Growing and caring for clivias
Clivias are one of South Africa’s indigenous super stunners and have become quite the collector’s dream. Luckily, you don’t have to be a horticulturist to grow these distinguished plants, just some garden mastery know-how from Life is a Garden. Learn how to correctly harvest clivia seeds, how to grow them, and how to provide long term care for your elite lovelies.
The clivia craze
What’s so special about these plants anyway? For starters, they produce simply exquisite trumpet-like, fragrant flowers with dramatic blooms in sunset shades, both as solid colours and as delightful bi-colour varieties. Owing to their lengthy germinating time (one year from seed to pot) they’ve rightfully earned their place in the professional landscapers garden. Up for the challenge? These beauts can be grown as hero houseplants in a well-lit area, in shaded beds, or in pots on the patio with no direct sunlight. They thrive in rich potting mix with good drainage. Clivias are most active from autumn to spring, but they’ll retain their dainty evergreen foliage all year round.
Top tip: Garden centres are stocked with a truly splendid variety of potted clivias to choose from. Ask the friendly nursery attendants for guidance on what soil mixes to use in beds and pots. They’ll also be able to give you recommendations on fertilisers to give your prized clivias that extra boost.
Growing clivias from seed
There are two ways to get your green fingers on some clivia seeds:
- Pop down to your GCA Garden Centre and purchase a seed packet.
- Wait for established clivias to produce berries, which contain seeds.
When clivia flowers are pollinated they produce large red berries. Pick your berries as they begin colouring then pop them onto the operating table and follow these steps:
- Use your thumbs to break open the berries and then remove the insides.
- Clean up the flesh, skin, and membrane surrounding the seeds inside.
- Once you’ve got the gold, wash all the seeds in a gentle anti-bacterial solution (some dishwashing liquid and water will do). As you’re cleaning the seeds, remove any remaining skin and pop them onto a paper towel.
- Prepare your growing mixture with equal parts palm peat and perlite, both available from your garden centre. Mix in some water to dampen the soil as well.
- Fill seedling trays with your super mix and pat the surface. Plant the clivia seeds with the eye nob part facing down. You want to space seeds about 2,5 cm apart with the tops of the seeds still exposed. In other words, when planting clivia seeds do not press them all the way down into the soil.
- Give all the seeds in the container a good watering and then cover the tray with a plastic bag or glass. Pop your babies in a warm but sheltered area that receives full sun.
- Check on your babies daily, assessing growth and ensuring the soil remains moist at all times. You’ll know they’re happy when the bottom of the seeds begin to sprout baby green legs.
- Now for the hard part. Your clivia seeds will only be ready for transplant after a year. They are definitely worth the wait and reward though, so keep up the care and garden on!
Caring for your clivias
After all that dedication, you want to make sure you give your clivias the best care possible. Here are some handy tips for how to care for established clivias in the garden:
- Clivias need to be divided every three to four years during spring or early summer. You’ll know it’s time when the rhizomes become overcrowded and the root ball rises above soil level. Always wait until they’ve finished flowering before dividing.
- To correctly divide your potted clivias, carefully remove the mother plant from the container and shake off the excess soil to better see the divisions.
- Use a sharp, clean knife to cut the clumps apart or use your fingers to pry them open. You can now transplant separated clivias into new pots for even more patio splendour.
- To divide outdoor clivias, use a spade and lift the ground around the plant (at least 15cm distance to the stem), taking care not to damage the roots. Once removed from the bed, wipe away excess soil to reveal the root clumps. You can now cut and divide as needed and replant in another shady bed in need of bedazzling.
- Fertilise your clivias monthly in spring and summer for max blooming power (avoid feeding in winter). Go for a slow-release liquid fertiliser available from your GCA Garden Centre (remember to ask for help when you are there).
Pest alert: Look out for the lily borer! Regularly check your bulbs and especially your clivias for signs of this pesky critter. You’ll notice clusters of tiny eggs underneath leaves, which are laid by a white moth with a 4cm wingspan. Visit your garden centre for the best pest control solution.
High in ornamental value, long-lasting flowering intervals, excellent cut-flowers, and evergreen – clivias are definitely worth it. Go from novice to pro with these sought after bad girls by following the above tips for success. Clivias also make for exquisite gifts so next time you’re on a split and divide mission, pot a few for friends and family.