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Is my Clivia poisonous to pets?

I have heard this question raised a number of times lately as people become more aware of the dangers of lilies with cats. Many people think of Clivia as a lily, and it is sometimes known as the Bush Lily or Flame Lily. As the owner of a cat and a dog, I was also concerned about this issue, so decided to conduct some research.

Clivia are from the Amaryllidaceae family which is well-known for containing a number of alkaloids including a crystalline alkaloid called lycorine which is toxic to humans and pets. The toxin has an emetic effect, resulting in nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, salivation and diarrhea when only a small quantity is ingested. It is extremely rare for a pet to ingest a large enough quantity to cause life threatening toxicosis as the vomiting symptoms occur quite soon after ingesting parts of the plant. All parts of the Clivia contain lycorine but the highest concentrate is found in the berries and the base.

Many ornamental bulbs including daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and autumn crocus also contain alkaloids that are toxic if eaten. Dogs have been known to dig up and consume newly planted bulbs, particularly if Blood and Bone or a similar fertiliser has been used. In bulbous plants, the concentration of toxins is in the bulb and ingestion of the bulb is more harmful than ingestion of foliage. Interesting is that during World War II in Holland, people ate tulip bulbs as they were starving. Reports are that they ate parts of the bulb, removing the centre part as it is the poisonous section.

The toxicity of Clivia plants is not to be confused with members of the Liliaceae or Hemerocallis family (true lilies) which can cause renal failure in cats. True lilies are very toxic and even consuming less than one leaf, licking the water from a vase, or a small amount of pollen can lead to severe toxicosis and even death in cats.  Cats are unique in their susceptibility to lilies. Dogs who have ingested lilies are known to suffer from minor digestive upsets but not renal failure. Lilies known to cause kidney failure in cats include: (Easter lily) Lilium longiflorum, (Tiger lily) Lilium tigrinum, (Rubrum) Lilium speciosum, (Japanese show lily) Lilium lancifolium (Stargazer lily) Lilium oreintalis, (Daylily) Hemerocallis species.

A number of other family groups have a low toxicity level such as Philodendrons, Calla lilies and Peace lilies. They contain oxalic acid which hurts the mouth and throat, so the pet is not likely to eat large amounts.

If you own cats or dogs, it is advisable to take steps to ensure their safety around plants.

  • Before purchasing indoor plants, research the botanical name and ensure the plant is not harmful to cats or dogs.
  • Do not purchase lilies as cut flowers or bring a pot of flowering lilies into the house if you own a cat.
  • If you wish to use Blood and Bone or Dynamic Lifter in your garden, keep a close watch on the behaviour of your dog. You may have to restrain the dog for a few days.
  • If you become aware of your dog digging in the garden, ensure there are not toxic plants in the immediate area or fence off any plants you are concerned about.
  • If you witness these symptoms from your pet or more serious symptoms such as seizures, paralysis or cardiac arrhythmias, consult a veterinary immediately.

 

The plants listed below are known to be toxic to pets if parts are ingested. This list is not complete and does not state whether the toxic level is low, medium or high risk.

Allium ampeloprasum (Leek) Allium cepa (Onion)

 

Allium sativum (Garlic)

 

Allium schoenoprasum (Chives)

 

Aloe barbadensis, Aloe vera (Aloe Vera)

 

Amaryllis sp. (Belladonna lily)

 

Andromeda Japonica (Lily of the Valley)

 

Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Pine)

 

Asparagus densiflorus cv sprengeri (Asparagus fern, lace fern)

 

Begonia spp. (Begonia)

 

Brunsfelsia spp. (Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow)

 

Buxus sp. (Box hedge)

 

Caladium hortulanum, Alocasia spp. Colocasia esculenta (Elephant’s Ears)

 

Chrysanthemum spp. (Chrysanthemum, Daisy)

 

Citrus aurantifolia (Lime)

 

Citrus limonia (Lemon)

 

Citrus paradisii (Grapefruit)

 

Citrus sinensis (Orange)

 

Clematis sp. (Clematis)

 

Colchium autumnale (autumn crocus)

 

Crassula arborescens, Crassula argentea (Jade plant)

 

Cyclamen spp (Cyclamen)

 

Dahlia spp. (Dahlia)

 

Delphinium spp. (Delphinium)

 

Dianthus caryophyllus (Carnation, Dianthus)

 

Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove)

 

