Cape Gazette
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Garden Journal

Clivia a rugged plant that blooms in winter

Dec 11, 2013
CLIVIA ARE FAMOUS as rugged, easy-to-care-for houseplants that bloom easily in winter.

When cold and dark reaches us in winter it is good to dream of southern landscapes, of warm places and sunny continents. A place like South Africa beckons the winter gardener. Maybe because South Africa holds the world's oldest art, 75,000-year-old art objects hidden in a South African cave.

But art can be long dead or long alive and one of the best living art pieces is from South Africa - the evergreen Clivia (Clivia miniata). Clivia are named in honor of the Clive family, the Duchess of Northumberland. They bloom with trumpet shaped flowers that hang in groups or umbels held above the foliage in colors that range from the common orange to red, and even a bright cheery yellow.

They are famous as rugged easy-to-care-for houseplants that bloom easily in winter.

Clivia are big, heavy plants that can grow two to three feet tall and just as wide, with graceful, thick sword-like leaves. Such big plants deserve big pots and they do best in a large, wide-based, clay pot that won't tip over.

Clivia do best when slightly rootbound so you can happily keep one in the same pot for up to five years. These giants can take a few years to bloom, so it is wise to buy a mature plant. They are herbaceous evergreen plants, with green, strap-like leaves.

Place them where they receive bright daylight, but out of hot, direct sunlight. In the summer you can move them outdoors under a tree or in light shade. Water only when the clivia needs it and never mist the leaves.

To mimic their homeland with its wet and dry seasons, give your clivias a few months' rest in late fall. During this time do not water them at all and try to keep the plants cool, ideally around 50-65 degrees. If the plants start to droop or wilt, water them with just a cup or two of water.

After this initial rest, resume watering and your plants will bloom six to 12 weeks later.

While your plants are growing in spring and summer you can feed them with a diluted water soluble houseplant food. Don't go overboard on fertilizing or you can end up with lots of leaves and no flowers.

Even though clivias bloom best when their roots are crowded, eventually they will outgrow their pots and need repotting, every three to five years. Choose a pot that is just two inches in diameter larger.

Use a fast draining potting soil with at least half compost or peat moss. Clivias grow best in a slightly acid soil with a pH between 5 and 6.

One of the more striking new clivias is Good Hope with large clusters of bright yellow blossoms. Good Hope blooms from February to May.

Whether you choose a common orange or an exotic yellow, clivia will reward you with years of nearly carefree blooms indoors even in the dead of winter. After all, our winter is South Africa's summer proving that winter and summer are really just a state of mind.

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