Kniphofia is a large genus of plants in the Asphodelaceae family that are rhizomatous or have fleshy roots. They are from Africa, Madagascar and Yemen. Most of the species are from Africa, especially South Africa and many of the popular cultivars originated from South African species. The common name for these plants is poker or red hot pokers because of their spikes which are often red or orange-red.
Rachel Saunders reports that seeds last well up to two years. Travis Owen sowed seeds from a hardy unknown cultivar (hardy to at least 0 °F) in late Autumn of 2014, just scratched into the surface in a potting mix with a high grit to humus ratio. The pot was kept in the light with bottom heat on a dry porch (but the pot was kept moist). The seeds germinated within a few weeks and grew on through the winter. In 2015, the "seedlings", now with leaves ten inches in height, were repotted. Below is a photo of the roots of the young plants less than six months old:
Kniphofia acraea is a species that was named in 1964 from a specimen found in Mountain Zebra Park overlooking Cradock in the Eastern Cape Province, but was not identified again until forty years later. Cameron McMaster and Tony Dold found it again in the same location in February 2004. In this population they grow in Karroid Mountain Veld on the summit at an altitude of 1900 m where snow is a regular winter occurrence. Plants are dwarfed, with short recurved leaves forming tight clumps no more than 150 mm above the ground. The orange tipped inflorescence reaches up to 500 mm and is adorned with pale yellow flowers showing their stamens at anthesis. Another population was found at Waainek, which is a private nature reserve. In this population there had been a road cut and the plants had been exposed showing roots and rhizomes that were extremely robust and penetrated deep into the soil. Cameron notes that seed of this species is best sown in seed trays immediately after ripening in late autumn. Young plants can be transplanted into containers or open ground when approximately one year old and will thrive in well-drained situations. Plants flower in under two years from germination, and unlike most species of Kniphofia, K. acraea withstands frost and snow making it suitable for cold climate gardens. Photo taken by Cameron McMaster at Waainek February 2008.
Kniphofia 'Border Ballet' Plants going under this name have very narrow foliage and a beautiful range of pastel color forms to choose from, including some nice pink forms. The plant overwintered well in my cold USDA Zone 5 garden, bulking up nicely and started flowering at the end of September. My plant has flowers that are pale yellow tinged with pastel melon orange color; subtle and beautiful. Both photos by Mark McDonough taken September 30, 2005, showing the flower and the plant form.
Kniphofia baurii is found on streambanks, moist grassy slopes in the Eastern Cape. Growing to 1 m, it is found in small groups. Leaves are blue green or pale green and flowers are in a dense rounded inflorescence with green tinged dull red buds and hanging greenish to greenish yellow flowers. Photos 1-2 taken by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner January 2010 at Naude's Nek. Photo #3 from Rod Saunders.
Kniphofia caulescens grows from .6 to 1 m and is found in marshes, on wet cliffs, often in large colonies up to 3000 m in the Drakensberg. It has blue grey green almost fleshy leaves that are finely toothed and a dense inflorescence with coral pink to red buds and pale green to creamy yellow flowers with protruding stamens. It blooms January to March. Photos taken by Cameron McMaster and Rod Saunders. The first two were taken at Naude's Nek.
Kniphofia hirsuta is endemic to the Drakensberg and is found or rocky slopes or streams, up to 2900 m. It usually has softly hairy leaves. It resembles Kniphofia ritualis. Photos taken by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner January 2010 at Naude's Nek.
The photos below shows a cultivated form of what was identified as this species.
Kniphofia linearifolia is widespread in the Eastern Cape where it grows in marshy ground and near stream beds, often in large colonies. Growing up to 1.5 m tall, it has yellow green strongly keeled leaves and a dense inflorescence. The stamens hardly protrude. Photos taken January 2010 near Lady Grey by Cameron McMaster, Bob Rutemoeller, and Mary Sue Ittner.
Kniphofia multiflora is the largest species in the genus. Everything about it is big relative to the other species in the genus. It grows in the summer and goes completely dormant in the winter, dropping all of its leaves. During growth, it likes lots of water and can multiply from a small seedling into a gigantic plant as seen in the photo in just three years! Photos 1-3 were taken by Nhu Nguyen of the plant at the end of its second year. Photos 4-5 were taken by Jacob Uluwehi Knecht of the much larger cluster in bloom during its third growing season.
Kniphofia northiae is a very robust species that grows to 1.7 m tall. It is found on mountain grassland, on streambanks, basalt cliffs, seepage lines up to 300 m from the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal. It has large recurved aloe-like leaves and a dense inflorescence with whitish or orange-red to yellow flowers. Photos #1-2 by Bob Rutemoeller taken January 2010 at Naude's Nek. Photo #3 by Mary Sue Ittner taken January 2010 at Gaika's Kop. Photo #4 from Cameron McMaster shows the flower. Photo #5 was taken by Nhu Nguyen at the UC Botanical Garden.