Dracaena fragrans, Dracaena spp. Dracaena marginate, Ipomoea batatas (Dracaena)

 

Dracaena deremensis, tradescantia multiflora (Bridal Veil)

 

Erigeron speciosus (Seaside Daisy)

 

Eucalyptus spp (Eucalytptus)

 

Euphorbia pulcherrima (Pointsietta)

 

Ficus benjamina (Fig)

 

Gardenia jasminoides  (Gardenia)

 

Gladiolus spp. (Gladiola)

 

Gypsophila elegans (Baby’s breath)

 

Helleborus niger (Hellebore)

 

Hemerocallis spp. (Day lily)

 

Hibiscus syriacus (Hibiscus)

 

Hippeastrum spp. (Hippeastrum)

 

Hosta plataginea (Hosta)

 

Hyacinthus orientalis (Hyacinth)

 

Hydrangea arborescens (Hydrangea)

 

Ipomoea spp. (Morning Glory)

 

Iris spp. (Iris)

 

Lantana camara (Lantana)

 

Lathyrus latifolius (Sweet Pea)

 

Laurus nobilis (Bay tree)

 

Lavendula angustifolia (Lavender)

 

Lilumn asiatica (Asiatic lily)

 

Lilium longiflorum (Easter lily)

 

Lilium speciosum (Japanese Show lily)

 

Lilium sp. (Lily)

 

Lilium tigrinum (Tiger lily)

 

Lobelia cardinalis (Lobelia)

 

Lycopersicon spp. (Tomato plant)

 

Malus Sulvestrus (apple seeds including crab apples)

 

Mentha sp. (Mint)

 

Narcissus spp (Daffodil, Jonquil)

 

Nasturtium officinale (Nasturtium)

 

Nerium oleander (Oleander)

 

Origanum vulgare hirtum (Oregano)

 

Paeonis officinalis (Peony)

 

Pelargonium spp. (Geranium)

 

Petroselinum crispum (Parsley)

 

Philodendron oxycardium, Philodendron bipennifolium Philodendron spp .(Philodendron)

 

Phoradendron flavescens, Phoradendron leucarpum (Mistletoe)

 

Portulaca oleracea (Portulaca)

 

Poinciana gillesii, Caesalpinia gilliesii, Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise)

 

Primula vulgaris (Primrose)

 

Prunus armeniaca (seed from plum, prune, peach, cherry)

 

Rheum rhabarbarium (Rhubarb)

 

Rhododendron spp (Azalea)

 

Sansevieria trifasciata (Mother-in-law’s Tongue)

 

Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily)

 

Tulipa spp. (Tulip)

 

wisteria spp.  (Wisteria)

 

Yucca sp. (Yucca)

 

Zamia furfuracea, Cycas spp (Cycads)

 

Zantedeschia aethiopica (Calla lily, Arum lily)

 

 

References

https://www.dirtonmyhands.com/poisonous-plants-to-cats.html
http://aspcapro.org/sites/pro/files/f-vettech_0402_1.pdf
http://www.aspcapro.org/sites/pro/files/h.pdf
http://www.pawsdogdaycare.com/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/clivia-lily

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Raising seedlings

 

After germinating seed, when should the seedlings be potted?

If you germinated seed on top of potting mix in a small pot then there is no need to transplant the seedlings at this stage. They can happily grow together in a community pot until they are about 2 years of age. I have included a photo of some happy seedlings that are about 18 months old.

If you have germinated the seed in a small cell tray, when would you transplant the seedling?

Once the seed has a root growing down into the mix and the root is at least 1 – 2cm long, and there is a green leaf growing upward and the leaf is least 1 – 2cm long then I transplant the seedling. Of course you can wait longer until the seedling is larger but the root has a limited chance to grow downward in a cell tray. If possible, it is better to germinate the seeds on the top of a pot and then there is no need to transplant them. In my case, as I have so many seeds to germinate, I use cell trays so I can place them on heat mats to hurry up the process.

What do you transplant them into?

If I have to transplant baby seedlings, I do this very gently as they are fragile at this stage. I mostly use 50mm native tubes as I can fit 50 tubes in one stand, and I am placing 2 seedlings per tube. Seedlings are quite happy sharing with a friend or if you are planting into a small pot, they are happy in a community pot with a few others. I have included a photo of seedlings in my seedling shade house happily sharing. I also use 100mm pots as community pots.

