This winter my wife and I took a holiday in the southwest part of the U. S. and I was constantly taking photos of exotic subtropical plants. When we arrived home in late February I walked into the sunroom and there was the most beautiful – and exotic – bloom waiting to greet me! My clivia was in full bloom, its orange and yellow flowers forming a round ball atop a strong stem. I thought to myself, “This is as good as anything I saw on our holiday!”
I have had my clivia for several years. Although it sounds exotic and looks exotic, it is a very easy plant to grow and seems to thrive on neglect. It is related to the amaryllis family which is no surprise as its dark-green, strap-like leaves do resemble those of its relative. The foliage of the clivia, however, is much more leathery and it is an evergreen plant so the leaves do not dry off and die every year.
From time to time a bottom leaf will begin to yellow at the tip and gradually the whole leaf will die, but it is simply removed as more new leaves are constantly emerging from the centre of the plant. The leaves all emerge from the centre and are tightly spaced – in fact I often wonder how the flower bud can squeeze between the tightly packed leaves to emerge above the foliage.
My clivia is planted in ordinary soilless mix and has been in the same container for several years. A clivia likes to be pot bound and only needs to be repotted occasionally. Since my container is rather small and the plant has long since used up any nutrients in the soil, I do fertilize my clivia regularly during the growing season. It is very drought tolerant and the soil should be allowed to dry out somewhat between waterings. No pests or diseases have ever bothered the specimen I have – I doubt that insects find the rather hard, leathery leaves very appetizing!
My clivia blooms in late winter or early spring. I keep it in my sunroom and perhaps the lengthening of the days and increased heat of the sun spur it to put forth a bloom at this time of year. Although I simply leave my clivia in the sunroom all the time, some people put theirs outdoors for the summer and are sometimes rewarded with a bloom. Other gardening friends just store their clivias in a closet or darkened basement for the winter and the plants seem to go dormant until brought out of their winter storage place – their leaves still dark green and healthy – amazing!
If you look in catalogues or investigate purchasing a clivia at a garden centre, be forewarned that they are relatively expensive simply because they are somewhat rare. However, the plants will last forever and in fact a mature clivia will produce offsets which can be separated from the parent plant and potted up to produce new plants. You can either give away these plants or sell them to recoup your investment! Perhaps you will be so enamoured by your clivia that you won’t be able to part with any of its offspring. – Albert Parsons writes from