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Is This Red Hot Poker?

Ask the Expert: Red Hot Poker or Weed?

I bought a packet of Red Hot Poker seeds last year and planted them in fresh clean compost in a greenhouse around last July. The packet says Tritoma Mixed Hybrids. They appeared slowly, taking around 6 weeks to germinate and by winter, they were still only about 2 or 3 inches tall. By March this year they were about 5 inches tall. The photos shown were taken last month, they were about 8 to 10 inches tall. (They are now about 12 to 16 inches and still no flower)

They don’t look like Red Hot Pokers to me and some people have said “pull ’em up, they’re weeds”, suggesting they are Willowherb. I have to admit they do bear a resemblance but I’m not convinced they’re weeds. Surely weeds wouldn’t take over nine months to grow this tall? Surely weeds would have flowered by now?

Any ideas?

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  1. Gary,

    This not Kniphofia tritoma. Red Hot Poker has a leaf that looks more like a blade of grass. You could have some form of Lobelia or Penstemon. If your plant is either one of these it should bloom in the next couple of weeks.

  2. Thanks Jamie. I know Red Hot Poker leaves are more grass-like hence the reason for asking the experts what this is as I just knew it couldn’t be RHP. I’ll just have to wait until it flowers then but several people are telling me it’s a weed and to get rid quick. After growing them for over 10 months now, I’m reluctant to pull em up just yet, nor am I convinced they’re weeds.

    Question is, have the seed company made a boo-boo? Did seeds get mixed up at the factory? The seed packet is Mr Fothergill’s. Should I complain? They cost me £1.79!!!! LOL

  3. Gary,

    After speaking with a greenhouse grower and showing him the photos, he thought the plants could be Physostegia or Victorian Sage. Remember, one man’s weed is another man’s flower — it won’t hurt to see what the plant turns out to be.

    As to the question of bad seed. Usually there are controls to keep mix-ups from happening. However, we are all human and humans do make mistakes.

    With that said — If you did not have the seeds in a controlled environment, seeds from other plants could have blown in.

    I believe this scenario — germination conditions for the Red Hot Poker weren’t just right and seed from something else was floating through the air and landed in your pot when it’s germination conditions were right.

    Red Hot Poker is not easy to start from seed. Good luck.

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