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Kniphofia ‘Bressingham Comet’
Kniphofia ‘Bressingham Comet’

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Kniphofia uvaria
Kniphofia uvaria

Kniphofia

Red-Hot Poker
Liliaceae
Perennials

Dense clumps of grasslike, finely toothed foliage produce bare stems topped by nodding, tubular flowers in tight, overlapping clusters. Flowering stems look like glowing pokers or torches, hence the common name. Blossoms open from bottom to top over the course of several days, changing color as they mature. Increasing numbers of species—mostly from South Africa—are now grown in gardens and hybridized. The old 3-ft.-high forms of Kniphofia uvaria in shades of coral orange and yellow have given way to kinds with blooms ranging from coral red through every conceivable shade of orange, peach, and yellow to near-white and light green, on plants varying in size from 1 1/2- ft. dwarfs to 6-ft. giants. The flowers attract hummingbirds.

Kniphofia 'Percy's Pride', photo courtesy of Visions BV, Netherlands
Kniphofia 'Percy's Pride', photo courtesy of Visions BV, Netherlands

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Kniphofia hybrids

Although these hybrids involve several species, they generally share the narrow leaves and summer bloom season of K. uvaria. A distinct departure is ‘Christmas Cheer’, a hybrid of vigorous species K. rooperi.

‘Alcazar’. Dark, bronzy stems to 3 1/2 ft., with brick red flowers that age to pinkish orange.

‘Border Ballet’. Buds are a soft, dusty coral pink opening to cream blooms. Stems reach 4–4 1/2 ft.

‘Bressingham Comet’. Stems to 2 ft. high; flower clusters areorange with a yellow base.

‘Christmas Cheer’. Zones 19–24. Brilliant orange buds opento deep gold flowers on 4–5-ft.stems. Blooms fall through late spring in mild-winter areas, fall until frost elsewhere. Give it room; leaves (to 5 ft. long and 2 in. wide) become lax and collapse on the ground, smothering any plants in their way. Clump increases rapidly to 6–8 ft. or more across. Divide in early summer after flowering stops.

‘Cobra’. Stems 3–4 ft. tall. Flower clusters are orange at the top, fading through peach to creamy white at the base.

Flamenco. Seed-grown strain that blooms first year in early autumn, in subsequent years in summer. Flower colors range from coral through orange and yellow to creamy white. Stems to 2 1/2 ft. high.

‘Little Maid’. Thin, grassyleaves and narrow flower stems to 2 ft. high. Creamy white blossoms open from buds in buff-tinted pale yellow.

‘Nancy’s Red’. Zones 4–9, 14–24. To 2 ft. high and wide, with semievergreen, grassy leaves that give rise to coral redflowers in early to midsummer.

‘Percy’s Pride’. To 4 ft. tall, with green-tinted yellow buds opening cream.

‘Primrose Beauty’. To 3 ft. high, with blossoms in clear light yellow.

‘Shining Scepter’. Plant sold in North America under thisname is 3 ft. high, with tangerine orange flowers; the English original is 4 ft. tall, with pale yellow buds opening ivory.

‘Toffee Nosed’. Stems to 2 ft.,with flower spikes that arecreamy white at the base andtawny orange at the top.

Kniphofia rooperi, photo courtesy of Martin Hughes-Jones/Alamy
Kniphofia rooperi, photo courtesy of Martin Hughes-Jones/Alamy

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Kniphofia rooperi

Native to South Africa’s eastern Cape. To 4 ft. tall and wide, with keeled green leavesthat remain evergreen only in mildest part of range. The inflorescence is more egg-shaped than spherical, yellow at the very bottom and orange above; blooms in winter.

Kniphofia uvaria
Kniphofia uvaria

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Kniphofia uvaria

South Africa. Leaves to 1 in. wide, 2 ft. long make coarse, grassy clumps. Oblong flower heads form on stems 3 to 3 1/2 ft. tall. Coral red buds open to orange or deep yellow blossoms in summer (in fall, in cold-winter climates).

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