Clivea Miniata: An Easy-to-Care-for Flowering Houseplant
Clivea or Kaffir Lily is a beautiful flowering houseplant that is native to South Africa. Of all the blooming houseplants, Clivea is one of the easiest to grow. Tough and long lived, this plant will reward minimal care with a cluster of fragrant blossoms in late winter or in spring. It is one of the few flowering houseplants that thrives in relatively low-light conditions.
But the flower is not all there is to this houseplant. The handsome foliage consists of deep-green, strappy leaves that emerge overlapped from a central base, growing out in a fan-shaped pattern. Leaves can be up to three feet long.
Clivea is also known as Fire Lily, Bush Lily, and Kaffir Lily.
In the U.S., Clivea can be grown outdoors in US Zone 9-11. In cooler climates, it can be planted outside in a shady spot once the weather warms up and past the frost date in your area.
Clivea was first brought to Britain in the 19th century and cultivated by Lady Charlotte Clive, Duchess of Northumberland, hence the name.
In late winter or in spring, a stalk emerges from between the tight clutch of leaves. As the stalk grows, buds at the top of the thick stalk begin to swell.
The clusters of flowers bloom in a soft medium orange color with a yellow throat. Other colors are available, but more rare, including deep orange, reddish orange, yellow, or cream.
The blooms are slightly fragrant, tubular, and seem almost luminous.
Clivea's roots are thick and resemble white worms. Roots often grow up out of the top of the soil. This is normal though certainly not Clivea's most attractive feature.
Container and Planting: Clivea is perfectly happy residing in the same old pot for years and seems to like being a bit pot bound. Plant in standard potting soil. Place stones or broken pottery in the bottom of the container, over the drainage hole.
Set the pot on a plate or plant tray so that moisture does not ruin your table or floor. Terra cotta plant saucers won't work here as moisture passes through the terra cotta and can ruin wood. Of course a terra cotta container works well for this plant.
Light: Many sites suggest placing Clivea in bright sunlight but that is too easily confused with direct sunlight. Never place this plant in a South facing window or outdoors in full sun as the leaves will develop white patches and wilt.
In nature, Clivea thrive in dappled sunlight. In the home a North East facing window is the best placement. If you want to encourage blooms, the NE window allows a low light rest period in Winter. When the sun begins to move North in Spring, the increased light signals the plant to bloom.
Water: Clivea prefers a dryish soil—although I have seen a rather waterlogged plant thrive outdoors. Keep the plant very dry during the winter rest period, watering every other week to every 2 weeks.
In late Winter when the sun brightens up that NE window, slowly increase watering. Do the finger test - push your finger down into the soil. If it feels dry, water.
Fertilizer: Feed with a weak, liquid fertilizer when the stalk emerges and again after flowering. Include a little splash of liquid fertilizer in the water once a month until Fall.
Temperature: Cool winter temperatures help the plant to rest. Of course, cool does not mean cold. Clivea can not tolerate cold temperatures. Standard household temps between 55 - 68 degrees Fahrenheit will do. You may want to set it in a basement window if you keep your house very warm. Remember that it's probably a bit colder near the window than in the rest of the room.
Clean the Plant: Every so often, dust off the leaves with a slightly damp, soft cloth. Inspect for problems, odd spots, or insects at this time.
After the flower blooms, when the blooms fade, cut off the stalk close to the plant.
You can see the small shoots growing in the pot. Dig up the new shoot to grow a new plant. Be careful to keep roots attached. Simply place the shoot in loose, moist soil. Water the newly planted shoot more often than you would water a mature plant. The new Clivea may take a few years to bloom.
In the picture above, you can see a new shoot in the soil. Just behind the larger plant, to the left, is a small Clivea taken off the larger one a year or two ago.