Known as one of South Africa’s most spectacular spring flowers - a Clivia should be one of the plants every gardener has in their garden. They add a wonderful burst of colour to drab winter gardens from late August and are very popular garden and pot plants because of the ease of growing them.
Clivia are shade-loving plants that grow naturally in forests, scattered throughout the Eastern Cape, Transkei, Kwazulu-Natal and Mpumalanga - occurring naturally in deep valleys and along river banks. All Clivia grow in isolated populations and as a result, not all forests will have Clivia growing in them.
Ecology of Clivia
There are a number of factors that are common to all five species:
- They are very waterwise and can survive on a minimum water supply
- A well-aerated growing medium is preferred
- Shade is their best friend
- Their roots are epiphytic
Types of Clivia
C. miniata is one of the most common and most variable Clivia species which originates from Southern Kwazulu Natal and occurs in a wider range of environmental conditions than all of the other species. Easily cultivated and very rewarding, this Clivia is also the species with the most variety.
C. nobilis was the first Clivia that was discovered at the Fish River mouth in 1815 and named. Much more drought resistant than C. miniata, C. nobilis will outlive many generations under favourable conditions but is also the slowest growing of all Clivia species. They produce pendulous flowers in shades of red and green.
This Clivia is not as popular as C. miniata probably because it is not as available to buy and is also not very well know. Their pendulous flowers are predominantly orange with green tips however you do get yellow flowers with green tips.
C.caulescens is an unusual species to the other clivias due to a very tall ‘trunk’ that can sprout offshoots and which leads to the common name - stem Clivia. Its leaves are more robust and upright than that of a common clivia and it is a very uncommon plant in cultivation.
This clivia is the most recently discovered clivia variety, confined to the Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve in the Northern Cape. It gained recognition for its’ silvery-striped leaves that feature deep maroon hues at the base. Unlike the other clivias which are shade loving and live in areas with summer rains, C. mirabilis tolerates the sun and growing in areas with winter rains and is very sensitive to overwatering. Not the easiest garden plant and very sought after by collectors.
One of the largest growing members of the Clivia family, C. robusta can reach over 1.5m in height in ideal conditions. The name ‘robusta’ is in reference to the robust nature of this species.
Clivia’s in your garden
- Dig lots of compost and organic matter into the soil before planting. Make sure that you don’t plant them too deep as the leaf base may rot.
- Remember to plant them in shady areas!! Consider planting them in difficult areas of your garden, under big trees or against a south-facing wall as they are drought-tolerant and their routes are happy to be intertwined with others.
- Water them at least once a week in the summer and once a month in the winter months.
- Fertilise with 5:1:5 or 3:1:5 at the beginning of August and then again in autumn.
- Beware of the Amaryllis worm \ Lily borer!! This is the biggest threat to Clivia and they can totally destroy your whole clivia garden. They are active from October - April, and tunnel right into the stem of the plant. Read more about the Amaryllis worm and how to rid your garden of them in the attached insect profile.
- Snails are a pest when Clivia’s are in flower as they eat the blooms. Catch them by hand at night or in the early mornings and put them in salt water to kill them; crushing them only spreads their eggs.
Next time you have to think about what to plant in that shady corner of your garden - don’t forget about this easy to grow and very rewarding plant!