I pot them into seed raising mix that I make up, though the store bought one is fine. Poke a little hole in the mix and place the seedling root into the hole. Gently firm the mix around the seedling and then fully water so all mix is wet.

Where do I place the pots and how do I look after the seedlings?

Keep the seedlings out of the sun completely. The best place to keep them is in a shaded and sheltered position, preferably on the south side of your house under the eaves, under a verandah, or in the house is good too. When my seedlings are first repotted after germination, it is still winter here in Melbourne. I feel it is too cold for them in the shade house, even though it has a solar weave cover over it. The seedlings have lived their short lives on a heat mat, so I keep the pots in my germination area until spring. Once I feel the temperatures rising and the frosts are over, I take the pots down to the shade house.

Be careful not to place the pots where the seedlings may come into contact with hail, heavy rain or wind. As mentioned, they are a bit fragile at this stage.

Thoroughly water the pots once or twice a week. Seedlings like to be kept very slightly damp but not wet. Wet will kill them. They should not be sitting in water or a saucer of water. The water needs to drain out the bottom of the pot. If you feel they are drying out too much, give them a spray each day with a water spray bottle, or give them a light spray with a hose.

Should I fertilise them?

The seedlings will still have their seed attached for about 6 months and they get nourishment from the seed. Most seed raising mixes have a slow release fertiliser in them so I don’t think it is vitally important to fertilise them in the first 6 months. If I am using a foliar spray fertiliser on plants in the same shade house then I will spray the babies as well.

Once they are 6 months old then it is a good idea to give them a weakened solution of a soluble fertiliser regularly. There are many good fertilisers available but the ones I have used are PowerFeed and Seamungus. In a perfect world, I would use the weakened solution on the seedlings once a month in Spring, Summer and Autumn. Unfortunately I am not disciplined enough with too many seedlings so I make sure they also have Osmocote.

What about Pests and Diseases?

With seedlings, the worst pests are caterpillars, mealy bug and fungus gnats, but you may also experience problems with other pests depending on where you live. A caterpillar can decimate a little seedling overnight. Mealy bugs and Fungus Gnats can cause damage that can result in rot and the seedling ‘falling over’. Prevention is better than cure. Spraying regularly with Eco-oil can go a long way toward prevention. Yellow sticky traps are good for killing fungus gnats.

When do I repot them individually or plant into the garden?

I would not plant the seedlings in the garden until they are about 2 years of age, unless they will be in a well-sheltered position and safe from frost, storms, sun, hail and heavy rain. It also doesn’t hurt to use a small bamboo stake or similar and a soft tie to secure the seedling so there is no movement when you wriggle the seedling. This will help them to grow roots and establish. Make sure they go into a well-drained soil and water them in.

I find the period between baby seedling and 2 year old is a dangerous time to repot seedlings. They do not like to be disturbed and need at least 3 leaves before I would attempt to repot. This is why I do not sell seedlings on my website until they are at least 2 years of age.

If you are planning to keep your plants in pots for the future, you can leave them in the community pot until they are bulging to get out. Although if they are left too long, then there is no goodness left in the seed raising mix and also the roots are limited as to where they can grow.

As I usually use 100mm pots for community pots of 5 – 10 seedlings, when I repot them at 2 years of age, I would most likely pot one seedling per 100mm pot. If some seedlings are still a bit small even though they are 2 years old, then I would keep all the small seedlings in the community pot for a longer period of time and just repot the larger seedlings.

With seedlings, it is better to keep them in a slightly small to snug sized pot than to overpot them.

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Germinating seeds

There are so many different methods of germinating Clivia seeds and I have probably tried most of them over the years. Everything from putting the seeds in a Chinese take-away container with sphagnum moss, placing them in a plastic bag with sphagnum moss to adding a dome or cover on top of the seed tray to create a mini-greenhouse effect. I have even tried leaving the seeds in a glass of water to see if they would germinate at some expert’s suggestion.

There is no right or wrong way of germinating seeds. Some methods work well for some people and the best thing is to stick to what works for you.

What I will outline here is a very simple method that works well and is easily achievable for the layman.

Do I need to wash or soak the seeds when I receive them?

Growers generally wash the seeds when they are peeling them from the berries. In most cases this is with a dish washing liquid that does have some anti-bacterial properties. The seeds should be clean and free of any membrane material or dirt when you receive them. I do wash any seeds I receive from other growers in water with dish washing liquid added. This ensures that I am starting with clean seed as often international seed has been rolled in Sulphur Powder which tends to sting the eyes and taste revolting if it get on your hands and eventually your mouth.

