Red Hot Poker Plant Trimming – Do You Cut Back Red Hot Poker Plants

By: Teo Spengler

Red hot poker plants are exotic beauties in the garden, but extremely easy to grow. The bright, wand-like flowers are beloved by hummingbirds, and always please gardeners with their low-maintenance ways. When the correct time arrives, you’ll want to start cutting back red hot poker plants. Read on for information about exactly when and how to trim a red hot poker plant.

Do You Cut Back Red Hot Poker Plants After Flowering?

Red hot poker plants form clumps of slender, grass-like foliage. The stems rise above the foliage and bear the long, colorful blossoms. Most cultivars start flowering by late June and some re-bloom until frost.

Do you cut back red hot poker plants when the flowers fade? The answer is a decisive no. Pruning a red hot poker plant’s foliage at this time is not a good idea. You’ll want to leave the foliage in place.

During this time, the leaves will be gathering sunlight to create enough food to provide for the red hot poker plant through winter. Be sure to provide about an inch (2.5 cm.) of irrigation every week during the growing season.

Pruning a Red Hot Poker Plant Flowers

This doesn’t mean that you should never get involved with red hot poker plant trimming. There are some occasions where snipping is appropriate. For example, as the blooms fade, you’ll want to snip them off, since diligent deadheading keeps those flowering coming, but do not trim back the plants themselves.

Here’s how to trim a red hot poker plant when you are deadheading. Simply use garden scissors or pruners and snip off the stem of the plant just below a faded blossom. That’s it.

Cutting Back Red Hot Poker Plants

As fall arrives, you may see your red hot poker plant’s leaves wilting. The plant will go dormant for winter, and much of the foliage yellows at this time. The plant rests for several months to begin growing again in spring.

While it is possible to cut back foliage at this state, you’ll do better to use it to protect the plant in winter. If you tie the foliage over the center of the plant, the crown is protected and insulated.

The time for red hot poker plant trimming in in springtime, once all threat of cold weather has passed. Trim back dead foliage with a pruner and sit back as your plant comes back to life for another round of beautiful blooms.

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How to grow red hot pokers

Find out all you need to know about growing kniphofias, or red hot pokers, in this detailed Grow Guide.

Do not Plant in September

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does flower in August

Plant does flower in September

Plant does flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Do not Divide in February

Do not Divide in September

Do not Divide in November

Do not Divide in December

Kniphofia are better known as red hot pokers.

They’re easily recognised from their distinctive vertical spikes topped with bottlebrush-like flowers in a range of fiery colours. From red and orange through to yellow and lime green, kniphofia flowers emerge from a clump of long, narrow foliage that’s attractive in its own right. They have a long flowering season and look great planted en masse in hot-coloured borders growing alongside plants that enjoy the same sunny growing conditions.

They’re a popular choice for dry borders and coastal gardens. Combine them with other hot-coloured flowers such as rudbeckias and heleniums or shrubby Euphorbia mellifera.

Get the know-how you need to grow red hot pokers, below.

Where to grow kniphofias

Grow kniphofia in moist but well-drained soil in full sun.

Planting kniphofias

Dig a generous hole, adding a handful of grit for added drainage.

Propagating kniphofias

There are many different kniphofia cultivars, but these won’t come true from seed saved from the flowers and some are sterile. Division in spring is the best means of propagation.

Kniphofias: problem solving

Kniphofias are generally quite trouble-free. However slugs and snails might overwinter among the leaves and feast on new spring shoots, so check plants or put protection in place. If conditions are damp, plants can be affected by root rot and should be dug up and discarded.

Caring for kniphofias

Kniphofias don’t like winter wet, so plants may need some protection over winter for the first year or two established. In autumn remove the faded flower spikes and apply a deep, dry mulch around the crown or leave the foliage until spring to provide additional winter protection. Divide and replant congested clumps in spring.

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MamaSpud - I am trying some this year for the first time (Ferry-Morse seeds that I found at a True Value Hardware store I frequent that sells plants) and it took a little over 3 weeks for mine to sprout. They finally made an appearance a week ago. I had them in a little clear solo cup under some lights and near my apt. heater where it is warm (usually >72° F and often in the low '80s). They ended being the latest to get sprouted and the last of my perennials to sprout too. I planted them in some Promix soil and put a little saran wrap (secured with a rubber band) over the top to create a mini-greenhouse. Once the first sprouted, I took the plastic off and only bottom water them (there's a hole at the bottom of the cup and I fill the little saucer with water and keep adding until the soil soaks it up to make it just moist). I also have a little fan blowing across all my seedlings to keep the air moving. My lights are actually a pair of 500W Home Depot worklights on a stand but a couple feet away. I think most people use the fluorescents but I have some high light tropicals under these lights too, so alot of things share them during winter.

This is what they look like today (1 week after germinating):

There is an extensive range of Pokers available, ranging from tall to medium and dwarf height. Not all kniphofia flowers are red however, there is a wide selection of named varieties that provide a flowering season from April to October, in colours varying from white through all the shades of yellow, red and orange.

K. caulescens (S. Africa) is one of the most striking species with evergreen long grey leaves and pinkish-red flower spikes that fade to cream. This is the only fully hardy kniphofia in the UK. Height 4ft (1.2m), spread 2ft (60cm).

