Red Hot Poker Plant Care: Growing Tips For Kniphofia

Kniphofia (nip-HOFF-ee-uh), the red hot poker plant is an herbaceous perennial belonging to the family Asphodelaceae (as-foh-del-AY-see-ee) and hailing from the mountains of tropical South Africa.

NOTE: Aloe plants like Aloe arborescens, Aloe variegata (partridge breast aloe), and Haworthia are also in the plant family Asphodelaceae.

The plant’s genus name is in honor of an 18th-century German botanist and physician named Johan Hieronymus Kniphof.

Blooming Rocket Flower Torch lily

The genus Kniphofia consists of about 65 species of deciduous and evergreen clump-forming, rhizomatous perennials. Kniphofia uvaria is a popular variety.

Common names include:

  • Red Hot Poker
  • Rocket Flower
  • Poker Plant
  • Torch Lily
  • Tritoma

Kniphofia Red Hot Poker Plant Care

Size & Growth

Rocket flower may attain a height of 2′ feet and a spread of approximately 1 ½’ feet.

There are also dwarf cultivars growing only about half an inch tall and giant cultivars attaining a height of 6’ feet tall.

Basal leaves are linear and strap-shaped.

Flowering Red Hot Pokers

Plant red hot poker has flower spikes and bottle-brush shaped.

They are usually broader at the top and tapering at the base.

The red and yellow flowers stand at the top of a tall, bare stem.

Because many cultivars have been developed, more flower colors including:

  • Red
  • Pink
  • White
  • Orange flowers
  • Bi-colors
  • Greenish white
  • Various range of pastels

Typically torch Lily blooms during June and July.

Light & Temperature

Torch Lily can tolerate partial shade, but the plant performs best in full sun.

Red Hot Poker plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 6 through 9.

Watering & Feeding

Water the drought tolerant plant by providing deep watering throughout the growing season to help produce an extensive root system.

Don’t fertilize seedlings.

Wait until the seedlings are well established, and then fertilize lightly with a diluted slow release fertilizer solution.

Soil & Transplanting

Poker Plant can thrive in dry soil types, but for best results provide mulch rich in humus yet provides sharp drainage.

Maintain even moisture during the growing season.

Kniphofia cannot tolerate soggy soil, especially during the cold winter months.

Grooming & Maintenance

Protect these tropical plants from high winds, and provide winter protection to the crowns in cold areas.

In areas with cold winters, it’s a good idea to mulch heavily around and over these plants through the winter months.

Do not cut back spent leaves at the end of the growing season.

Tie them together over the crown of the plant to give it some protection during the cold winter months.

This will keep water from standing and freezing on the plants crown.

Deadhead spent flower stalks when the plant finishes blooming and cut them all the way back to the base.

When the blooming season is over, prune the foliage back by about half to provide a better appearance.

Once established, it’s best not to disturb rocket flowers, but if they do become overcrowded, cut them off and relocate offsets.

It would be best not to divide plants any more often than once every four or five years.

How To Propagate Kniphofia

As with many plants, start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last predicted frost, or sow seeds directly into your garden early summer.

To start seeds in the garden, be sure to choose a protected area where the soil is about 70° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit.

Enrich the soil with organic matter, and sow the seeds thinly.

Sprinkle about a quarter inch of fine soil over the seeds and tamp them down lightly.

Seedlings should emerge within a month.

New plants can be moved from a sheltered location to a location providing full sun and well-draining soil in the autumn or early spring.

To maintain the integrity of the type of plant you have, you must be careful when propagating.

You can grow species plants from seed, but named cultivars must be propagating through division.

Otherwise, you run the risk of producing offspring that are not “true.”

Offset removal and rhizome division are best done in the late spring in areas where the winters are very cold.

In hot areas, you can do this immediately after the plants have finished bloom time.

Kniphofia Pests and Diseases

These plants are not subject to many diseases or insect problems.

The leading cause of plant problems begins with excessive watering.

Plants that are made to stand in water will develop root rot, fungal diseases and may be attractive to common pests such as thrips.

Slugs may be problematic if the soil is kept too wet.

Be sure to keep dead foliage trimmed back to provide good air circulation and discourage slugs.

Red hot pineapple popsicle plant is both deer resistant and rabbit resistant.

Are Red Hot Kniphofia Plants Considered Toxic or Poisonous?

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Torch Lily is non-toxic to horses, dogs, and cats.

Are Red Hot Poker Plants Invasive?

According to the California Invasive Plant Council(CALIPC), Kniphofia is naturalized (not invasive) in many parts of California.

Suggested Kniphofia Uses

Kniphofia is an excellent border plant when combined with Canna and make wonderful companion plants for daylilies.

They are very attractive when used as cut flowers and added to arrangements.

The bright, colorful, tubular flowers bring pollinators of all sorts to the garden.

For this reason, torch flower is an excellent choice for a hummingbird or butterfly garden.

Large varieties of Kniphofia are ideal for garden settings or even as specimen plants.

They don’t do well as container plants.

However, smaller dwarf varieties grow beautifully and successful when kept in containers.