Torch Lily

Cobra Torch Lily


Native of South Africa, Kniphofia uvaria or Torch Lily is regarded as a hot-zone plant well suited for the American Southwest. Yet it is so hardy that Northwest weather suits it just as well. It's in reality extremely cold hardy, though in harsh winters, which we don't experience on Puget Sound, it would need protection. Around here, it thrives on neglect.

I have lived with torch lilies since I was a small child, & our family knew them as Red Hot Pokers because the flower stalks can look like fireplace pokers left in the coals to become branding-iron red & orange. The variety shown on this page, however, has no reds in its flowers, so Red Hot Poker is not a name that suits it, & Cobra Torch Lily seems the better choice of name.

Cobra Torch LilyIt has a morning & afternoon full sun location; it could've done well with just full afternoon sun, but where torch lilies are concerned, sun tolerances are extreme. About the only condition that can kill it is overwatering in poorly draining soil. Soil that is sand & loam suits it.

'Cobra' is a cultivar developed in England at Blooms of Blessingham. It was named 'Cobra' because it purportedly looks hooded before the blossoms open into a full spike, but it's a far stretch to say it looks anything like a cobra's hood. We were warned it is a slow grower & cannot be divided quite so soon as other cultivars, but didn't find this to be a problem. Though it was a little weak-appearing its first year in the ground as a small plant, it was certainly vigorous its second year. Though it is quite a bit smaller than our Pfitzer's Red Hot Poker planted about the same time, that does not mean it is small.

Our Cobra Torch Lily's heavy grass has grown to over three feet tall, & the flower spikes are four to five feet tall, larger than the nursery tag had promised. It is described as being a little less cold-hardy than old-fashioned varieties like 'Pfitzer,' but here in temperate zone 8 that doesn't matter.

It blooms in June & July & if properly dead-headed as the flowers expire, can rebloom up to first frost. The heads begin pale lemon-yellow & open to a rich golden yellow on top paling to ivory on bottom, aging in fullest sun to a coppery hue.

The fronds are evergreen but can get very untidy as they bend or wear out around the edges, & should at least be pruned for appearance in early spring.


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