Kniphofia parviflora is found in grassland and marshy places up to 2000 m from the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal. It has an inflorescence of one-sided small creamy green to yellow scented flowers. Photos 1-3 were taken in January 2010 by Mary Sue Ittner at Satansnek Pass and Maclear. Photo 4 was taken by Nhu Nguyen and photos 5-6 were taken by Jacob Uluwehi Knecht of a form in cultivation. This form is vigorous and multiplies quickly.
Kniphofia rooperi has a typical compressed triangular flower spike in the early stages. Its colours graduate from cream, orange to green at the top. Originates from the milder coastal area of east South Africa. It flowers in mid winter and is therefore well adapted to the mild Mediterranean climate. In August with drought and high temperatures the plant slows down. This is the best moment to prune off the superfluous leaves. After 4-5 years in place it is advised, in order to maintain a generous flowering, to divide the rhizomes (end of summer or late winter). An ideal plant to colour your drive way in midwinter. Photos 1-2 were taken by Lauw de Jager in his garden (South of France) in February 2008. Photos 3-4 were taken by Cameron McMaster January 2010 at Morgan Bay in the Eastern Cape. Although it mainly flowers in mid winter, Cameron reports that it flowers opportunistically at other times of the year.
Kniphofia sarmentosa has strap-shaped leaves and reddish flowers, becoming buff with exserted anthers. This species is found in mountain streams and moist hollows from the western Karoo to the Hex River mountains (winter rainfall areas) of South Africa. The first two photos were taken in South Africa, August 2001 in a very wet winter in the western Karoo and the last was taken September 2006 in the Roggeveld. The first three photos were taken by Mary Sue Ittner. The fourth was taken by Cameron McMaster September 2011, also in the Roggeveld. The last picture was taken by Lauw de Jager February 2008 in a garden in Gerona, Northeastern Spain.
Kniphofia stricta is a summer rainfall species that blooms later than most of the summer rainfall species. Photo taken near Balloch by Rod Saunders in March 2010.
Kniphofia thodei grows in moist mountain grassland, up to 2750 m. This photo was taken by Roy Herold in KwaZulu-Natal Province, near Kamberg in the foothills of the Drakensberg, in early November 2004. The same plants were observed blooming in December, 2006.
Kniphofia thomsonii is among the more strikingly distinct Kniphofia. The well spaced individual flowers, each gracefully down-curved, give these plants something of a Lachenalia or Phygelius look. Photo 1 by David Fenwick, photo 2 by Jim McKenney show a triploid form of this species. It is a form of this species that is most widely grown in North America. Photos 3-4 taken by Nhu Nguyen shows how vigorous and beautiful this species can be. In the San Francisco Bay Area this species grows well outdoors and can bloom several times a year. It never goes completely dormant if water is available.
Kniphofia thomsonii var. snowdenii is distinguished from the species based on the pubescence on the flowers. Photos by David Fenwick.
Kniphofia triangularis is an evergreen perennial to 60 cm tall with coral red to orange yellow flowers in a cylindrical nodding head. Blooming January to April, it is found in mountain grassland, streambanks, and moist areas in the Eastern Cape to the Northern province of South Africa. Photos 1-3 taken January 2010 by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner at Gaika's Kop. The last photo by Cameron McMaster.
Kniphofia typhoides is native to the Northern Province to KwaZulu-Natal. The inflorescence resembles that of cattails (Typha spp.) hence the species ephithet typhoides = "resembling Typha". The photos below were taken by Ina Crossley from plants in her garden.
Kniphofia uvaria is a mostly winter rainfall species that grows in seeps, marshes, and streams on sandstone slopes and flowers in spring. It has strap-shaped leaves that are keeled. Flowers are orange to greenish yellow with anthers either not or slightly exserted at flowering. Photos taken September 2006 in South Africa near Bainskloof by Mary Sue Ittner and Bob Rutemoeller following a fire earlier in the year that had stimulated flowering.
Photos 1-3 below from Cameron McMaster and Bob Rutemoeller show this species flowering near the summit of Gaika's Kop January 2010. This is a summer rainfall area. Photos 4-6 from Mary Sue Ittner show others flowering in the Eastern Cape.
Pictures below are of unknown species or cultivars. The first group of pictures was taken by Jennifer Hildebrand at the garden in the Getty Center in Southern California showing Kniphofia in front of some beautiful red roses.
This is a picture of plants flowering in Jim and Beverley Thompson's garden in Manchester, California. They are probably cultivars. I don't have a name for them. Photo by Bob Rutemoeller.
Dennis Kramb asked the PBS list "Is it normal for Kniphofia to produce keikeis?". Keikei is the Hawaiian word for child and in this context means plantlet. These plants were grown from a Walmart packet of non species specific seed and are shown in the photo below.