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St. John’s Lily
A grandiose, herbaceous perennial, not a true bulb, that sends up long, lustrously dark green evergreen leaves from a petite subterranean corm. The corm is often enclosed by a multitude of bulky, fleshy roots. From in amongst the foliage emerges a stout stalk upon which rests a most beautiful head of several opulent, coral orange, trumpet-shaped flowers with flaring petals that form an arresting contrast to the lush green leaves and are succeeded by pearly, corpulent, vivid crimson berries. It is endemic to southern Africa but has been cultivated and hybridised across the world for over a century. This stunning perennial has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. The genus Clivia is supposedly named after Lady Charlotte Florentia Clive (1787 – 1866), Duchess of Northumberland and governess of the future Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who was the first person to cultivate a specimen in England.
Amaryllidaceae (The Amaryllis family)
These plants are entirely endemic to southern Africa and parts of Swaziland, where they can be found growing in the dappled shade of semi-calid forests and woodland, both coastal and inland.
Sometimes they also occur in littoral bush and in forested, high altitude gorges, where specimens gave been observed growing in forks of trees.
Found from the Eastern Cape to Natal, Mpumalanga and parts of Swaziland.
The plant produces several broadly ligulate leaves (300 – 500 x 50 – 90 mm), with narrowly pointed tips that emanate from a fleshy, stout subterranean stem that consists of a compact rhizome.
Only on very mature plants does this become visible above ground.
The leaves are a deep, lustrous emerald green, hairless, and tend to intersect at their bases, forming several overlapping layers.
Each plant sends up a stout, thickly fleshy flower stem (250 – 500 mm), that is often carried slightly off-centre.
This stem supports a beautifully rounded umbel/inflorescence that bears between 10 & 20 trumpet-shaped, vivid apricot-orange to reddish-orange flowers (45 – 70 mm diameter), with broadly spreading tepal lobes.
August – October but may be produced sporadically dependant on conditions and location.
The fruits are fleshy bright orange to red berries (15 – 20 mm diameter) that have a nacreous sheen.
Once ripened, they often remain on the plant until the next flowering season commences.
40 – 100 cm.
50 – 90 cm.
Several alkaloids have been isolated from different parts of the plant and these compounds contribute to both its toxicity and medicinal properties.
Different preparations of this plant, often containing leaves, roots and parts of the corm, have been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.
It is said to make an effective anodyne and is also used to treat snakebites and fever.
Concoctions have been used as muscle stimulants and are also reported to assist with parturition.
This plant is carried on the person as a protective charm.
The flowers make excellent, long-lasting cut flowers for the vase.
C.miniata contains toxic alkaloids and its use is not encouraged as it can pose serious health hazards if consumed in high quantities.
Paralysis and severe gastric complaints are only some of the complications ingestion of this plant may cause.
Clivia is also highly attractive to garden pests and should regularly be inspected for signs of infestation.
Overwatering causes disease in this plant and may result in complete root rot identified by a distinct putrid smell.
Make sure the soil is fast-draining.
The flowers attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, as well as a host of insects.
The insects may lure insectivorous bird species to the garden.
Mole rats are known to devour the bulbs.
These lovely evergreen plants are an excellent choice for planting under the shade of large trees or shady areas of the garden where other plants may struggle.
They add a charming tropical woodland atmosphere to the garden and are sure way of brightening up otherwise bland shady areas.
They have a natural tendency to form dense colonies if left undisturbed (which they prefer to be) and make marvellous, easy to care for, lush groundcovers that are relatively water-wise once established.
The Bush Lily makes a bold yet elegant statement and is a good choice for mass planting or as a focal feature.
When in flower, the vivid orange flowers form a striking contrast to the dark green foliage.
It also makes a beautiful, low-maintenance pot plant that can be placed on a shady patio will flower even in pots relatively small to its size.
These Clivia’s also have a long lifespan, are easy to cultivate and maintain and make great indoor plants.
The Bush Lily is rather frost sensitive and should be grown indoors in areas where the temperature drops below 8°C in winter.
