Growth Habit: Red hot poker plants are specimens in the garden. The sword-shaped, pointy leaves grow in a round clump and the bottlebrush-like flower stalks emerge from the center of the clump in succession starting in early summer. At the end of the flower stalks are tube-shaped, colorful flower clusters that are tapered, resembling a torch. Hence, the common name torch lily.
Staking: Red hot poker plants have strong flower stalks that rarely need staking to stay upright. However, avoid planting tall varieties in a windy location so the stalks stay straight.
Watering: Although established red hot poker plants can withstand dry periods in summer, lack of adequate watering will cause the flowering to be decreased. Provide red hot poker plants with 1 inch of water every week during hot summers. Make sure the water saturates the soil 5 to 6 inches deep each time, but let the soil dry out between waterings.
Fertilizing: Amend the soil at planting with a 2- to 3-inch thick layer of compost. Each spring thereafter, apply a dry granular, balanced, organic fertilizer.
Trimming & Pruning: Deadhead spent flowers in summer as they fade to encourage more flower stalks to form. If left to go to seed, the plant will slow down new flower production. Cut blooms at any time for indoor flower arranging. In late fall in warm areas, tie the leaves into a canopy over the crown to prevent water from accumulating in the center of the plant in winter. The water can cause the crown to rot. In early spring, cut the foliage back to 3 inches off the ground to clean up the plant and allow new foliage to emerge. In cold locations, cut back the foliage in late fall instead.
Mulching: Red hot poker plants benefit from a 2- to 3--inch thick layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark, placed around the plant in spring. This helps maintain soil moisture and prevent weed growth. In USDA zone 5 and 6 gardens, mulch the crown of the plant in late fall to help protect it from the cold with a 2- to 3-inch thick layer of the same bark mulch.