How to plant and grow clivias

With its vivid, glowing trumpet-shaped flowers lighting up shady spots in the garden in late winter and early spring, clivia is sure to impress. This tough plant with lush dark-green strap-like leaves will bring those dry, tough spots under shady trees to life.

What you need to know about clivia

  • Name: clivia, Clivia miniata (fire lily, kaffir lily, bush lily), Clivia nobilis (natal clivia, drooping clivia, greentip fire lily)

  • Height: usually 35–75cm

  • Foliage: herbaceous evergreen perennial.

  • Climate: grows in temperate and tropical climates with protection from frost.

  • Soil: most free-draining garden soils are suitable.

  • Position: best grown in a shaded position under trees or in pots on a shaded patio.

  • Flowering and fruiting: stunningly beautiful orange, red, peach or cream trumpet-shaped flowers with contrasting yellow throats from late winter to early spring. Red berries form after flowering.

  • Feeding: use a controlled-release organic fertiliser for flowering plants in early spring and autumn. Regular liquid fertilising in summer to early autumn with a high potash fertiliser is beneficial.

  • Watering: regular watering once or twice per week in spring and in summer to keep the soil moist.  Allow it to dry out during the winter months.

Clivia

Appearance and characteristics of clivia

Clivia is an herbaceous evergreen plant with thick, green strap-like leaves forming clumps of lush foliage that arise from short, fleshy rhizomes and roots. The various clivia species and hybrids bloom from autumn until spring with vivid orange, peach, red, or yellow toned flowers. Many of the species and hybrids have contrasting yellow throats to the flowers. These vibrant trumpet-shaped flowers are arranged in large heads held above the foliage on broad flattened stalks.

There are now cream and white flowered varieties, which are also becoming easier to find. After flowering, clivia produces appealing large red fleshy berries.

Caring for clivia

Feed clivia in early spring and autumn with a controlled-release organic fertiliser for flowering plants, avoiding high nitrogen fertilisers. Specialist growers apply regular liquid fertiliser during summer to early autumn, using a high potash fertiliser to promote increased flowering.

How and when to prune clivia

Deadhead and remove any flowering spikes if you do not wish to collect any seed. The colourful fleshy red berries are attractive and will not be detrimental to the plant’s health, so they can be left to mature on the plant, which usually takes around 12 months. Old leaves can be cut or stripped downwards to remove them and tidy up the plant.

Diseases and pests

Clivia experiences few diseases or pests, with most problems being associated with wet or poor soil conditions. Mealy bug can often be found in the centre of the plant or at the base of the broad leaves, so treat at the first signs with horticultural oil or Neem oil.

Slugs and snails can be troublesome in moist shade areas, so are best controlled organically with beer traps, handpicking by torchlight, and barriers of copper tape or by using Iron chelate-based snail pellets.

How to grow clivia from seed

Clivia is usually divided or propagated in spring after flowering, although this may be carefully done all year round. Ensure each section has adequate fleshy roots, and avoid damaging the fleshy base of the plant. Clumps should only need dividing every three to five years.

Seeds can be planted in a seed-raising mix in shallow pots during spring. Collect the seeds as soon as they are ripe, remove the fleshy seed coat and take out the large pearl-like seeds. Sow these immediately or soak them overnight before sowing. Some specialist growers sow them into straight moist perlite or sharp sand. If the seeds have a dark spot, plant them with this facing upwards. Just press them into the surface and cover them with plastic or place them in a propagator. The plants will first slowly produce a root, and then eventually leaves. Most will take between three to five years before flowering.

If you like this then try

Hydrangea: deciduous and evergreen shrubs with large leaves and colourful conical, lacecap or mophead flowerheads.

Camellia: a magnificent evergreen shrub flowering from late winter through to spring, suitable for acid soils.

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