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Common Red-hot Poker

Kniphofia uvaria

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asphodelaceae (Asphodel)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Gardens, sand dunes.

Red, 6 petals
Very colourful bright orange and red flowers forming a dense terminal head, later turning yellow.
A stalkless, globular capsule, containing numerous seeds.
Long and slender, evergreen, sword-like leaves.
Other Names:
Cape Red-hot Poker, Flame Flower, Knofflers, Poker Plant, Poker Plant, Red-hot Poker, Spear Lily, Torch Lily, Tritoma.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Kniphofia uvaria, also known as red hot poker, torch lily, or poker plant, is a perennial species of the genus Kniphofia, that is native to South Africa. It is known for its tall spikes of brightly colored, tubular flowers in shades of red, orange, and yellow that bloom in the late spring to early summer. The foliage is evergreen, and forms clumps of long, narrow leaves. The plant can reach up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

It is a popular ornamental plant, often used in cottage gardens, mixed borders, and naturalized settings. It is also used in traditional medicine for various ailments. The plant prefers well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. It is drought tolerant and can be grown in a wide range of climates. It is also used for mass planting and as a cut flower.


This plant, also known as the Torch Lily, is native to South Africa and is a member of the Asphodelaceae family.

The Common Red-hot Poker is an herbaceous perennial that produces clumps of foliage up to 3 feet tall and wide. The leaves are long and strap-like, and they form a basal rosette at the bottom of the plant. From this rosette, flower spikes emerge that can reach up to 5 feet tall. The flowers are arranged in dense, upright clusters and are a bright orange-red color, with a yellow tip. The blooms are striking, and they make for an eye-catching display in the garden.

This plant is easy to care for and grows well in full sun to partial shade. It prefers well-draining soil and is relatively drought-tolerant. The Common Red-hot Poker can be propagated by division or by seed. Division is best done in the spring or fall, and seeds can be sown in the spring.

The Common Red-hot Poker is also attractive to pollinators, including bees and butterflies. The flowers produce nectar that is a valuable food source for these insects. If you're looking to attract pollinators to your garden, the Common Red-hot Poker is a great choice.

In terms of maintenance, this plant is relatively low-maintenance. Deadheading the flowers will encourage the plant to produce more blooms, and cutting back the foliage in the fall will help to keep the plant looking neat and tidy. In colder climates, the Common Red-hot Poker may die back to the ground in the winter, but it will come back in the spring.

In addition to its ornamental value, the Common Red-hot Poker has some medicinal uses as well. The roots of the plant are used in traditional African medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including diarrhea, dysentery, and stomach ulcers. However, it is important to note that the medicinal use of the plant has not been extensively studied, and it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedies.

The Common Red-hot Poker is also deer-resistant, making it a good choice for gardens in areas where deer are a problem. However, it is important to note that the plant can be toxic to pets if ingested, so care should be taken to keep it away from cats and dogs.

If you're considering adding the Common Red-hot Poker to your garden, keep in mind that it is a relatively large plant that can spread over time. Give it plenty of room to grow and consider planting it in a spot where it can be allowed to spread without overcrowding other plants.

Overall, the Common Red-hot Poker is a beautiful and low-maintenance plant that can add a splash of color to any garden. With its striking blooms and ability to attract pollinators, it is sure to be a standout in any landscape.

The Common Red-hot Poker is not just limited to gardens, it can also be grown in containers. This makes it a great choice for those with limited garden space, or for those who want to create a container garden. When grown in a container, it is important to choose a large pot with good drainage to accommodate the plant's size and ensure it has enough space to spread out. It is also important to keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged, and to fertilize the plant regularly with a balanced fertilizer.

The Common Red-hot Poker is a popular plant for cut flower arrangements as well. The long, sturdy stems and striking blooms make it a favorite among florists and home gardeners alike. To use the flowers in arrangements, cut the stems just as the blooms are beginning to open and place them in a vase of water. They will last for several days and can be combined with other flowers to create a beautiful and unique arrangement.

In terms of its cultural significance, the Common Red-hot Poker has been used as a symbol of strength and perseverance. In the Zulu culture of South Africa, it is known as the "isiHlangu" or "spear lily," and is considered a symbol of bravery and determination. The plant's long, sturdy stems and bright blooms are seen as a metaphor for the strength and resilience of the Zulu people.

The Common Red-hot Poker is a versatile and beautiful plant with a rich cultural history. Whether grown in a garden, container, or used in cut flower arrangements, it is sure to make a statement with its bright blooms and unique shape. Its low-maintenance nature and ability to attract pollinators make it a great choice for any gardener, and its cultural significance adds an extra layer of depth to this already impressive plant.

The Common Red-hot Poker is also a great plant for xeriscaping, which is a type of landscaping that focuses on using low-water plants that are well-suited to arid and semi-arid environments. This plant is drought-tolerant and does well in hot, dry conditions, making it a great choice for xeriscaping projects.

Another interesting fact about the Common Red-hot Poker is that it is sometimes used in the production of biofuels. The plant contains a high concentration of sugar, which can be fermented to produce ethanol. While it is not commonly used in this way, it is an example of how plants can be used for a variety of purposes beyond their ornamental value.

It is worth noting that the Common Red-hot Poker is not the only species in the Kniphofia genus. There are over 70 species in this group, and they can vary in size, color, and shape. Some other popular species include the Alpine Pokers (Kniphofia caulescens), which have pale yellow blooms and grow at higher elevations, and the Dwarf Pokers (Kniphofia thomsonii), which have small, bright red flowers and grow in rocky areas.

One interesting feature of the Common Red-hot Poker is the way its flowers are arranged on the stem. The plant produces long spikes of flowers, with the bottom flowers opening first and the top flowers opening later. This creates a gradual progression of color up the stem, with the lower flowers typically being a deep red or orange-red, and the upper flowers being a lighter shade of yellow or green.

The Common Red-hot Poker is also known for its ability to attract a wide variety of pollinators. The bright, tubular flowers are particularly attractive to hummingbirds, who are able to hover in front of the flowers and extract nectar using their long, thin beaks. The plant is also visited by a variety of bees and butterflies, who are drawn to the abundant nectar and pollen.

Another interesting fact about the Common Red-hot Poker is that it is sometimes used in traditional African cuisine. The flowers and young shoots are edible and can be cooked and eaten like vegetables. They are said to have a slightly bitter taste and are often mixed with other ingredients to create stews or soups.

Finally, the Common Red-hot Poker has been used in horticultural breeding programs to create new varieties with different flower colors and shapes. By crossing different species of Kniphofia, breeders have been able to create plants with pink, white, and even green flowers. Some new cultivars also have more compact growth habits or unique flower shapes, making them even more versatile for use in the garden.