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Home & Garden

Yard and Garden: Brighten winter with a clivia plant

AMES — Flowers are one of the best antidotes to the icy winds of winter, and growing a houseplant that buds and blooms inside while all is dormant outside is particularly satisfying. This winter, as an alternative to the brightly blooming azaleas, chrysanthemums or traditional holiday plants, consider growing a clivia plant.

Horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach explain how to grow this less common plant. To have more questions answered contact Hortline at 515-294-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

What is a clivia?

Clivia or kaffir lily (Clivia spp.) is a herbaceous flowering plant native to South Africa. Plants have long, arching, strap-like leaves (similar to an amaryllis) and produce dense clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers atop 18 to 24 inch stems. The flowers of Clivia miniata are typically orange with yellow eyes or centers. However, there are also several rare and expensive yellow-flowering cultivars. While clivias are not winter hardy in Iowa, they are excellent, low maintenance houseplants.

How do I get a clivia to bloom?

Clivias need a rest period of six to 12 weeks in fall and winter to initiate flower bud development. Temperatures during this time should be 40 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. A guest bedroom, porch or a partially heated garage (temperatures must remain above 35 degrees) may be suitable plant locations. Water sparingly (about once a month). When flower stalks appear, move plants to a slightly warmer location and begin to water more frequently. Clivias typically bloom for several weeks in late winter/early spring. When plants have finished flowering, remove the flower stalks near their base.

What should I do with my clivia after
flowering?

After flowering, move the plant outdoors in mid to late May. Initially place the plant in a protected location in complete shade. Then gradually expose the plant to short periods of sunlight. After the plant has been hardened for several days, place the plant in partial shade (two to three hours of sunlight) and leave it there through the summer. Water the plant when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch. Fertilize every two to four weeks with a dilute fertilizer solution. Bring the plant back indoors before the first fall frost.

If you decide to leave the clivia indoors in spring and summer, place the plant in bright, indirect light near a south or west window. Watering and fertilization practices are the same as for plants placed outdoors.

How often do I need to repot my clivia?

Clivias prefer to be potbound. Repot plants when the soil ball begins to rise above the pot or the pot breaks (clay pot). When repotting is necessary, carefully remove the plant from its pot and place it in a new pot that is no more than 2 inches wider in diameter. Spring and summer are the best times to repot a clivia.

What are the most common problems on clivia?

Over-watering and mealybugs are the most common problems with clivia. Over-watering (watering too frequently) may result in root rots. In spring and summer, water plants when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch. Mealybugs are small, white, oval insects. They appear as small, white, cottony masses on stems, the undersides of leaves, at leaf axils (where the leaf attaches to the stem) and other locations. Mealybugs are piercing-sucking insects that feed on plant sap. They are difficult to control. Thoroughly check plants when purchasing clivias and other indoor plants. Avoid mealybug infested plants. Mealybugs on lightly infested plants can be controlled by dabbing the insects with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab or with frequent applications of an insecticide soap.

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