Kniphofia is a perennial native of Africa. Also called red hot poker or torch lily, the plant is prized for its spectacular and colorful flowers that are reminiscent of a hot iron poker. The plant was introduced to California as an ornamental and is frequently grown in gardens throughout the western parts of the state.
The roots of the plant is a rhizome, a specialized stem that grows underground. The plant grows in large clumps of long, slender, arching leaves. The foliage is often strap-like or grass-like and around a foot in height. The leaves are smooth and green to blue-green in color.
The flowers are impressive displays of long-lasting drooping tubular flowers that are geometrically arranged in clusters at the tip of bare, wand-like stems that grow up to three feet tall. The flowers are often colored in a gradient from yellow at the bottom of the cluster to red at the top. Other varieties range from white to yellows, pinks, oranges and reds.
Kniphofia grows well along the western coastal areas of California. The plant grows moderately fast, but spreads slowly. Blooms appear in mid-summer. Kniphofia grow well from hardiness range 5 through 10.
Kniphofia prefer full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. The plant grows well in moist environments and can tolerate planting in seaside areas. Soils should be medium weight, sandy to loamy and well-drained. Propagation can be accomplish through seeds and division of rhizomes. Flower heads that die can be cut back to encourage further blooming.
The plant's dramatic appearanxe makes if an excellent choice as a featured specimen in the garden. The huge blooms of Kniphofia produce sweet nectar making the plant good for attracting, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The flowers work well as cut flowers for arrangements.