Clivia is a genus in the Amaryllidaceae family from South Africa. Clivias are rhizomatous plants with thick, branching roots. Displaying absolutely gorgeous flowers, they are becoming quite popular throughout the world. Hybridizers have been expanding on the beautiful color combinations nature had already provided, so in addition to the bright orange Clivia miniata commonly appearing in landscapes here in Southern California, we are now seeing gorgeous yellows, peaches, pinks, and some near-whites. New color combinations are also being introduced by breeders working with the pendulous forms of Clivia, Clivia nobilis, Clivia gardenii, and Clivia caulescens.
In addition to the beauty of the flowers, the foliage is exquisite. Indeed, while most South African, American, Australian, and Japanese breeders are experimenting with flower variations, many Chinese breeders are focusing their energy on the leaves, selecting plants for leaf width, veining, and variegation.
Clivias possess one more claim to fame: they are amazingly easy to grow. They prefer shade, which means that they thrive and flower in areas where other plants often languish. If you ever have a chance to visit the Getty Center in Los Angeles, one of the first things you'll note as you drive under the overpass which covers the entrance is that both sides of the entry are lined with Clivia miniata. These plants never see the sun, but were still in bloom in April! When discussing bulbs that can be grown in the shade, Jim Shields has found that Clivia caulescens and Clivia nobilis can tolerate sun, but also survive being grown in the shade. Clivias will grow happily even when root bound. Howard Koopowitz, who quite literally wrote the book on clivias, observed that they "will suffer much abuse and neglect, and on top of that they are difficult to kill." Such a plant deserves a place in every gardener's heart!
List members have shared tips for success in growing Clivia from seed. Harvest seeds as soon as the capsule feels flaccid. The capsule is peeled and the seeds removed from the surrounding flesh. One member found seeds could be sown immediately. Others suggestions were to place the seed in a cardboard carton and allow it to dry out for 3 to 5 days, or to clean seeds by scrubbing them with a toothbrush or soaking them overnight in warm water. Most recommend that seeds be sown on the surface of the mix and not covered until sprouted, but one person pushes them half way into the medium and another just barely covers them. The soil mix should be loose and airy such as African violet mix with added clean sand. Keep the soil damp but not wet and keep the pots in warm place (over 70 degrees F, 21 degrees C) Another member has found an entirely different way of growing Clivia from seed that works for her. She puts the seeds in a plastic bag of damp vermiculite and keeps them warm, checking regularly and then transplanting when roots and leaves have formed.
Photo by Matt Mattus of an adventitious Clivia shoot emerging from the edge of a discarded leaf (near the bottom end). The remnant was buried under potting soil on a bench in the greenhouse for an entire winter.
Clivia caulescens is native to South Africa. The photos below were taken by Dylan Hannon from the Huntington Botanical Garden where they grow underneath a Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia).
Clivia × cyrtanthiflora is a name given to hybrids between Clivia miniata and Clivia nobilis with narrow pendent flowers. Photos 1-2 are of plants growing at the LA Arboretum with a huge number of blooms! The second was a large peach and the third was a F1 × cyrtanthiflora from Rudo Lotter. Photos John Ingram.
Clivia gardenii is an evergreen plant growing up to 60 cm. It is usually found growing in deep shade in forested areas and steeply sloping areas, cliffs and sometimes marshy spots. It comes primarily from KwaZulu-Natal, and has also been found in Mpumalanga and Swaziland. It has orange red hanging tubular flowers with greenish tips and exerted stamens and the fruit is a bright red fleshy berry. It is similar to Clivia nobilis but has fewer flowers, recurving tepal tips and leaves that taper to a pointed tip. There is much variation in plant size and flower color. Bloom time is fall into early winter. This species can tolerate fairly dry conditions. Photos by Alessandro Marinello and Hans Joschko.
Clivia miniata has bright green leaves and scarlet flowers with a yellow throat. It is an evergreen plant to 500 mm that grows in large colonies in partial shade of forest and coastal bush in the Eastern Cape. It takes about 4 years for seed-grown plants to mature. These plants will flower even in tiny pots relative to their size. The first two photos from Andrew Harvie were taken in habitat near the mouth of the Kei River in the Eastern Cape. Photos 3-4 were taken by Bob Rutemoeller in the same place January 2010.
Photo 1 by Arnold Trachtenberg who wrote: "An orange given to me by a neighbor who has had it for 40 years", and photo 2 from Mary Sue Ittner who grew hers from seed. Photos 3 and 4 were taken by Mary Sue Ittner at The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, Australia in 2007.
