Clivia - Natal or Bush Lily


Clivia miniata - Forest Flame

∙Water - 🔸

Allow the top third of the soil to dry out in between irrigations. Once the pot feels light when lifted compared to when it was last watered, it's time for an irrigation. It's always better to under-water a Clivia than over-do it, as they naturally grow in heavy rooted forests around southern Africa and therefore can't tolerate waterlogging. To increase the chance of a bloom in the warmer months of the year, decrease the amount of waters in the autumn and winter for its winterisation. Never apply cold water to the roots, especially when it's in flower due to the tendency to drop lose in some instances. Under-watering symptoms include curled or crispy leaves, wilted foliage, yellowing leaves and stunted growth. These issues are commonly caused by too much heat or sunlight, or pure forgetfulness. Periods of dry soil in the growing months should be avoided to prevent the chance of dehydration. Over-watering symptoms include the yellowing or browning of lower leaves, stunted growth, wilting and a rotten core. Like Moth Orchids, water-logging is a common and serious issue among growers. Because of the soil's well-draining nature, excess moisture will flow through the potting mix and congregate in the bottom, causing root rot if left. Over-watering is commonly caused by too little light or heat or a lack of drying soil in between irrigations. If this has happened to yours, increase the intensity light somewhat with fewer irrigations; if the base has fully softened over, this will spell the end of its life. For those who want to save it, remove the plant from the pot to investigate its root health - discard the affected roots using a clean pair of scissors, along with most of the sodden soil. If there aren't many roots remaining, repot it into a smaller pot, just enough to accommodate the stem. Do not discard the 'bulb' if no roots are present, keep it in a fresh batch of compost and water irregularly - it will re-root itself within the next few months. 


∙Humidity - 🔸

Average room humidity is more than enough to occupy a Clivia, as too high humidity and poor air circulation may result in powdery mildew forming in the base's cubbyholes. Never mist the flowers to increase its humidity as botrytis petal blight will develop, causing catastrophic issues.


∙Location & Light - 🔸🔸

A location with a splash of morning or evening sun is the ideal setting for this species, as too dark settings will heighten the chance of root rot. If you're worried about its location being too dim, if a newspaper can be read whilst having your back towards the light source, you're good to go. Although direct sunlight can be quite beneficial for the Clivia, avoid scorching the leaves with too intense rays - typical signs are murky yellow foliage and brown spots developing on the top side of the leaf.

In terms of the ideal location around the house, as long as the desired setting is above 10ºC  (50ºF)  and is at least four metres away from an operating heat source, it should be accepted by the Clivia. Never situate it within two metres of a south-facing window, or more than three metres away from a north-facing window. 


∙Fertilisation - 🔸🔸

Use a fertiliser high in potassium to prolong its flowers during the blooming period - an excellent example would be a Tomato Feed. Regular fertilisers, for instance, BabyBio or Miracle-Gro, will still do the job but will favour foliar growth over the flowers. For the rest of the year, a standard fertiliser can be used as a monthly supplement to aid foliar and root growth.




Common Issues with Clivia

Over-watering is the biggest issue with Clivia. Although moist soil is vital for long-lasting flowers, avoid keeping the soil saturated for extended periods to prevent the chance of rot. Allow the top third of the soil to become dry in between irrigations and always use tepid water to avert shocking the tender root systems. Typical signs of over-watering include yellowed leaves, stunted growth and a softened base. During its dormancy in the winter, reduce irrigations considerably until the following spring for the enhanced chance of a re-bloom.

Too much sunlight will lead to sun-scorch, with typical signs including brown patches, a murky yellow appearance, crispy or curled leaves, dry leaf-edges or little growth. Although low light will cause over-watering issues, too much sunlight will also be a detriment in the likes of dehydration. A location that offers a little to no direct light will bring the optimum growth for a Clivia, as they aren't susceptible to excessive sun in their natural environment of South Africa.

Too little light will cause the wilting of leaves and a pale centre but without a softened base. If this has occurred with your specimen, improve the amount of light fractionally, keeping in mind the heightened chance of environmental shock (when two locations offer too different growing conditions) and sun-scorch.

A lack of flowers can be an array of different issues, including a poorly spent dormancy, too much water or surrounding heat over the non-flowering months and an over-potted plant. The quality of its dormancy in the winter will depict whether or not your Clivia will bloom in the spring. Locations that present a consistent temperature all year around will inhibit a bloom, as the plant may fail to recognise what season its in. Another factor of an absence of flowers could be to do with how much water it receives throughout the year; allow the majority of the soil to dry out in between irrigations during the autumn and winter, again, to fully seasonise the plant. Restricted plants will generally flower better and more consistently than with those grown in too-large pots. As they'll feel threatened and nearing the end of their life, flowers will be sent out to reproduce and pass-on their genetic material. Scroll down to the next section of this article to learn about the ideal dormancy period, and how to entice annual blooms.

A lack of flowers is caused by a insufficient dormancy period, served in the winter months. Locations that offer near-similar temperatures all year round won't allow the plant to go dormant, resulting in poor spring growth. To achieve, situate in a location that dips to around 10°C  (51°F) with fewer waters. Allow the majority of the compost to dry out and provide a humidity tray while the radiators are operating.


