Red Hot Poker – Kniphofia uvaria
The common names of plants can often be misleading or nonsensical. However, looking around town at the blooming Red Hot Poker, also known as Torch Lily, the plant seems suitably named. A native of South Africa, Kniphofia uvaria has quickly become a garden staple throughout the world thanks to its striking blooms, love of heat and sun, and its drought tolerance.
Yet, it is easy to forget about Kniphofia until its slender flowering stalk begins to emerge in late spring. The leaves resemble those of a lily – herbaceous, slim, and green – and the plants form clumps similar to daylily. But once the flower head begins to bloom there is no mistaking the amazing display of tiny, tubular orange and yellow flowers. And if the blooms weren’t striking enough to give it away, just wait until the pollinators hone in on its nectar rich blossoms. Bees, hummingbirds, and orioles all delight in the brightly colored blooms of Kniphofia. The orioles in particular are striking when they perch upon the long flowering stalks, almost camouflaged except for the fact that their weight inevitably bends the stems, which can reach up to five feet tall.
You can find Kniphofia scattered throughout the Idaho Botanical Garden – by the front entrance, the greenhouses, and at the edge of the Meditation Garden. Stop by to admire its blooms and listen to the call of the orioles enjoying its sweet nectar.
Written by IBG gardener, Anna Lindquist.