Some plants are worth the wait, and the wait, and the wait after that. In other words, they’re just like women getting dressed and trying on shoes. All in good time, my pretty.
Behold the blooms of the plant that mightily tested the bounds of Grumpy’s patience the last six years. Native to South Africa, it’s a relative of amaryllis called clivia (Clivia miniata). Combining handsome foliage with gorgeous flowers, it’s breathtaking when it blooms. But unless you know how to grow it correctly, you just might take your final breath before you ever see a flower.
I first gained a true fondness for clivia years ago when I was doing a story for Coastal Living on the fabulous garden of writer Pat Welch near San Diego. Pat had arranged 3 or 4 big pots of bright orange clivia under an arbor. The sight was spectacular. When I commented on their beauty, Pat said, “No plant gives more color longer in the shade than clivia.” I was sold.
So I bought a one-gallon plant of clivia ‘Flame’ with the orange-red flowers you see above. I transplanted it into a large terra-cotta pot and placed it in what I thought was the perfect spot — a corner of my breakfast room with pretty, filtered light. Gradually, its leaves filled the pot and the plant looked so happy. And every spring, I would wait for the magical blossoms to appear. And……..nothing.
Finally, I wrote about my troubles on the garden site, Plant Porn (where plant geeks from around the world post photos about weird, strange, and erotic-looking plants) and asked if anybody knew what I was doing wrong. Within 5 minutes, I had my answer. I wasn’t giving my clivia proper winter care.
See, clivia likes the winter weather of its native land, which means cool temperatures (around 50-55 degrees) and very little water. So I moved my clivia into my garage all winter where it got indirect light and temps in the 50′s. I watered maybe once in 3 months and did not fertilize. Finally, in early March it was warm enough to put the clivia on my front porch. I watered it thoroughly until water ran from the drainage hole. And this is what my clivia has looked like for the last 3 weeks.
Pretty nice, huh? Patience really is a virtue.
You, Too, Can Grow Clivia
Clivia is durable, long-lived, and carefree, so you don’t need to be a gardening prodigy like Grumpy to grow it and love it. Look for it at your local garden center. If you can’t find it there, Logee’s is a good mail-order source. In frost-free areas, you can leave it outdoors year-round. Elsewhere, grow it in a pot that you bring inside for winter.
Give it light shade, as direct sun will burn the foliage. Plant it in a nice pot filled with good potting soil. Make sure the pot drains freely. From spring to fall, fertilize every other week with a general-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer. Water when the soil surface becomes dry. Don’t worry if leaves fill the pot. Clivia thrives with crowded roots and may even bloom better this way. You’ll hardly ever need to repot. Come fall, take clivia inside before the first frost and treat it as I described above. Clivia may be related to amaryllis, but its flowers last much longer. One plant can bloom for a month.
Here’s some extra incentive to try clivia. It also comes in yellow! The one below is ‘Good Hope.’