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Looking At Some HOT New Pokers!

Looking At Some HOT New Pokers!

By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

Hey there campers! Red hot pokers in January? Well, in Oregon at this time of year they look like grasses, but winter is the time to plan. You can plan on these diminutive pokers to fill your borders and containers with warm color all summer into fall!

Very few plants have the flower-power, heat tolerance, and gardener/pollinator votes as do these gems. Where most other pokers can be 24 to 30” tall, these dwarfs are in the 14 to 20” range with comparable flower size. Tolerant of most soils, except for clay, they reward the gardener with little need for extra water or fertilizer. Newer varieties are bushier than the species and can be used in the landscape in large numbers for season-long interest. We had flowers up to Thanksgiving due to an unusually warm fall in Oregon. These are a super way to add hot colors to containers with a non-bullying habit.

Heavy with nectar and pollen, these plants always seem to have pollinators hanging out, especially hummingbirds who love the nectar-filled tubes of flowers. These have also been bred to cover the old blooms as new blooms constantly poke through the old, giving the plants a fresh appearance. Plants can be left for several years in the ground and can be split in the third year for better vigor. Now, let’s “poke” around...

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Kniphofia POCO™ ‘Citron’ 

A lovely, citrusy addition to the immensely popular POCO™ series. Short, dense spikes emerge a creamy lime-green followed by a color shift to fresh lemon. Soon the buds go to canary-yellow and end up a light butter crème. ‘Citron’ pumps out huge numbers of blooms, hovering over the very upright, grassy foliage that matches perfectly with the other POCO™s. Plant height is listed at 14” in leaf and 20” in flower with a similar spread. Happiest in full sun, it will reward users in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6-9 with flowers from June to September (sometimes longer!). When working up combos, look to mix in coreopsis, along with low plants like campanula or a low-growing nepeta like Nepeta ‘Nova Blue’, which is only 4” high and contrasts well with the warm colors of kniphofia. Excellent as a container plant or front of the border.

Kniphofia POCO™ 'Citron' 

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Kniphofia POCO™ ‘Daybreak’

This is a hot one and another great addition to the POCO™ series of kniphofia. Flowers spikes sit just over the stiffly upright foliage. Always looks neat, even without flowers. Flowers all summer long with spikes of butterscotch-yellow, coral-orange, and red, which is constantly changing, like a sunrise. Hardy in zones 6-9. The foliage height is 10” high by 15” wide. Flowers reach 12” tall and are great as a cut. They prefer full sun. Easy to grow and drought tolerant when established. Ours flower in June, July, August, September, and October. The plant’s spread is very similar throughout the POCO™ line.

Kniphofia POCO™ 'Daybreak'

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Kniphofia POCO™ ‘Yellow’

Sulfur-yellow flowers are produced in profusion and appear all summer through fall. Stout, grassy leaves hold the blooms strongly. If you look at the pre–Popsicles kniphofia, you will notice that the foliage often folds up on itself. Wind or physical activity will reduce the plants to tattered remains. Terra Nova’s breeders selected species and selections that held stiff upright foliage that looks good year-round. “Pocos” are just shorter. ‘Yellow' has a compact form, is great for the front of the border, containers, or in the small garden. Hummers love it! Plants grow in zones 6-9 and bloom from July to October. A one-year plant will spread to about 15” and the flowering height will be 21” tall. 

Kniphofia POCO™ 'Yellow'

Dan Heims is an award-winning author who lectures throughout the world. He was recently honored by The American Horticultural Society with the Luther Burbank Breeding Award, as well as the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit. He was honored by receiving the Royal Horticultural Society’s Reginald Cory Cup for advancements in breeding.

You may contact Dan at [email protected].

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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