The individual clivia florets have exquisite shading of orange and yellow. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
This mature plant has developed several offsets that can be removed to form new plants. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
This flower stalk has finally made its way above the foliage and the buds are beginning to open. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
I sometime wonder why we gardeners keep plants that bloom only once a year for brief periods of time. Indoors, Christmas cactus comes to mind, while in the outdoor garden we cherish plants like fern leaf peony and exotic iris that put on glorious, but short-lived displays of bloom.
I think part of the answer is that the blooms are worth it — they are so beautiful and so unique that we simply cannot part with the plants; we cannot imagine not having these plants in our collections.
And so it is with my clivia plant.
I have had my clivia for several years; it was given to me by friends who were relocating to the West Coast and could not take it with them.
Although the name clivia might sound exotic and it certainly looks exotic, it is a very easy plant to grow and seems to thrive on neglect.
Related to the amaryllis family, clivia has dark green strap-like leaves and produces a flower stalk that emerges from between the tightly packed leaves. The foliage of the clivia, however, is much more leathery than amaryllis leaves and it is an evergreen plant so the leaves do not dry off and die every year like those of the amaryllis.
Every now and then a bottom leaf will begin to yellow at the tip and gradually the whole leaf will die. This appears to be a natural process and the plant does not seem to be any the worse for wear upon losing the occasional leaf. I simply remove the spent leaf since more new leaves are constantly emerging from the centre of the plant.
The leaves all emerge from the centre of the plant and are tightly spaced — in fact, I often wonder how the flower bud can squeeze between the tightly packed leaves to emerge above the foliage. The plant actually has somewhat of a fan shape as the leaves are layered one above the other.
I have my clivia growing in ordinary soilless mix and it has been in the same container for several years. Clivias like to be pot bound and only need to be repotted every few years, which adds to their easy-care reputation.
My clivia is in a rather small eight-inch pot so the plant has long since used up any nutrients in the soil. Therefore, I fertilize my clivia regularly during the growing season.
It is very drought tolerant and I allow the soil to dry out somewhat between waterings, but in the winter I barely water the plant at all. In fact, my friend used to keep her clivia in a basement closet during the dead of winter and when it was brought out in the spring, the leaves would still be dark green and healthy.
My clivia blooms in late winter or early spring. I keep it in my sunroom year around and perhaps the lengthening of the days and increased heat of the sun in early spring encourage it to put forth a bloom at this time of year.
No pests or diseases have ever bothered the specimen I have — I doubt that insects find the rather hard, leathery leaves very appetizing! A long winter dormancy period doesn’t seem to bother the foliage so it is an easy plant to keep around for the winter.
I try to locate the plant where it will get some direct sun and I begin to fertilize and water it regularly as it starts to come out of dormancy and new leaves begin to appear.
I wipe the leaves periodically with a damp cloth as they do seem to collect dust — they look much more attractive when they are clean and shiny.
In fact, a clivia plant, even when not in bloom, is a very attractive foliage plant. It has to be displayed in a plant stand of some kind as the ends of the long leaves hang well below the bottom of the pot so they need to be allowed to hang down freely.
Although I simply leave my clivia in the sunroom for the summer, some people put theirs outdoors during the growing season and are sometimes rewarded with a bloom during the summer. I would recommend a location such as a covered porch to reduce the chance of damaging or marking the beautiful evergreen foliage.
In catalogues and at garden centres, clivias will demand top dollar because they are somewhat rare. However, the plants will last forever and in fact, a mature clivia will produce offsets that can be separated from the parent plant and potted up to produce new plants. It will take one of these new plants a couple of years to bloom.
I think my clivia is well worth keeping around all year just so I can enjoy its exotic blooms in early spring. The fact that it is such an easy-care plant just makes keeping it around all year that much more appealing.
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 3, 2012