Photos by David Pilling, 1 is of the typical fleshy ephemeral amarlyllid seed on a 10 mm grid and 2 shows the roots of one plant grown from the seeds. The remainder show fruit and contents.
There are many Clivia miniata cultivars. Below are pictures of some examples.
Clivia miniata 'Abigail' has purple seed pods. Photo 1 from John Ingram.
Clivia miniata 'Apricot Spider' was found at a garden centre. Typically bears 12 blossoms of soft apricot. Photo 2 by Jamie Vande.
Clivia miniata 'Aurea' x 'Tropical Sunset' Photo 3 from John Ingram.
Clivia miniata 'Doris' is a dark orange-red variety from Conway (photo 1).
Clivia miniata 'Jenny' is a Dave Conway selection, orange with a yellow stripe (photo 2).
Clivia miniata 'Lemon Chiffon' is a yellow variety from Conway with nicely formed flowers (photo 3). Photos 1-3 by John Ingram.
Clivia miniata 'Lemon Ice' is a yellow Dave Conway selection that becomes paler as it ages (photo 1).
Clivia miniata 'Little Charm' Series from Joe Solomone, a series of diminutive flowers in medium-sized umbels (photo 2).
Clivia miniata 'Sabrine Delphine' is a Conway selection with dark flowers, brick red deepening to dark maroon (photo 3).
Clivia miniata 'San Marcos Yellow' (photo 4). Photos 1-4 by John Ingram.
Clivia miniata 'Solomone Yellow' is a yellow flowered strain from Joe Solomone of Watsonville, California. Photos taken June 2007 by Jay Yourch.
Clivia miniata 'Tiny Tim' is a miniature with short leaves and mid orange tulip shaped flowers with a large white throat that are carried just above the foliage. Photo by John Ingram.
Clivia miniata 'Vico Yellow' was bred by Sir Peter Smithers and was one of the first tissue-cultured cultivars offered in the trade. It is a creamy pale yellow with a darker throat and is also known as 'Smithers' Yellow'. The first photo was taken by John Ingram. The second and third photos taken by Arnold Trachtenberg are of a plant grown from an IBS tissue culture distribution in 2000 and blooming for the first time in 2008.
Clivia miniata yellow form. The first photo was taken by Mary Sue Ittner who wrote: "In March 1998 I received two seeds of a yellow Clivia miniata. Both germinated and are blooming for the first time in March 2004 five years later." The next two photos were taken by Liz Waterman.
Clivia nobilis is a coastal species from the Eastern Cape. It grows in the understory of stabilized dune forests in almost pure sand, but in areas with dry winters and wet summers. Leaves are notched or bluntly rounded dark green. The vermilion-orange with green tip flowers appear in the spring. It takes about 7 years for seed-grown plants to mature. Photo #1 was taken by Cameron McMaster and photos 2-3 were from Alessandro Marinello. The last three photos were taken by Andrew Harvie near the mouth of the Kei River in the Eastern Cape showing the habitat for this species.
Clivia robusta was named in 2004 after genetic analyses of seedlings from seed of what had been considered a Clivia gardenii population were determined to be a new species. Clivia robusta grows in marshes in the tall closed canopy forest of Pondoland in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in sandy, acidic, highly leached soils. Some populations also grow in seepage areas on or below cliffs in humus-rich soils. This species also occurs in the southern coastal area of KwaZulu-Natal. As its name implies, this is one of the tallest members of the genus (1.6 m) with strap shaped, broad leaves and pendulous pale to dark orange flowers with green tips born on reddish changing to green pedicels. When growing in very wet areas it develops buttress roots. Flowering occurs autumn to winter (late March to early August.) This is followed by round green ripening to orange-red berries containing up to 4 seeds that take a year or more to ripen. There is a yellow flowered form known as var. citrina.
In spite of being rare, this species is reported not to be difficult to grow and can flower within four years of being grown from seed. It requires light shade, good drainage, and regular feeding and watering. It prefers cool nights and may be able to survive a light freeze. It can be grown indoors in a pot. More information can be obtained from South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website. Photos below were taken by Mary Sue Ittner November 2014.
Photos below were taken by John Ingram. It's not clear what their parentage is. Photos 1-2 are of Clivia 'Hypnos'.
Photo 3 is a photo of 'Terracotta Treasure'.
The first photo is of a white throated Tulip and the second is an interspecific from Rudo Lotter.
Jim Shields has posted a lot of information about this genus on his website.