The Natal lily (Clivia miniata) is a showy, frost-tender house plant that makes a bold feature in the home or conservatory. It bears stocky stems topped with large, rounded heads of colourful flowers, from late winter to spring. Clivia foliage is architectural and attractive year-round, with wide, dark green, strap shaped evergreen leaves that grow from a swollen, fleshy root. Flowerheads are made up of eight to 10 bell-shaped blooms, usually in shades of orange, but yellow- and red-flowered varieties are sometimes available. Clivia is also known as forest lily, because in its native country of South Africa, it originates from woodland.
Clivia can live for many years and grows to around 45cm high and 30-40cm wide. Note that clivia is mildly toxic – the sap may cause skin irritations and eating any part of the plant can cause mild stomach upset.
How to grow clivia
Grow clivia under cover in a frost-free place, avoiding hot rooms, in good light but out of direct sun. Water regularly in summer but sparingly in winter, when the plant should be ‘rested’ in a cool place. Feed in spring and summer, and deadhead once flowering has finished. Propagate from offsets, in spring.
Where to grow clivia
Grow clivia as a house plant, in a conservatory, or a greenhouse that’s heated in winter. Clivia needs a minimum temperature of 5°C and may suffer frost damage at lower temperatures. Site clivia in bright light but out of direct sunlight and avoid placing in hot centrally-heated rooms or close to heat sources such as a radiator or fire. In the summer months, clivia can be moved out into the garden if given a sheltered spot out of direct sunlight.
Caring for clivia
Adjusting watering to the season and giving the plant a ‘rest’ over winter is key to getting clivia to flower every year.
In summer, water regularly but moderately, so the compost stays damp but not wet.
Over winter, from November to March, ‘rest’ clivia by keeping in a cool place (at a maximum temperature of 10°C) and watering sparingly.
When the flower spike becomes visible, feed once a week with a general house plant fertilizer, and continue until the end of summer.
Cut off the faded head and stem once flowering has finished, unless you want to harvest seed.
Repot, and/or propagate, only when absolutely essential as clivia dislikes being disturbed. Though if not repotting, replace the top 5-8cm of compost with fresh potting compost, annually in early spring.
How and when to repot clivia
Clivia needs repotting only once the existing pot is full of roots. Move up to the next pot size only, gradually increasing the size over time. Ultimately, clivia thrives in a good-sized pot of at least 20cm in diameter.
Repot in spring only when necessary, using a good quality, peat-free multi-purpose potting compost with added loam. Ensure the neck of the fleshy bulb-like rhizome, or swollen root, is above soil level.
How to propagate clivia
- Raise new clivia plants either from seed or by cutting off outer sections of the plant, known as offsets. Propagated plants can take several years to produce flowers
- Collect and sow seed when the berries turn red. Sow in individual small pots of moist seed compost and place in a warm spot, where germination can take up to 2 months
- Detach offsets in early spring using a sharp knife, ensuring each has plenty of roots, and pot up either individually or with several offsets in a large pot
Growing clivia: problem solving
Siting your clivia in the right location and paying attention to watering, avoids most potential problems. Brown patches, tips, or edges to the leaves are caused either by sun scorch, too little water, or by frost. Always take care not to over-water, and in particular, letting the plant sit in water which can cause the fleshy roots to rot.
Mealybugs may occur on clivia and is visible as white woolly patches on leaves, and especially in leaf joints. Inspect plants regularly and remove small infestations using cotton wool buds dipped in methylated spirits.