COMMON NAME: red-hot poker
SPECIES: K. uvaria
DESCRIPTION: This unusual member of the lily family has a tall spike of orange and yellow flowers. The deepest shades of orange are found at the top of the flowering spike, and the color gets progressively lighter and turns to yellow toward the bottom. New strains of this plant have introduced other color variations. The plant reaches a height of 24 to 40 inches. The foliage is tall, coarse, and grass-like and lends interesting texture to the summer garden.
CULTIVATION: Red-hot poker needs full sun to light shade and a somewhat sheltered spot, for it cannot withstand heavy frosts. In very cold regions, provide some sort of protective mulch or cover. The plants will survive extreme heat and considerable drought but perform much better with regular watering.
Originally known as tritoma, red-hot poker is from the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and was brought to Europe in 1707. In England it was considered a greenhouse plant until it was planted in the flower borders at Kew in 1848.
The Kniphofia genus was renamed for Dr. Johann Hieronymous Kniphof, the author of a twelve-volume set of herbals. The illustrations for this set were made by putting ink directly on the specimen and stamping the image on the page.
The common name refers to the bright red color of the plant and the tall, spike-like configuration of the blossoms. Another common name is torch lily. The species name uvaria is Latin, meaning “clustered,” and describes the blossoms.