Dense clumps of grasslike, finely toothed foliage send up bare stems topped by nodding, tubular flowers in tight, overlapping clusters. Flowering stems look like glowing pokers or torches, hence the common names. Blossoms open from bottom to top over the course of several days, changing color as they mature. Increasing numbers of speciesmostly from South Africaare now grown in gardens and hybridized. The old 3 feet-high forms of Kniphofia uvaria in shades of coral-orange and yellow have given way to kinds with blooms ranging from coral-red through every conceivable shade of orange, peach, and yellow to near-white and light green, on plants varying in size from 1 feet dwarfs to 6 feet giants. The flowers attract hummingbirds. Not heavily browsed by deer.
- Blue-green leaves (purple at base) are 34 feet long, 23 inches wide; they are produced in rosettes on short, branching, woody stems like trunks.
- Stalks 2 feet tall bear heads of coral-red to terra-cotta buds that open to pale yellow flowers.
- Blooms from mid-summer into fall.
- Smallish species with narrow, dark bluish green leaves and globular flower heads in various yellow shades on 2- to 212 feet-tall stems.
- Summer to fall bloom.
- Lime Select has bright lime-green buds that open chartreuse and fade to cream.
- Although they involve several species, these hybrids generally share the narrow leaves and summer bloom season of Kniphofia uvaria.
- A distinct departure is 'Christmas Cheer', a hybrid of the vigorous species Kniphofia rooperi.
- New strains are available as seed (be aware that seedlings will vary in color and quality).
- Dark, bronzy stems to 312 feet., with brick-red flowers that age to pinkish orange.
- Stems to 3 feet high, with glowing yellow-orange buds opening light yellow.
- Buds are a soft, dusty coral-pink opening to cream blooms.
- Stems reach 44 feet.
- Stems to 2 feet high; flower clusters are orange with a yellow base.
- Brilliant orange buds open to deep gold flowers on 4- to 5 feet stems.
- Blooms fall through late spring in mild-winter areas, fall until frost elsewhere.
- Give it room; leaves (to 5 feet long and 2 inches wide) become lax and collapse on the ground, smothering any plants in their way.
- Clump increases rapidly to 68 feet or more across.
- Divide in early summer.
- A group of strong, repeat-blooming selections with mango-orange, deep orange to red and orange fading to white blooms.
- Gray-green leaves reach 2 feet high topped with flower stalks to 3 feet high.
Flamenco Mix. Seed-grown strain that blooms in early fall in its first year, in summer in subsequent years. Flower colors range from coral through orange and yellow to creamy white. Stems to 2 feet tall.
- Similar to Popsicle series.
- Flowers in shades of orange stand 20 inches tall.
- Repeat blooming.
- Glowing orange-yellow buds opening golden amber on 3- to 312 feet stems.
- Thin, grassy leaves and narrow flower stems to 2 feet tall.
- Creamy white blossoms open from buds in buff-tinted pale yellow.
- Stems 56 feet tall bear 8- to 10 inches-long heads of lime-green buds that open primrose yellow.
Peaches and Cream
- Stems about 4 feet high bear peach-colored buds opening to cream blossoms.
Percy's Pride'. To 4 feet tall, with green-tinted yellow buds opening cream.
- Grassy foliage to 1 feet high topped with bright flowers in a range of yellow, orange, coral, and cream colors on stems reaching 112 feet high.
- Excellent repeat bloomers.
- Leaves to 1 inches wide, 2 feet long.
- Oblong flower heads on stems 3312 feet tall.
- Coral-red buds open to orange or deep yellow blossoms in summer (in fall, in cold-winter climates).
- Most selections sold under this name are actually hybrids.
Red-hot pokers require adequate moisture when blooms are forming and will fail to flower if conditions are too dry then. In summer, they'll tolerate even marshy conditionsbut for winter survival, well-drained soil is essential. Most of these plants flower in summer, but some start in late spring and repeat throughout the growing season. Where winter temperatures drop to 0F or below, tie foliage over clumps in fall to protect growing points (or at least leave all foliage in place over winter). In milder climates, cut or pull out any ratty-looking leaves in fall; new leaves will replace them by spring. Crowns increase slowly, forming clumps 23 feet wide (or wider) at base; you will get the best show if clumps are left in place for several years. Increase plantings by division in spring, except for types still blooming then; for these, wait until summer to divide. Protect from slugs and snails.