Red hot pokers have a checkered horticultural past. Native to South Africa, it was the species Kniphofia uvaria that first made its way from the Cape of Good Hope to the Kew Gardens glasshouses in 1705. Other species followed, but it wasn’t until 1848 that some were planted in open ground, and it was discovered that most were hardy outdoors.
Plant profile: Red hot poker
The German botanist Maximilian Leichtlin (1831-1910) was the first to hybridize kniphofias at the Botanic Garden at Baden-Baden in the 1870s, principally using seedlings of K. uvaria; by the end of the century there were more than 50 cultivars in commerce.