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Potting

Some Cool Pokers That Are Hot!

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

Well, campers. Plants be pushing! It’s still a slow start here in the Pacific Northwest, but the plants are coming up in droves! 

There was a time when red hot pokers, Kniphofia (k’nip-hoff-e-yuh) (yeah…) were a brilliant flash in the pan. Clumsy habit and a brief flowering period (two weeks, max) on the negative side. Showy flowers, drought tolerance and more moisture-tolerance than you might believe, reasonable hardiness and long-lived nature on the positive.

Enter Terra Nova’s breeders with a breeding plan to fix them. After a few generations they had an award-winning group of reblooming plants with fine foliage which looked more like a grass clump than an octopus kicked out of a semi on the interstate. The Popsicle™ series literally reinvented the genus. Over the years, more colors were developed as well as a new strain called the Poco™ series.

A few varieties like ‘Rocket Jr.’ (just out) defied belonging to either group and is a stand-alone variety with profuse, bigger flowers and very fine foliage. You rarely saw the old varieties in containers as they wouldn’t bloom well in a gallon pot. Terra Nova’s plants do, and nursery people say as much. They do appreciate full sun and can live in containers for years. In the garden they can be in the foreground (Poco™) or middle of the border and look fabulous when paired with rayed flowers like Echinacea and Leucanthemum. Let’s have a peek!

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Kniphofia 'Lemon Popsicle'

Sweet, lemon-yellow spikes cover this fantastic poker. Dwarf habit with great grassy foliage. This plant blooms and blooms on short flower spikes. Easy to grow in full sun with reasonable drainage. This is the earliest poker to bloom for us. This hybrid is hardy from USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6 to 9. Look for blooms from July to October. The 19-inch mound spreads to a lovely 16 inches wide, making it perfect for containers or hanging out at the middle of the border. The flower’s height is measured at 26 inches. Pollinators noted are hummingbirds, honeybees, and bumblebees.

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Kniphofia 'Orange Vanilla Popsicle'

A two-toned beauty topped with flower spikes of red-orange over the creamy white on the bottom.'Orange Vanilla Popsicle' has the reblooming, short, grassy leaves, and repeats the compact habit of the others in the series, which includes ‘Mango Popsicle’, ‘Papaya Popsicle’, ‘Pineapple Popsicle’, and ‘Red Hot Popsicle’- all giving contrast and a few complementary colors. Hummingbirds love this plant! It is hardy from zones 6 to 9. Look for blooms from July to October. The 18-inch mound spreads to a nice 14 inches wide, making it perfect for containers or hanging out at the middle of the border. 

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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 canary yellow and end up a light butter crème. ‘Poco Citron’ pumps out huge numbers of blooms, hovering over the very upright, grassy foliage that matches perfectly with the other POCO™s. Excellent as a container plant or as a front of the border star. This hybrid is hardy from zones 6 to 9. Look for blooms from July to October. The Pocos™ do have a shorter habit with 14-inch mounds which spread to a nice 14-inches wide. It sports 20-inch tall flowers, making it perfect for containers. Summer to fall blooming in full sun. Another pollinator favorite.

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Kniphofia POCO™ 'Daybreak'

Showtime, baby! This is another great addition to the POCO™ Series of Kniphofia. Flowers spikes sit just over the stiffly upright foliage. Looks neat, even without flowers. Flowers all summer long with spikes of butterscotch yellow, coral orange, and red, constantly changing, like a sunrise. Easy to grow and drought tolerant when established. The Pocos™ do have a shorter habit, with 14-inch mounds which spread to a nice 14-inches wide, sporting 20-inch tall flowers, making it perfect for containers or use in the front of the border. Certainly the showiest of the Pocos™. This hybrid is hardy from zones 6 to 9. Look for blooms from July to October. All Kniphofias are great nectar providers.

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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. 'Poco Yellow’s' compact form is great for the front of the border, containers, or in the small garden. The Pocos™ do have a shorter habit, with 14-inch mounds which spread to a nice 16 inches wide and sport 20-inch tall flowers, making it the perfect package. This hybrid is hardy from zones 6 to 9. Look for blooms from July to October. Try combining with contrasting-colored Echinaceas like those from the Kismet™ series from Terra Nova. Hummers love it! Drought-tolerant once established.

Dan Heims is an award-winning author who lectures throughout the world. He was 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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