It 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.