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Blooms to repay the care and attention demanded.

Clivia miniata is not the easiest plant to have around.

Firstly, it is tender, so it belongs in the house or conservatory during winter and it cannot be kept in strong sunlight because the leaves become scorched - it's a woodland plant in its native South Africa.

Secondly, plants grow readily enough but reach quite a size before flowering and that means a heavy, difficult-to-move pot.

Why move the pot? Clivias must have a period of cooler weather in winter to encourage the flower buds to form, then they look so lovely that you want to display them in a living room.

However, the effort is worth it when the long stems emerge from among the 60cm (2ft), fleshy leaves and the blooms open. Each stem is topped by a cluster of a dozen or more trumpet-shaped flowers in an exceptional shade of deep orange with underlying hues of bronze and salmon-pink, while the centre and anthers are in gold. They last for weeks, too.

All clivias are perennial evergreens which are more likely to be acquired as root divisions from friends than found in garden centres. The fleshy roots grow quickly to some 30cm (12in) across and, for a prolific flower display, should be ultimately planted in a deep pot at least 37cm (15in) in diameter.

There's a myth that clivias flower only once every seven years but this was probably inspired by the fact that the roots need to be restricted to encourage blooming and can take some years to fill a pot if not well cared for.

For quicker success, plant roots in sieved, homemade compost with added grit, or a loam-based compost such as John Innes No 2. Water freely with a balanced liquid fertiliser from spring to autumn, and keep fairly dry in winter - and cool, as mentioned above.

Flowering sometimes starts in late winter but more often in March. Problems are rare, though mealybugs may be a nuisance.

Clivias are named after Lady Clive, Duchess of Northumberland from 1817-66, granddaughter of Clive of India and the first person to bring the species into flower in cultivation. They are sometimes nicknamed Kaffir lilies.

Forms of Clivia miniata have redder flowers than the type while a variety named `Aurea' has yellow flowers.

Other species include Clivia caulescens, with huge 1.8m (6ft) leaves and orange, red or pinkish flowers; Clivia gardenii with 75cm (30in) leaves and green-tipped blooms of orange or red; and the more delicate Clivia nobilis, with 45cm (18in) leaves and drooping, tubular, red blooms tipped with yellow and green.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 27, 2004
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