Harmony in the Garden Blog

Knock-out Kniphofias

spire shaped flowers

Kniphopfias (aka: Red Hot Poker or Torch Lily) are one of my favorite flowers that add vertical interest to the garden.

Seeing their snake-like stalks rise from a clump of grass-like foliage is always a joy to behold.

As the flowers emerge, sometimes seeming to grow a few inches a day, the colors slowly begin to reveal themselves.

spire shaped flowers
spire shaped flowers

While visiting a client’s garden a few days ago, I was amazed at the size of these kniphofia uvarias (above.)  I planted them last year from tiny little 1-gallons and now they’re at least 3-feet tall!

I can’t wait until the ‘Iceberg’ roses behind them start to bloom – the contrast of colors and shapes will be fantastic.

kniphofia red hot poker

I can’t figure out why kniphofias aren’t planted more often. 

Maybe they’re not as popular as they should be because people think they all turn into large and imposing clumps?

Not true!


One of my favorites in my own garden is ‘Mango Popsicle’ which is a tiny little treasure, topping out at just 18 inches. 

And as you can see, bees love them almost as much as hummingbirds do.

kniphofia red hot poker

Or, maybe it’s because people think they’re too tender, have a super short bloom time, or bloom only in the fall?   But that’s not the case at all.

Most typically bloom over the course of several weeks.  And varieties such as ‘Bees Sunset’, are hardy down to Zone 5, and even have repeat bloom times.

Depending on the variety, some might bloom in early spring, some in the fall, and some even in the winter.

And who doesn’t like flowers that bloom in the dreary days of winter?

And while some literature might say they prefer rich soil, I see them blooming best when totally neglected, like these I found along the roadside in Sonoma.

Oh, they’re super drought tolerant AND deer-resistant, too.

Have I convinced you of their greatness yet?

If so, Digging Dog Nursery and Annie’s Annuals are my favorite go-to sources.

What are your favorites?  I’d love to know about them!

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  • I have but they are so expensive. I hate to pay ten bucks or more plus shipping for a tiny little plant unless I know I can’t get it locally.

    Check out ‘Shining Scepter”. I used it at a clients garden and it is blooming now and is wonderful. I used a small red one called ‘Nancy’s Red’ as well but that hasn’t bloomed yet.

    • Love the ‘Shining Scepter’, Kaveh – thanks for the tip!! I think I’m liking the smaller varieties better as the regular sized ones can get so darn big.

  • I love them. This is the first year I’ve had them in my garden and I’m thoroughly enjoying them. Last year I bought several plants at my local master gardener plant sale and each plant turned out to be a different kind. What fun! One very tall and fantastically orange and yellow one happened to be sited directly through the window of my husband’s view from the living room couch. I can’ t tell you how much he enjoyed that flower each evening! He’s a tall, spiky plant sort of fellow and he appreciated it. I love it when happy accidents like that happen in the garden.

    • Felicia – you’re so right! Happy accidents are wonderful in the garden, aren’t they? I’m so glad you and your husband are enjoying them so much. I bet they’ll double in size by next year!

  • I just saw some in bloom yesterday. I like them, however I think that the flower stalk turn unattractive once the plant is almost done blooming, maybe that’s why I haven’t planted in my garden yet. Your photos are stunning.

    • Unfortunately the flower stalks are a bit ‘stick-y’ when they’re almost done flowering, but I still like the clumps of leaves left behind. Glad you like my photos! 🙂

  • You didn’t have to convince me, I have always loved red hot pokers. Unfortunatley, I don’thave any in my garden but I do admire them from other gardens. My favorites are kniphofia hirsuta ‘fire dance’ and kniphofia ‘peachy cheeks’.

    • Thanks for turning me on to ‘Fire Dance’, Nicholas. I just read about it on San Marcos Growers’ website and am glad to find out it’s one of the shortest around, topping out at 18″. Perfect for the front of the border!

  • Here on the coast they have such a long bloom period. I really need to get a few for my garden. I’m waiting until I find the exact ones I want.

    • Kaveh – have you checked out Digging Dog Nursery’s website? They have a huge selection in every color imaginable. I love that place!


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