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Products > Kniphofia caulescens
Kniphofia caulescens - Torch Lily
Image of Kniphofia caulescens
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Perennial
Family: Asphodelaceae (~Liliaceae)
Origin: South Africa (Africa)
Flower Color: Red & Yellow
Bloomtime: Summer
Height: 2-3 feet
Width: 2-3 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 0-10 F
Kniphofia caulescens (Torch Lily) An rhizomatous perennial that is evergreen in frost free gardens and develops a 2 to 3 foot tall and wide dense clump of upright lance shaped leaves of a beautiful silver-blue color that are an inch wide, slightly wider, stiffer and thicker than most other Kniphofia, so looking a bit like an aloe. Interestingly the leaf bases of Kniphofia caulescens turn a distinctive purple color when dried, which is also unique within the genus. In mid-summer a thick flower scape rises well above the foliage to 3 to 4 feet tall and topped by a dense fat 6 to 10 inch long terminal spike of downwardly inclined tubular flowers that are a coral red color in bud and when newly opening but mature to yellow from the bottom of the spike up, giving the inflorescence a distinct two-toned appearance. The stamens on this species are well exserted, which easily distinguishes this plants from related species Kniphofia sarmentosa and K. ritualis. Plant in full sun to light shade in a well-drained soil. Can tolerate fairly dry conditions but looks best with occasional irrigation in summer to encourage flowering. Plants remain evergreen in frost-free climates, but go down in colder climates and root hardy to around 0F so useful in USDA Zones 6 and above (reportedly possible even in Zone 5 with protective mulch). In such locations it is recommended that one tie foliage over to prevent water settling in the crown and cutting foliage back a few inches above the ground in early spring. A very attractive plant even out of bloom but spectacular with its large pokers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Is generally left alone by rabbits and deer. Kniphofia caulescens is native to the Drakensberg Mountains of Cape Province and Natal in South Africa and Lesotho (independent county within South Africa) at elevations above 3,000 feet where it is often found in large gregarious patches on grassy slopes, marshy sites and seepage areas. It has even been noted as growing as high an elevation as the Tiffindell Alpine Resort, which is at 8,000 feet on the slopes of Ben McDhui (9845 feet), the highest peak in the Cape Province. The name Kniphofia honors Johann Hieronymus Kniphof (1704 -1763), a German physician and botanist. The pronunciation of this genus is often argued about and while most continue to use the easiest to pronounce versions such as ny-FOE-fee-ah or nee-FOF-ee-a, others argue correctly that the name should follow the pronunciation of the name it commemorates. But even for this there are differences of opinion owing to different German regional dialects - one such pronunciation often noted as correct is nip-HOFF-ee-uh while another that is particularly hard to pronounce is k-nip-HOF-ia. Keeping it simple we still use ny-FOE-fee-ah. The specific epithet comes from the Latin words 'caulos' meaning "stem" and the adjective suffix 'escent' meaning "like" in reference to this plant having a well-developed above ground stem. Though most species in the genus do not develop any stem, older plants of Kniphofia caulescens and K. northiae are known to have stems as tall as one foot when grown in mild climates where they do not freeze back to the ground - these stems have even been noted to branch! The common names refer to the resemblance of the flower spikes to a red hot poker or torch. Our first plant of this species came from Heronswood Nursery in 2004 but current crops are grown from seed sourced from Jelitto Perennial Seed. 

This information about Kniphofia caulescens displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.