Kniphofia

Drift of bring amber and orange Kniphofia Tawny King

Common Names: Torch Lily, Red Hot Poker, Rocket Flower (Europe).

Mainly Southern African plants that grow in moist (sometimes very wet), peaty soils in the wild. In our gardens they need good rich soil, plenty of summer moisture but freer draining conditions in the winter. This is best achieved by digging in plenty of garden compost when planting and adding grit if your soil is cold and wet in the winter. Having tried out over 100 cultivars and species, I'd say as a general rule of thumb the narrower the leaf, the less winter hardy; so the ones with grass-like leaves (like Light of the World and Little Maid) need really good drainage and a warm sheltered spot. Kniphofia will grow pretty well in dry conditions but don't flower quite so spectacularly. All need full sun.

The classic red / yellow "Red Hot Poker" is only one of the colour ways available: orange, yellow, cream, white, brown, green and shades between can be found. All change their colour as the flowers mature having the deepest shades in bud and fading to pale colours as the flowers open from the bottom of the inflorescence to the top giving the heads their characteristic bicolor appearance.

Propagation is by division or seed. Named cultivars won't come true from seed and species will cross breed unless isolated. Plants will produce a few self seeds. Saved seed can produce good plants but the results from a single batch will be very variable, so its pot luck. Seed germinates well when fresh. Old seed rarely germinates. I've found its best not to cover seed at all, just press into the surface of the moist seed compost and give a little bottom heat if possible. This way seed can be sown in January and give good plants by summer.

Plants are best divided when conditions are warm (even hot in mid summer) as new root is quickly grown at this time. Autumn divisions are likely to sulk and rot over winter. Kniphofia grow from woody rhizomes - the string-like roots don't form new plants. The rhizomes can be narrow and spreading and readily separate into new plants when dug up. Others are large and woody and need cutting up into sections using an old bread knife each with one or more leaf shoots or buds on them.

I dead head by plants as the old flower stems can cause rots in the crown. Cut back first and then pull out the old stems when they are dry.

My Dad used to tie up the leaves of his Kniphofia in winter to keep wet from the crowns. I don't do this but it may be a good idea (Dad never lost his plants over winter on London Clay). I do find it is good idea to cut off the old leaves before the new ones get too long in late winter / early spring. This is a good opportunity to find snails and slugs hiding in the mounds of leaves and get rid of them.

A member of the Asphodelaceae family.

Read more about preparing Kniphofia for winter in our Garden Diary entry for September 2009.

Perfect Partners: Late July into August: Kniphofia Tawny King makes a show-stopping impact in a herbaceous border mixing well with Verbena bonariensis, Achillea Moonshine and the creamy buds of Sedum Autumn Joy waiting to flower. (Photo taken at Abbeywood Gardens)

Kniphofia Bees' Lemon

Bold green-topped, lemon yellow flowers in late summer. About 3ft tall.

Originally from Arthur Bulley's Bees' Nursery. Our photo was taken at Ness Botanic Gardens which was created by Arthur Bulley.

Price 5.00 (9cm pot)

Available to order for mail order and collection at plant fairs

Kniphofia Drummore Apricot

Apricot with bronze stems. Ideal partner for blue salvias

Price 5.00 (9cm pot)

Available to order for mail order and collection at plant fairs

Kniphofia Fiery Fred

Bold fiery orange.

A good strong and compact variety that we are pleased to reintroduce to our range for 2015.

Price 5.00 (9cm pot)

Available to order for mail order and collection at plant fairs

Fiery Fred is set off by intense deep pink of Monarda (photo taken at Abbeywood Gardens)

Kniphofia Jenny Bloom

Delicately coloured and slender flowers make this lady an elegant highlight of the border in July and August. About 2ft  - 2ft 6in tall.

Price 5.00 (9cm pot)

Available to order for mail order and collection at plant fairs

Kniphofia John Benary

New to our catalogue 2017

Orangey red and about 2ft 6in - 3ft / 75-90cm tall. Flowers late summer.

Price 5.00 (9cm pot)

Available to order for mail order and collection at plant fairs

Kniphofia Nancy's Red

Another very good red with flowers deep red at first, opening more scarlet. Flowers in September and is about 2ft  - 2ft 6in tall.

Sold out.

Kniphofia Percy's Pride

Lovely greenish lemon pokers and lots of them. 2ft - 2ft 6in / 60 - 75cm tall. Flowering in July / August

SOLD OUT.

Kniphofia rooperi

Large, imposing species with deeply keeled and channelled leaves. The racemes are at first ovoid, becoming obovoid at maturity. Growing to 140-150cm tall or more. Flowers late August / early September. Seed heads look good throughout winter.

Very hardy. Forms dense clumps. It is best to cut back the previous seasons leaves in late winter / early spring as  these suddenly go brown as the new leaves emerge. Easily grown from seed sown in John Innes #1 in late January with a little bottom heat. Flowers in second year.

Division requires cutting the large woody rhizome into sections each with a bud and some root. New root is quickly made in warm weather, but new shoot are not produced until spring.

Grows in marshy land in Eastern Cape and Southern Natal provinces of RSA where it flowers in the winter and early spring.

RHS Award of Garden Merit

Perfect Partners: Kniphofia rooperi creates a blast of hot colour against the wheaten background of Stipa gigantea.

Price 5.00 (9cm pot) Just a few available.

Kniphofia Tawny King

One of the best pokers! Very floriferous over a long period. The pokers are large on bronze stems (peduncles), scape height around 3 - 4ft. The colour is very rich. A good cut flower. Flowers late June through to August.

Hardy. Soon makes large clumps. Divide and replant regularly.

RHS Award of Garden Merit

Price 5.00 (9cm pot)

Kniphofia Toffee-Nosed

Lovely toffee and cream coloured poker. About 2ft 6in tall in flower. Flowers from July to September

Price 5.00 (9cm pot)

Available to order for mail order and collection at plant fairs

Kniphofia Wrexham Buttercup

New to our catalogue 2017. Large golden yellow flowers in late summer. About 2ft 6in - 3ft tall (75-90cm)

Price 5.00 (9cm pot)

Available to order for mail order and collection at plant fairs

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