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Clivia Miniata—Growing Scarlet Kafir Lily

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Clivia Miniata—Growing Scarlet Kafir Lily

The Clivia miniata features a spray of delicate blooms held over a strappy, lily-like main plant. Over time, these form large clusters with beautiful late winter flower displays.

Photo © blumenbiene/Flickr
Clivia might seem a but fussy at first—they have particular temperature and watering requirements to really bloom their best—but these little plants are well worth it. Everything about them is interesting, from their thick, knobby roots to their onion-like stems and strappy leaves and especially to their magnificent flowers that appear in late winter and last into spring. The rules for getting the most from your clivia area really not that hard: simply put, let the plant get cold and a little dry during the winter, then start watering again in the late winter and watch while it starts to bloom with a beautiful cluster of orange or red flowers that hover above the plant itself.

Growing Conditions:

Light: These plants do best as part-time outdoor plants, spending the summers outside in a shady spot with no direct sunlight. Bring them in during the winter rest period and keep in a lit but cool location.
Water: Suspend water during the winter and resume again in the late winter or early spring. Be careful not to overwater as the new growth emerges, however. Once the new growth has emerged and is established, increase water but do not soak.
Soil: A standard potting mix should be fine.
Fertilizer: During the growing season, fertilize every week with a weak liquid fertilizer. It also works to include controlled-release fertilizer pellets in the soil. These plants are relatively heavy feeders and yellow, washed-out leaves and no offsets frequently mean the plant is underfertilized. This is especially true for plants that haven't been repotted in a few years and are nearing the end of their viability in their existing containers.

Propagation:

Older plants eventually send out offsets that can be used to propagate. Remove offsets in the spring once they have at least four leaves and carefully pot into their own containers. Professional growers propagate from seeds, but this isn't really recommended for most home growers.

Repotting:

Because they are seasonal growers, Clivia only need to be repotted every three years into a new pot. During repotting, place the plant into a heavy enough container to prevent tipping and give them room enough to grow. Older, undivided plants are especially attractive when they bloom. Alternatively, divide the plant at repotting time and keep it in the same size pot.

Varieties:

The Clivia miniata available today are all hybrids from the original plant, which was reportedly first collected for cultivation in the early 19th century in South Africa. Since then, breeders have introduced many new flower colors, all using variations found in the original species. There is one smaller species, C. nobilis, that looks very similar to the larger C. miniata but has smaller flowers, roots and leaves. This plant is very uncommon in cultivation.

Grower's Tips:

Related to the lily, C. miniata is an interesting plant whether it's in flower or not. The leaves are strappy and, on a plant with a single stem, emerge in a lovely fan-like display. The flower stalk emerges from the center of this fan to hover over the main plant, beginning its display in February or March in temperate, northern-hemisphere climates. Over time, as the plant sends out additional offshoots, it forms a bushy display with clouds of flowers. To prolong flowering, remove older flower stalks by snipping them at the base near the leaves. Also, to keep your plant looking its best, occasionally wipe down or mist the leaves to prevent the collection of dust. Finally, be aware that the plant's latex-like sap is mildly toxic and may be an irritant.
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