The beautiful inflorescence of a Clivia miniata.
Dormancy Care & Annual Blooms

Clivia can keep flowering year after year in the right care - sometimes even twice within twelve months! A good dormancy period shortly in the autumn and winter months will allow the plant to become seasoned, preparing itself for a bloom in the spring. These tips should be taken from autumn onwards until early spring when the plant is serving its dormancy. 


Droughts, Droughts, Droughts!

It's all about under-watering with Clivia. Only rehydrate the soil once the majority has fully dried out; but never promote soggy soil or water-logging as both will quickly lead to death. Present a bright, indirect location with little fertilisation during this period to put pressure on the plant.

Potbound Roots

Like the Moth Orchid or Anthurium, the Clivia's roots must be pot bound to aid the chance of another bloom.They must feel restricted in order to send out a flower stalk for reproduction and to pass-on its genes. Now, of course, there are other factors such as the temperature and daylight hours which can help this process, but starting with its roots is always a good idea. An added bonus of keeping the plant pot bound is that you're far less likely to over-water the roots due to the ration of soil to roots, which greatly favours the latter.


Temperature

Many houseplants cannot serve a good dormancy over the winter when the temperatures are more or less consistent throughout the year. Situating a Clivia in a cooler location during this time will empathise its dormancy, thus focusing its energy on producing the flowers. Once spring is around the corner, keep the plant in the cooler setting until flower buds form at the base. Once this development is under way, supplement the plant with a fertiliser high in potassium fortnightly to elongate the flower's life - Tomato Feed is best. Swap to a monthly general plant fertiliser once the blooms have elapsed.




Origins

There are only six recognised species that all originate in Southern Africa. Live specimens were taken to England in the late 1810's by British explorers John Bowie and William Burchell. The C. nobilis was the first species to be named in the Clivia genus, which is named in honour of the Duchess of Northumberland, Charlotte Percy (née Clive). This genus is the cousin to the true Amaryllis, due to its similar leaf and flower structures.


Temperature

6°C - 25°C   (43° - 78°F).
H1c - can be grown outdoors in summer in a sheltered location, but is fine to remain indoors. If you decide to bring this houseplant outdoors, do not allow it to endure more than an hour or two of direct sunlight a day as this will burn the leaves. Regularly keep an eye out for pests and do not allow night temperatures to dip below 8°C  (46°C)  throughout its time outdoors.


Spread

Up to 1m in height and width. The ultimate height will take between 6 - 10 years to achieve when repotted biannually.


Pruning

Remove yellowed or dying leaves and plant debris to encourage better growth and improve the all-round appearance. Pruning must be done with clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases; remember to make clean incisions as too much damage can shock the plant. Once the blooms have elapsed, the flower stalk can be removed with a clean pair of scissors without harming the base, unless there's a development of swelling seedpods. Never cut the foliage back to its base.


Propagation

Via seed or offset division. To learn about the critical essentials with sowing seeds, be sure to click on this link - Seed Propagation Tips


An example of an offset that can be divided during the spring.


Offset Division - During the spring or summer and whilst the plant isn't flowering, take the plant out of the soil and inspect its health below the soil line. Trim away any of the dead roots and search for small bulbous growths that'll develop along the base of the original plant. If the 'pup' is at least a third of the mother plant's size, and has some leaves above the soil, it can be removed and potted in its own soil. Don't worry if there aren't any roots, this will soon develop once the plant starts to fend for itself. Submerge the bottom third of the pup, allowing the 'head' to remain above the soil line. The level of maturity will greatly depict when the Clivia offset will flower, with smaller specimens taking a few seasons to successfully bloom. N.B. - Do not separate the plants whilst it's in flower, as this may lead to sudden flower loss or transplant shock


Flowers

Large trumpet shaped flowers will develop along a long shaft, sitting above the foliage during the spring or summer months. The individual flower lasts up to ten days, with the overall show spanning two months - typical colours are white, yellow and orange. 


Repotting

Repot every three to four years using Houseplant compost with added perlite or grit, in the spring after the dormancy period. It's unadvised to plant a Clivia into a pot which lack drainage holes, as the chance of bulb or root rot is far too high. For matured specimens, introduce some grit to promote a stronger root ball as well as the reduced chance of root rot; click on this link for more information on how to perform the perfect transplant.


Diseases & Pests

Common diseases with Clivia are basal or root rot, powdery mildew, leaf-spot disease, botrytis petal blight and powdery mildew. Most diseases are caused by excess moisture in the soil or on the flowers or foliage; maintain dry leaves and always avoid water-logging for best results. Keep an eye out for spider mite, aphids, mealybugs, root mealybugs and snails if kept outdoors over the summer months. For more info on how to address any of these issues, hit this link.  Identifying Common Houseplant Pests & Diseases


Toxicity

This plant is classified as slightly poisonous. If parts of the plants are eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite could occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly; acquire medical assistance for further information.


Retail Locations

Specimens are likely to be found in some garden centres during the spring or summer, but are expensive to buy whilst in flower. 

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