K. galpinii has drooping, red orange flame coloured spikes. Height 3ft (1m), spread 1ft (30cm).

K. galpinii Bressingham Torch flame red ageing to orange yellow. Height to 3ft (90cm).

K. citrina has light yellow flowers that appear in late summer. Height 3ft (1m), spread 1ft (30cm).

K. northiae a good variety for its foliage, the agave-like leaves provide an exotic feel. Hardy. Height up to 70in (170cm).

K. rooperi – unusual rounded flowers in orange, red and yellow. Blooms from September in the UK. Height from 2 to 5ft (60-155cm).

K. triangularis has flame-coloured flowers in late summer. Height 2ft (60cm), spread 1ft (30cm).

K. thomsonii var. thomsonii 'Stern's Trip' has delicate, widely-spaced vertical flowers in red and orange that become brighter in colour as they open. Not fully hardy in UK. Height 3 to 4ft (90-120cm).

K. uvaria has various forms that can grow up to 5ft (1.5m), in a range of bold colours. One of the most commonly grown and hardiest red-hot poker species.

K. uvaria ‘Nobilis’ (syns. 'Grandiflora', 'Maxima') is taller and earlier flowering, with deep orange flowers.

K. ‘Alcazar’ bears bright red flowers. Height to 5ft (1.5m).

K. ‘Bees' Sunset’ - soft orange flower heads that fade to yellow on colourful bronze stems. Height to 4.5ft (130cm).

K. 'Bees' Lemon' has heavy spikes of luminous lemon yellow (August to September) Height to 4ft (120cm).

K. ‘Border Ballet’ is in various shades from cream to pink. Height to 2ft (60cm).

K. ‘Brimstone’ has green buds that open to yellow flowers (late flowering). Height to 2ft (60cm).

K. ‘Buttercup’ has green buds which open into yellow flowers (early flowering). Height to 3 ft (1m).

K. ‘Early Buttercup’ has large spikes of bright yellow flowers (early flowering). Height to 3 ft (1m).

K. ‘Fiery Fred’ blazing orange-red flowers. Height to 3 ft (1m).

K. ‘Green Jade’ bears cool green flowers. Height to 3 ft (1m).

K. ‘Ice Queen’ has cream flowers tinged with green. Height to 3 ft (1m).

K. ‘Jenny Bloom’ has cream and coral-pink flowers (late flowering). Height to 3 ft (1m).

K. ‘Little Maid’ has ivory flower spikes tipped with yellow. Dwarf variety, reaching only 22in (55cm).

K. ‘Percy’s Pride’ has green and yellow flowers. Height to 2ft 8in (80cm).

K. ‘Samuel’s Sensation’ bears long spikes yellow flowers that change to red at the tips (late flowering). Height to 5ft (1.5m).

K. 'Sceptre’ has bright yellow flower spikes. Height to 3ft (1m).

K. 'Strawberries and Cream' pale yellow and rich pink. Height to 1.5ft (45cm).

K. ‘Sunningdale Yellow’ bears yellow flowers (long flowering period. Height to 2.5ft (75 cm).

K. ‘Toffee Nosed' has cream flowers tipped with brown. Height to 3 ft (1m)

K. ‘Yellow Hammer’ has pure yellow flowers. Height to 2 ft (60cm).

K. ‘Tawny King’ an unusual variety with bronze stems and tall flower spikes that change from deep orange though apricot to creamy white. Height 3-4ft (90-130cm)

I didn't trim my red hot poker plant in the fall. Will it hurt it if I trim it when warm weather comes? I was told when I bought it if I cut it in the fall water could freeze it out at the roots. Also, can it be separated in the spring?

The advice you received upon the purchase of your plant was correct - it is recommended to keep the crown of the plant (which is very sensitive to cold) protected in winter by at leaving a clump of foliage around it. With the advent of warmer weather, you can prune them down to within 2 or 3 inches from the bottom and remove any dead leaves and stalks. Poker plants can be divided in spring or late fall for new plants.

For more information on the care of red hot pokers, please visit the following link:


Kniphofia or ‘Red Hot Pokers’ are a plant that prefers a position in full sun in a humus rich, moist well drained soil. Sometime called the ‘Torch Lily’ these easy care plants come in a number of varieties.

Firstly they are not always red, the tall flower spikes from red through to yellow rising above the foliage. These plants add height make a dramatic addition to the garden. Plants are readily available for sale online.

Kniphofia ‘Winter Cheer’ makes a stunning display during the cold months with its bright red flower heads, ‘Orange Queen’ has softer orange flowers. The softer variety ‘Lime Glow’ is a yellow form.

Species include: K. citrina, K. linearifolia, K. sarmentosa, K. thompsonii, and K. ‘Zululandiae’.

These are a medium to tall growing perennial that can make a dramatic statement at the rear of the border or as a stand alone plant.

Yellow Flowering Kniphofia

Kniphofia have flower spikes that reach to nearly 2m and a range of colors from bone white through to coral red.
They will flower from early summer to late summer depending on variety. All varieties do prefer full sun and a moist but well drained soil, once established they are relatively drought tolerant.

You prune the foliage back to around ground level in late autumn to late winter, this will tidy the plant up. The fresh new foliage in spring looks better than the old foliage.


Easiest by division of established clumps. The best time to divide Kniphofia is in in autumn or spring. Lift the clump if possible with a garden fork. Use a sharp spade to to divide the clump and then replant.

After replanting, water in with a liquid seaweed fertiliser.

You can also propagate from seed. Seeds are best planted in autumn in a specialist seed raising mix. They should germinate in around 3 – 4 weeks and be ready for potting up abount 6 months after germination. Seeds usually do not come true to colour.

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