Red hot pokers (Kniphofia spp.)

They are unusual clumping plants with tall spires of flowers. There are species and named varieties that produce flowers throughout the year. Highly attractive to gardeners and to visiting birds are winter-flowering forms particularly the red-flowered ‘Winter Cheer’.

Most red hot pokers are large plants, with leafy clumps that can be 50-90cm high with flowering stems adding another 60-80cm. There are also smaller varieties that suit containers and smaller gardens. Birds are still attracted to the flowers even on smaller plants.

Plant year-round but look for varieties in flower at different times of the year in hardware and garden centres. Existing clumps can be divided in winter and planted into a new garden bed or given away to family and friends.

Weed warning: plants can become weedy in some areas. To control spread, prune flowering stems immediately once flowering is finished and before seeds mature.

Growing conditions

Aspect Red hot pokers need full sun to produce their flowers. They will tolerate part shade, especially afternoon shade in hot conditions.

Soil These plants need well-drained, neutral soils, as they will suffer in boggy soils. Dwarf varieties can also be grown in large containers and pots using a premium potting mix such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix.

Climate Best suited to warm to cool temperate climates. Red hot pokers are native to southern Africa.

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General care

Watering Most red hot pokers are drought hardy once established. Plants in containers need regular watering especially during hot conditions.

Feeding  Fertilise throughout the growing and flowering period with a complete granular fertiliser such as Seasol plus Nutrients All Purpose including Natives or a liquid fertiliser such as PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives.

Mulch Coarse, chunky mulches are recommended to suppress weeds.

Pruning Remove flowered stems cutting them off at their base to promote more flowers. Cut back plants that become untidy. They will resprout.

Watch out No pest and disease problems but may harbour snails and slugs in dense leafy clumps. Heavy birds such as honeyeaters can weigh down, bend or even break flower stems.