Skip to Content

Red Hot Poker: How To Grow & Care For Torch Lilies

The brilliant red, orange, and yellow torch-like flowers add drama and vertical structure to the garden.

Held upright on strong stems, the bright flaming flowers rise above mounding, arching grass-like foliage.

Red Hot Poker plants are sometimes called Torch Lilies. Not a true lily, Red Hot Pokers are known botanically as Kniphofia, a genus of about 73 species in the Asphodelaceae family of plants.

A native to South Africa, Red Hot Pokers are rhizomatous perennials that create a stunning spectacle in sunny hot areas of the garden.

The best of all worlds, Red Hot Pokers attract birds, bees, and butterflies with copious nectar while being exceptionally rabbit and deer resistant.

The long-blooming, drought-tolerant plants can be aggressive, overtaking less-aggressive plants.

Some Red Hot Poker varieties are even considered invasive in some states, including parts of Oregon and California.

A stand-out specimen or border perennial, most Red Hot Poker plants grow 2 to 4 feet tall and 1 to 3 feet wide.

The long-lasting cut flowers of Red Hot Poker make this a perfect perennial for cut flower gardens.

Hummingbird, bee, and butterfly gardens will be buzzing with this extravagant nectar producer as well.

Red Hot Poker Snapshot

Botanical NameKniphofia
Common NamesRed Hot Poker, Torch Lily, African Flame Flower
Plant TypeHerbaceous perennial
Native OriginSouth Africa
USDA Hardiness Zone5 to 9
Flower ColorRed, orange, and yellow
Bloom TimeEarly, mid, and late summer
Growth & Size2 to 4 feet tall, 1 to 3 feet wide
ExposureFull sun
Suitable Soil & pHAverage, fertile to poor soil. Tolerant of alkaline to slightly acidic pH

Plant Care Overview

Planted in the right place, Red Hot Poker plants are easy to grow and maintain.

This South African native plant loves full sun, but a little afternoon shelter in very hot places is appreciated.

As long as the soil is well-draining, Red Hot Poker will outshine in the perennial bed for years.

A rhizomatous perennial, planting depth is shallow, allowing the plant’s crown to remain above soil level.

Planting Location:

  • Zone: 5 to 9
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Average to poor, well-draining soil with neutral pH.
  • Native Habitat: South Africa.
  • Temperature and Humidity: Relatively dry, warm, temperate conditions.

Care Needs:

  • Moisture: Water well until established. Tolerates dry to drought conditions once established.
  • Maintenance: Easy.
  • Feeding: Rarely necessary. In exceptionally poor soil, use a root and bloom fertilizer high in phosphorus, such as bone meal, at the time of planting.
  • Pruning / Deadheading: When flowers have faded, cut flower stalks from the base of the plant to allow the graceful grace-like foliage to look its best.
  • Overwintering: In cold climates, protect the crown of Red Hot Poker. Use mulch and/or the plant’s own foliage to provide winter protection. In spring, remove mulch and dead plant material to make way for this season’s new growth.

Varieties and Hybrids

Proven Winners® grows a flamboyant series of Red Hot Poker, suitably called Pyromania® with exceptionally fun names including ‘Orange Blaze’, ‘Solar Flare’, ‘Backdraft’, and ‘Flashpoint’.

Many Red Hot Poker cultivars gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 2020. Inspired again by the dramatic flowers, names include ‘Bees’ Sunset’, ‘Coral Flame’, ‘Fiery Fred’, ‘Moonstone’, and ‘Royal Standard’.

Common Red Hot Poker varieties available through nurseries, also with inspirational descriptive names, are ‘Echo Rojo Red Hot Poker’, ‘Fire Dance Red Hot Poker’, and ‘Papaya Popsicle’.

How to Propagate Red Hot Poker

Growing Red Hot Poker From Seed or Roots

It may be possible to grow Red Hot Poker from collected seed. However, there are a vast array of available cultivars. These cultivars may have mixed or uncertain parentage. This is because they are bred from the wide variety of ornamental species of the genus. For this reason, seeds may not grow true to the parent plant.

To grow the Red Hot Poker variety you want, grow seeds of a named variety purchased from a nursery or garden center. Germination is said to take place in 21 to 28 days at 70° to 75° F.

In addition to seed, the garden center may have bare roots of Red Hot Poker available. These, you can grow on yourself. This saves a substantial amount of time and is also cost-effective compared to buying fully grown perennials.

In spring, plant the rhizome in soil just up to its neck, leaving the crown of the plant exposed. Water well while the Red Hot Poker Plant becomes established.

Growing Red Hot Poker from the Division of the Rhizomatous Roots

If you or a friendly gardener have Red Hot Poker plants, it is a great idea to divide these plants every few years. This refreshes the perennial from becoming overcrowded. Simply dig up the plant and tickle the roots apart. Extra roots can be planted in new areas of the garden or given away to other adventurous gardeners.

Red Hot Poker Diseases and Common Pests

Red Hot Poker is generally disease- and pest-free. Particularly when grown in well-draining soil in full sun in zones 5 to 9. Slugs and snails in abundance may be an issue for these plants. If soil is poorly draining, Red Hot Poker is susceptible to root rot.

Companion Plants for Red Hot Poker

Ornamental Grasses






Hot Color Scheme Flowers to Plant with Red Hot Poker

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

Daylily (Hemerocallis)

Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum)

An exciting dramatic plant, Red Hot Poker is an enticing addition to the blooming backyard.