Harmony in the Garden Blog

Knock-out Kniphofias

spire shaped flowers

Knock-out kniphofias (aka: Red Hot Pokers) are a surefire way to add exciting vertical interest to any garden.

Beginning in mid-spring, slender, snake-like stalks rise from a clump of grass-like foliage (sometimes appearing to grow a few inches a day!)

Then, look out as the flowers begin to put on their show, slowly opening from the bottom and working their way to the top of the ‘torch’.

Kniphofia 'Gladness'
Kniphofia 'Gladness'

Last year, I added several ‘Gladness’ kniphofias in my garden, creating a drift of soft orange spires.

In fact, I use spire-shaped flowers as often as I can to inject a bit of energy in a garden bed.  Click here to see more of my favorites.

spire shaped flowers
Kniphofia uvaria

While visiting a client’s garden, I was amazed at the size of these kniphofia uvarias (left.) 

One year prior, I planted them 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
Kniphofia 'Mango Popsicle'

I don’t understand why kniphofias aren’t planted in gardens more often. 

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

Not true!

kniphofia red hot poker
Kniphofia 'Mango Popsicle'

In fact, ‘Mango Popsicle’ (left) is a tiny little treasure, topping out at just 18 inches. 

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


Or, maybe it’s because people think they’re too tender, have a short bloom time, or bloom only in the spring?  

But that’s not the case either!

Kniphofias 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.

While most bloom in early summer, there are varieties that bloom in the fall, and even early winter.

Can you imagine seeing fiery blooms like this on a dreary winter day?

kniphofia red hot poker

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

On top of everything else, they’re very drought tolerant AND deer-resistant, too.

Have I convinced you of their greatness yet?

If so, Digging Dog Nursery and High Country Gardens 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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