Kniphofia adaptability again

Jane McGary
Sat, 07 Feb 2004 10:54:53 PST
Ellen Hornig notes that Kniphofia species may be more susceptible to wet 
cold than to plain cold, and I think this is right to some extent. However, 
I also grow a number of species in this genus here in northwestern Oregon 
in the foothills of the Cascades, where winters are very wet indeed and 
also cold (near or below freezing most nights between mid-November and 
April). Even K. northiae, a peculiar species that resembles an Agave in 
foliage form and has a huge but rather unattractive flower, has persisted 
here for a long time in rather poor soil on a hillside.

On the other hand, I have not found some of the named hybrids from England 
to tolerate winters here, especially the widely sold small light yellow 
whose name escapes me at the moment. To get tolerant border kniphofias, I 
started with a packet of "dwarf hybrid" seeds about 16 years ago. I took 
seed from plants that survived the famous Pacific deep freeze of 1990-91 
and grew on a lot of seedlings from them. From these I selected one 
moderate-sized plant with bronze stems, narrow evergreen foliage, and clear 
yellow flowers. I have a planting of it in the garden now that does well 
every year, and have given divisions to a few people; I think one nursery 
was selling it for a while. It's not necessarily a better plant than other 
selections, but it's better for this particular climate. Anyone who has 
room to trial a batch of seedlings can perform the same experiment, and I 
did not find it difficult to get rid of the clones I didn't want (though 
it's pretty strenuous to dig up a full-grown kniphofia).

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon

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