It is easily damaged by frosts, especially if these are accompanied by cold winds.
The damaged foliage will regrow afterwards, but it takes a long time.
Plant in a sheltered position in cold areas and cover the soil with a dry mulch, which will act as insulation.
Once established, this is a water-wise species as it can store some moisture in its fleshy roots.
A slow grower, especially if grown from seed.
It may take up to 4 years or more for it to reach maturity.
Prefers a shady position.
In full sunlight, the leaves burn easily, but in very deep shade it may struggle to produce flowers.
Plant in a position where it receives very light, dappled sunlight for a few hours, but is protected from the harsh midday sun.
Early mornings or late afternoon sun is ideal.
Soil, Water & Special Care
In their natural home, they often grow in dense colonies in rather shallow, gritty or sandy soil among rocks or in the wake of large trees.
Clivia’s generally develop in amongst thick, mulchy leaf litter and send out their roots in a somewhat horizontal manner, rather than down into the deep soil.
They therefore do not like very deep soils and need room for their roots system to spread out.
They require a porous and light, fast-draining soil such as sand or loam.
If the soil is very peaty, some sand can be added to assist with drainage.
They do not grow well in clayish, water-retentive soils.
To ensure prolific flowering and lush foliage production, a slow-release fertiliser, bone meal or organic compost can be supplied once in the beginning of spring or summer every year when they are most actively growing.
C.miniata prefers to be kept moist, especially in the warmer months.
On very hot and dry days more water can be given.
Although it likes near constant moisture, it loathes being waterlogged and the roots will quickly suffer from overwatering.
Once to twice per week should be sufficient, but rainfall will also influence the amount of water needed.
In winter, little to no extra water need be given.
When flower stems begin to develop towards the end of winter, gradually increase the quantity and frequency of watering.
The Bush Lily can be reproduced either by seed or by removing the offsets that develop in the tangles of fleshy roots.
The seeds must be removed from their pods and planted immediately while they are still fresh and after removal of the fleshy, germination inhibiting pulp.
Sow the seeds into a highly porous mixture of washed river sand/grit and compost (2:1).
Place the seeds gently on the growing medium and press them slightly down, but do not cover them with additional soil.
Keep the trays in a well-lit and temperate area and keep the soil moist but not too wet.
Inspect the soil regularly for signs of fungus or mildew as this is detrimental to the seedlings and should be removed.
A post-emergence fungicide may be used.
Germination will typically occur within 6 weeks, but the seedlings should be kept in their respective containers for at least two growing seasons before replanting.
If growing from offsets, it is best to remove these during winter, with a clean cutting utensil and taking care to not disturb the other roots too much.
Take care to separate each offset prudently at the point where it meets the parent plant.
After removal, the offsets should be planted into their new homes using a similar growing medium and should not be given any water for at least 3-4 days to give them time to dry and callous over.
Every 3-4 years, or when the roots start to over-fill the pot, Clivia’s that are in pots require repotting into bigger containers.
When repotting, it is recommended that room be left in the pot (30 – 60 mm between the pot rim and soil surface) to adequate allow room for root expansion.
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Clivia miniata (sometimes known as Bush Lily) is a species of clivia from South Africa. It grows to a height of about 16 inches in the shade of trees and shrubs. Flowers are red orange or yellow with a faint but very sweet perfume. It is also sometimes known as Kaffir Lily”.Clivia miniata is a clump forming perennial with dark green strap shaped leaves which arise from a fleshy underground stem. The flowering heads of brilliant colored trumpet shaped flowers appear mainly in spring but also sporadically at other times of the year. The deep green shiny leaves are a perfect backdrop for the masses of orange flowers.Clivia are endemic to South Africa. They do not occur naturally anywhere else in the world. Southern California is a perfect place for them because the climates are so similar. Their wild habitat may vary from subtropical coastal forest to ravines in high altitude forests. Clivia grows in dappled shade often in large colonies in the wild. The soil however is well drained and humus rich. Occasionally clivia may be found growing in the fork of a tree.