Kniphofia ensifolia

Kniphofia ensifolia in the Sydney garden of Alida Gray

This clump-forming rhizomatous perennial is a tough South African plant, which likes to grow in full sun. In its natural habitat it colonises moist areas, but in a garden setting it will grow in very ordinary conditions and even tolerate drought. It doesn't mind some occasional moisture and mulch, however. It sends up its lime and yellow spikes, to 1.5m tall around April or May. It is a stunning partner to some of the vivid blue-flowered Salvia which are out at that time, such as Salvia 'Costa Rican Blue'.

Ageing head of Kniphofia ensifolia with Canna Striata

It makes a bold, vertical statement in the garden (or a vase!) and mixes well with my other warm-climate foliage plants, such as the yellow-and-green striped foliage of Canna 'Striata', pictured at left, or the lime-coloured leaves of Duranta 'Sheena's Gold'. After flowering, the foliage can be cut back to about 15cm to keep it tidy. It is easy to divide in spring to produce more plants. It is regarded as moderately frost hardy.

Flowers in April, May.