About Red Hot Poker
Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia uvaria), also known as the torch lily, is an eye-catching perennial that is native to South Africa. It is also commonly known as torch lily or poker plant. The plant gets its name from the showy flowers that resemble brightly colored pokers or torches.
Red hot pokers are hardy in USDA growing zones 5 to 9 and survive winter temperatures as low as minus 20 F. They do best in well-drained soils and can be susceptible to disease if the soil remains too damp.
The plants are slow to establish themselves but will grow quickly once established. Once they have reached maturity, they will need very little additional care other than deadheading of spent flowers and division of overcrowded clumps every three years or so.
What is the Use of the Red Hot Poker Plant?
The Red Hot Poker Plant is a beautiful ornamental plant that will set your garden ablaze with its bright colors.
You can use the red hot poker plant as a border plant along walks or patio edges, or as a group filler in mixed plantings. It also makes for an eye-catching container plant, and it works well in rock gardens.
Note: It has beautiful, bright flowers that come in colors like orange and yellow. But these colors serve as a warning sign: the plant can be toxic to humans—especially children—if ingested. But aside from that, it’s an easy-to-grow, drought-resistant addition to any garden or home!
Growing Red Hot Poker
Red hot poker plants are easy to grow in well-draining soil. If you wish to start plants by collecting seeds, here is a process to follow that will result in new red hot poker plants.
Collect the Seeds
The red hot poker plant grows from corms that are planted in early spring and can be divided into fall or spring. The corms will flower between July and October, producing seeds that ripen after flowering ceases.
To collect the seeds, allow the seed heads to dry on the plant. When completely dry, carefully remove the seed heads from the plants and place them in a paper bag. Place the bag in a cool, dry location for about two weeks, until the seed heads are completely dry.
Thresh and Separate
After two weeks, place a piece of cardboard on a flat surface and gently crush each seed head over the cardboard, releasing the seeds onto it. Sort through the pile of seeds, removing any other debris or chaff that may have separated from them while crushing them.
Place your cleaned and dried red hot poker plant seeds into an envelope or small container with a tight lid and store them in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant them.
Caring Red Hot Poker
You can find red hot poker plants in a variety of gardens, and their striking spikes of color atop tall stems make them easy additions to the garden. Plant enthusiasts will find the red hot pokers easy to grow; they simply need proper care in order to thrive.
Red hot poker plants need consistent watering to thrive. Water the plant when the top inch of soil is dry, and water deep enough that water reaches the roots. Because of their height, red hot poker plants can be watered with an oscillating sprinkler.
Red hot poker plants require full sun. The more light they receive, the better they will bloom. If your plant is not getting enough light, it may not bloom at all or it may have poor blooms with a very little color. When grown outdoors, red hot poker plants should be placed where they receive full sun throughout the day; you can expect flowers in mid-summer. When bringing your plant indoors in the wintertime, place it in a window that receives full sunlight throughout the day.
Soil is one of the most important considerations for healthy plants and successful gardening. Red hot poker plants need rich soil that drains well, so they can handle both drought conditions and heavy rainfall without suffering. Improper soil yields poor results.
Fertilize the plant with high potassium and low nitrogen fertilizer in the spring. You may fertilize again just after flowering so that it will have time to absorb all of the nutrients before winter arrives.
Most varieties of red hot pokers are considered hardy perennials and will return year after year without much care from you. In areas where temperatures drop below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, mulch should be added around the base of the plant as a protective barrier during winter months, and then removed in springtime as temperatures begin rising above freezing again.
Propagating Red Hot Poker
Red hot poker plants allow for some creativity in the garden. There are many varieties of red hot poker plants, such as ‘Lemon Popsicle,’ ‘Golden Glow’ and the deep pink-red ‘Flamenco.’ These plants are easy to propagate from seed and can be divided from their offsets. Here are a few ways you can follow:
Plant the seeds in a container filled with well-draining soil, or plant them directly into the garden. Red hot poker seeds require light to germinate, so press them into the soil, but do not cover them completely.
Water regularly to keep the soil moist until seedlings appear, which takes about 10 days. After they have sprouted, water only when the soil has become dry to the touch.
Transplant seedlings to a permanent location when they are at least 6 inches tall and have formed strong root systems. You can also plant rhizomes in spring after the last frost has passed and through summer until early fall. Space rhizomes 10 inches apart to allow for room to grow — these plants grow quickly and will eventually spread out about 3 feet across.
Pest and Disease Control
Although they are tough, they are susceptible to a few problems. There are no major diseases or pest issues with these plants, but they can be affected by any of the following:
Root Rot: This is caused by a fungus, which grows rapidly when there is too much water and poor drainage. You will notice the leaves turning yellow and wilting, followed by the collapse of the whole plant.
Treatment: Remove affected areas if you see root rot in your plant. You may also want to replant it in a different spot, in well-draining soil, and make sure not to over-water it.
Snout Weevil: These insects feed on tender plant parts, thus damaging your plant. They often chew holes near the base of the plant and this is how you’ll know if they’ve attacked your Red Hot Poker plants.
Treatment: The best way to keep them away is to keep your garden clean. Remove weeds promptly and regularly check your plants for signs of a Snout Weevil attack.
Caterpillars – These are green or ash-grey caterpillars that can eat holes in the foliage in springtime.
Treatment: Handpick caterpillars off plants and destroy them or spray them with an organic pesticide such as pyrethrum or derris.
Slugs and snails – These slimy pests like to eat holes in the leaves of Kniphofia.
Treatment: To control slugs and snails use organic methods such as slug pellets, traps, or beer traps