Years ago I used to soak seed for 24 hours in either diluted bleach, Super Thrive or HB101 but at the end of the day, I don’t believe it made any difference to the germination of the seed. As long as the seed is fresh and clean, it does not need to be soaked. I have at times received shrivelled up seed and have soaked it in water to see if it improved the outcome but I think that was wishful thinking.

What is an easy way of germinating Clivia seeds?

Fill a small pot with seed raising mix which is easily available at Bunnings or possibly your supermarket. You can also use potting mix or a number of other types of medium, but I have found seedlings do well in seed raising mix.

Wet the mix thoroughly and place the seeds on the top of the mix. Do not bury the seeds. They are happy sitting on the top. You will notice on each seed there is a small raised bump. This is called the radicle and is where the root will grow out and hopefully downward. Sometimes it is necessary to gently turn the seed over once germination has happened so the root grows down into the mix.

Place the pot in a warm position but not in direct sunlight. Keep a water spray bottle handy and each day give the seeds a little spray. They like to be a little damp but not too wet as this will encourage rot. Germination should happen within a few weeks.

This method allows air flow around the seeds and lessens the chances of fungus, mould and rot.

If you see small flying insects hanging around the pot, spray with Pyrethrum. These could possibly be Fungus Gnats which will harm the health of your sprouting seeds or seedlings.

Do I need to use a heat mat?

Years ago people used to place the seed trays on top of the fridge as they received bottom heat from the old fridges, but I believe new fridges are different now and these days, they are built in to cabinets. Heat mats or bottom heat certainly speeds up the germination process but is not necessary.

I use heat mats which can be purchased online for around $50 each as I have so many seeds to germinate each year that they have to queue up to get on the seed trays. By speeding up the germination process, I can get through the germinating process in half the time it would have taken without heat.

If you are not in a hurry then there is no need to buy a heat mat.

What happens after the seeds have germinated?

After germination a root will grow down into the mix. Sometimes it may be necessary to poke a little hole in the mix with your finger and gently place the root into it if the root is growing sidewards. The roots need to be kept a little damp and not dry out. When they are growing out of the mix, they can dry out easily.

Soon after you will see a small green leaf developing. All going well there is no need to do anything other than keep them a little damp by watering the pot thoroughly once per week. If you think the mix is drying out too fast for the one week watering, then water as often as you think is needed to keep them a little damp but not wet.

Growing Clivia from seed can be a fun and fascinating road of discovery. Each different cross can be so variable and the bad news is, it is an addiction without a cure.

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Photographing Clivia

I am not going to pretend for a moment here that I am a great photographer or even a remotely good one.  I am very pleased with many of the Clivia photographs I take and perhaps that is because I take so many, a few would have to turn out satisfactory. Or, perhaps I have a good eye for what makes a plant look attractive and at its best. I think that is the answer. The most professional photographer in the world may not necessarily photograph your plant to look how you would like it to look.

This article aims to be simple and not get into fancy cameras or settings. I have taken many photos with a simple Nikon camera that has automatic settings, and I have taken some fabulous photos with my iphone6.

When a flower is first opening, it is so tempting to want to photograph it immediately, however the plant will not likely look its best until all the flowers are open. I tend to take a few photos as it is opening and then take more when the flowers are fully open. That way I am covered should something happen and I am not able to photograph the plant when it is fully open. An example is a pink flower that opened this season. I photographed the plant as the one flower opened, and had planned to photograph the entire flower head in a few days. That night it was extremely windy and the pot was blown over, damaging all the flowers. I was pleased I had at least that one photograph.

Before I photograph a plant, I gently wipe all leaves to remove dust or marks. Nothing looks worse than a beautiful flower in a photograph with dusty or dirty leaves. If I will be photographing the pot then I clean that too. Generally I do not photograph pots.

If there is a spike in the pot to hold a previous flower up, or to hold this particular peduncle up, then I will remove it for the photographs.

I turn the pot around to determine the best angle for the flower arrangement. Sometimes what you consider the front of the plant does not photograph as well as the back of the plant where there may be more flowers. It is important for balance so it is a good idea to gently swivel the pot in a full 360 degree turn to work out where the best balance is.

