You’ll need to cold stratify seeds if you want to start them inside. Wrap the seeds in a damp paper towel 10–12 weeks before the final frost. Then, to keep the paper towel damp, put it inside a plastic bag. Refrigerate the bag for at least four weeks.

Remove the seeds from the paper towel after 4 weeks and plant them in peat pots or biodegradable containers on the surface. The soil just covers the seeds. Place your pots on a heating pad to maintain a steady temperature of 70°F. Then be ready to wait. The seeds might take up to three months to germinate.

To avoid disturbing the young rhizome, plant the whole peat pot. They will bloom in their second year of development.

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