Plant of the Week
Kniphofia - Red Hot Poker
Looking for something with an exotic air? Looking for a plant to attract more birds into your garden? Then look no further than the Kniphofia!
There are around 70 species of clump-forming perennials that make up this genus in the asphodel (Asphodelaceae) family. A spectacular and diverse genus of South African plants, grown widely for their intensely coloured flowers and evergreen foliage, Kniphofias, otherwise known as ‘Red Hot Pokers’ would be a rewarding addition to any garden. Many hybrids and cultivars have been raised in a variety of sizes and flower colours from white to cream, lime-green, yellow, orange and deep red. Flowering usually occurs from autumn to spring, depending on the species.
But when its cold outside, the Kniphofia 'Winter Cheer' is an absolute winner. When little else is in flower, this mid-winter flowering variety will brighten up the dullest cold winter garden. Flowering right now, I’m sure you have noticed its bright red flower heads standing like soldiers, making a brilliant winter display in our gardens. The blooms last well when cut too, so make sure you pick a big fresh bunch to enjoy indoors. In a tall vase they make a stunning display, giving great pleasure at this time of the year.
This hardy perennial with its grassy sword-like leaves growing from vigorous rhizomes create a tough clump. They are easy to grow, many even say tough to kill, consistently delivering colorful, spiky, wand-like bottlebrush-shaped heads of flowers that stand well above the foliage to around 1.2 metres. An added bonus is that birds find these beauties irresistible. Who doesn’t want more birds in their garden! Kniphofias make a dramatic statement at the rear of the border or as a standalone plant. With careful selection, we could have them flowering at different times for most of the year.
Being hardy and water wise, Kniphofia species require a position in full sun with moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil. Plant with the crown at the soil line, around 40-50cms apart, depending on the species or variety that you have. The rhizomes you purchase will have roots attached so it will be easy to determine which end is ‘up’. After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place – don't cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis and strengthen the plant for the future. Most species tolerate light to moderate frosts; they can cope with salt winds and will thrive near the coast. Propagation is usually by division after flowering, or from seed.
I love them! They are not fussy and they don’t ask much from us, but year after year we get to enjoy these happy pokers. They would make a lovely gift for a friend having a winter birthday….