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Noon Edition

Clivia: The "Indestructible" Houseplant

Lady Clive, granddaughter of the famous Englishman Clive of India, was a patron of gardening, and the well-known clivia plant, which bears her name, first flowered in the UK in her greenhouse.

Clivias thrive outdoors only in frost free areas of the world and elsewhere are grown primarily as house plants. After they flower they can be propagated by division. If grown from seed they take about 4 years to bloom.

The genus consists of about 4 species of these evergreen plants, and they have long strap-like leaves springing from short rhizomes with thick roots. The flower stalks are flat and bear umbels of funnel-shaped flowers. The flowers may be followed by dark red fruits.

Clivia miniata is showy and has orange flowers with a yellow throat. However, there are many cultivars and hybrids, mostly orange but some red, but the more recently developed yellows are the most expensive and most highly prized by collectors.

All clivias like well drained soil and dislike disturbance, as they are shallow rooted. Keep them fairly dry in winter and give them more moisture in spring and summer. There are many stories about how indestructible clivias are as house plants, and they are described as ideal for vacation homes. One popular tale, often repeated, is about a woman who left her clivia plant in a vacation house for a year and found it alive and well upon her return.

However, like all of us, clivias do need some attention to bloom well where they are planted. They will live in a variety of temperatures, are immune to most diseases, tolerate shady window sills and like to be pot bound. But they do enjoy a cool rest period before they bloom. Let them rest in a place that is 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 weeks with reduced water and no fertilizer, and their blooms indoors in late winter will charm you, just when you need a flower fix the most.

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