These plants are suitable for growing as houseplants and outdoors in frost-free climates. Some common names for Clivias include Kaffir Lilies, Bush Lily, St John's Lily and Fire Lily. With their meager requirements for light, water and fertilizer, they have become a much sought after plant because of its many beautiful hybrids and its ease of care.
This ornamental genus of durable shade plants in the Amaryllis family is one of the more primitive genera of the Amaryllidaceae. They have neither bulbs nor rhizomes, but possess an abundance of thick rope-like, bulbous roots. They are evergreen, herbacous plants and have predominantly orange, red or salmon colored flowers.
The Clivia is native to the moist and shady forest floors of southern Africa. From Africa, it was taken to England in 1854, where it was named by John Lindley to honor Lady Charlotte Clive, Dutchess of Northumberland. Because of the plant's natural ability to survive on shaded forest floors, it quickly gained popularity as a plant well suited to the large shadowy parlors of Victorian homes.
Many native colonies have been destroyed by harvesting for traditional medicine and also by plant collectors. The rhizomes are reportedly extremely toxic but are used medicinally for various purposes.
Clivia miniata is the one most commonly found in cultivation in the United States. In late winter or spring, tall stalks shoot up from the leaves and bear crowded clusters of brightly colored blossoms, after reaching 3-5 years of age. These evergreen plants typically have a large head (umbel) of between 12 and 20 trumpet shaped flowers on top of a thick stem.
Their long-lasting flowers are usually orange with yellowish centers, but there are forms that bear scarlet, dark red, salmon, and yellow flowers. Clivias enjoy much more popularity in Europe, Japan, China, and Australia than North America. They are known as the "Queen of Houseplants".
As a member of the amaryllis family, clivias shares many common characteristics with the more familiar amaryllis. Like the amaryllis, the dark green, strap-like leaves of a Clivia are strongly two-ranked. This means the 2 feet long strap-shaped leaves arise from the soil, directly opposite one another in an alternating sequence.
Because the leaves are produced in an alternating sequence and they arch directly over one another, a mature Clivia plant will develop a strikingly formal silhouette with almost perfect symmetry, forming what looks like a large flattened vase.
While a Clivia plant does not have a true bulb, the swollen clasping leaf bases of a mature Clivia plant quite clearly demonstrate an incomplete development of a dense bulb-like structure, with roots emerging from the base, and leaves emerging from the crown.
Clivias are fairly easy plants to grow. A division that is potted in a 12-inch container will bloom and multiply abundantly for 10 years or more before it needs to be repotted. They can be grown outdoors year-round in zones 9 and 10. In the colder zones, they can be grown as houseplants or in containers outside and brought in during the winter.
They grow most actively from early spring through fall. During these months a night temperature above 50°F and a daytime temperature of 70°F is best. Feed every month and water regularly allowing the potting mix to dry out slightly between deep watering. During late fall give plants a short rest by withholding water and fertilizer, giving them only enough water to keep the leaves from wilting.
Clivia roots are thick, fleshy and well-equipped for water storage. On a mature specimen the swollen mass of roots often becomes so large that it will completely fill the pot, forcing the growing medium up and over the container's edge. Only when this begins to happen should a Clivia plant be moved to a larger pot.
In general, the plants do best when their roots are somewhat constricted by a small pot, so it is best to resist the temptation to place the plant in a pot much larger than the one you are moving it from. Fibrous loam, some coarse grit, decayed manure and leaf mold make a good potting mixture.
Unlike many other plants, clivias survive in bright or dim light, in soil that is moist or dry. They prefer well-drained, organic soil in bright light with early-morning or late afternoon sun but shaded in between, as direct sun will cause leaf scorch. The ability of these plants to survive under conditions unsuitable for most other plants makes them remarkably tough house plants, and ideal candidates for growing in those locations where few other plants seem to thrive.
The bulbs should be planted in the fall or spring. Cover the plump roots with just a thin layer of soil. The white part of the stem should be almost buried. Clivias need to be watered and fertilized regularly while in active growth. Afterward, water sparingly. If growing Clivias in containers, avoid disturbing them. Try to divide them only when they become overcrowded.
Clivias can be increased by division, but are most often propagated by separation of offsets, in late spring or early summer after the plants have flowered. After about three or four years, plants will usually begin producing one or more offsets each year. When an individual offset has developed three or four leaves of its own, it can be cut from the parent plant, being careful to include some roots, and placed in small pots of its own.
For best results, clivias should be grown in bright diffused light, with the growing medium kept evenly moist during spring and summer. If the plants are allowed to become quite dry for two months in winter, and the growing temperature is lowered to approximately 10 - 15°C, the plants can also be encouraged to flower. Once a flower stem has begun to emerge, watering can be increased, and plants moved to a location with normal growing temperatures.
If the flowering stalk fails to elongate, leaving the cluster of flowers compressed between the leaves near the base of the plant, it is most often caused by the plant not having the proper rest period. Where Clivia plants are grown in low light conditions, they will rarely flower, but will serve as reliable foliage plants.
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