Rosemoor's plant of the month for September

Rooper's red hot poker is one of the late flowering stars of the Hot Garden, giving off warmth late into autumn

Kniphofia rooperi AGMIt is easy to see how this South African plant got its common name of red hot poker or torch lily; the orange and yellow flowers shine like a beacon when they catch the low autumn sun.

Kniphofia rooperi AGM has proved to be a robust plant at Rosemoor and the garden team love it for that reason; the broad, linear dark green leaves are evergreen and it survives low temperatures; although we have found that growth can be checked in a very harsh winter.

The tall study stems can grow to over a metre and bear a dense egg shaped raceme of tubular pendant flowers. These are nectar rich and are loved by late foraging bees. Like all kniphofias, K. rooperi flowers best in full sun; it will grow in partial shade but the trade-off is reduced flowering. Use it in a coastal situation or as an architectural plant.

The orange-red flowers combine with other colourful plants flowering in September such as asters, Coreopsis, Crocosmia, Rudbeckia and Helenium; putting on a fabulous display in the Hot garden. The flowers usefully age to orange-red, harmonising with the buffs and honey colours of the foliage and autumn seed heads of grasses such as Miscanthus and Molinia but at the same time providing a bright splash of colour. They also combine well with the reds and yellows of autumn leaves.

Kniphofias are deservedly regaining in popularity after a recent slump; they look exotic, yet are robust; they look equally great with other ‘hot’ plants and with the more muted tones of autumn grasses and they are easy to keep, provided you have well drained soil.

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