The background for me is always a nightmare. I have bought numerous black cloth from stores and have never been happy with it. Somehow it tends to attract light and shine in places rather than be a matt black. I will keep experimenting and hopefully find the right material. I try to have a neutral type of background, whether that be a black material background, a pale coloured wall, or some other surface which is flat and matt. Photographing a flower with a busy background should be reserved for excellent photographers who are able to blur out the background and focus on just the flowers. I am not one of those.

The lighting is very important. I try very hard to capture the exact colour of the flowers. If I photograph indoors, sometimes the colour tends to look a bit pastel compared to if I photograph outside. Often I will try a few different locations and backgrounds before deciding what works for this particular flower. The time of the day makes a difference with the lighting.

Trying to judge what angle works best with photographing a particular flower takes practice and also just a flair for it. Sometimes positioning the camera low and shooting upward towards the flowers works best, other times shooting at an even level is best and other times, shooting slightly sidewards works best. I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder and everyone sees the flower at its best in a different light.

Photographs that frustrate me and are so often seen on Facebook, websites and forums are the ones where the flower is slightly blurry (or highly blurry) and out of focus, the colour is not correct making the leaves look slightly blue, over exposed photographs and over-done photographs where you can’t believe they are real as they look too sculptured and manicured.

Good photographs are very important for people who wish to sell plants, or sell seeds from those plants, and also to have a good record of your own flowering. It is worth taking some extra time to get the best possible photographs that you possibly can.

An example of good and ordinary photographs taken with a Nikon automatic camera and an iphone6 can be seen on the Clivia Market 2015 flowers Flickr album – flic.kr/s/aHsk895E1N 

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Clivia in Spring

For the Clivia enthusiast, is there ever a more exciting time than spring?

It is interesting that the seasons are so different each year. I remember last year that I had dozens of plants in the house to try to encourage the flower spikes to rise faster than they normally would so I could display the plant at the Clivia Expo. However this year, I worry that many flowers will be past their prime by the time the Expo rolls around and only have 3 plants in my house. The only reason I have these 3 plants in my house where it is warm is because either the flower bud has not developed at all in the past few weeks and appears to be stuck down low, or in one case, it looks like the buds will open while still down between the leaves.

Of course being in pots makes it easy for me to bring them into the house. If they are garden plants then there is not much you can do except keep an eye on any buds that appear stuck down in the leaves or are opening down in the leaves, as rot can set in and damage/kill the plant. I have at times, use clothes pegs to force the leaves open so more air will circulate around the stuck flower. Sprinkling Sulphur Powder down around the stuck buds may assist with eliminating rot, or worst case, you may have to cut the stuck buds or stuck flowers out with a knife, and then sprinkle Sulphur Powder on the open wounds.

Hopefully none of that will happen and you will have tons of stems elongating full of flower buds. I tend to bring all my flowering plants up to the house so I can look at them all the time. I can keep a check on how the stems are elongating, clean the leaves so they will look good for photography after the flowers open, fertilise them, and generally just stare at them and daydream of what the first flowering plants may turn out like.

At this time of the year (early September), I am starting my spraying regime for the year. Although mealy bug is not a huge problem over winter due to the colder environment, small pockets of the little blighters may have survived and will thrive once the warmer weather arrives. I spray all the plants again to hopefully knock them off at this early stage.

My plants have not been watered very often over winter so I have just recently gone through and given them all a good drink. Already I can see that the great majority of plants have new leaves so have started their growing cycle for the year. It is the perfect time to water and fertilise them. My plants have a 12 month slow-release fertiliser in their pot already, but I have gone through and given them a slightly diluted liquid fertiliser, in this case, I used Aquasol.

This is also a good time to look for potential problems. Any plant that does not have new leaves, I have to wonder why. I squeeze the base of the plant to test it is solid. A plant that has rotted through the middle will be spongy when squeezed. A plant that I am sure has rotted through the middle, I will pull off all the leaves, or cut through them with a knife, so the base is left with the roots. If the roots are healthy and there is enough good material left in the base, then eventually this stump may grow offsets. Plants try very hard to survive and will produce offsets when they know they are sick or dying. If I do not think there is rot in the middle and I am sure the roots are ok, and yet the plant has not produced new leaves, I sprinkle Sulphur Powder down between the leaves (just in case), give the plant a good fertilisation and then keep an eye on it to try to diagnose what is wrong.

A few downfalls with bringing a plant into a warm house are that the darker house will result in a more washed out colour on the flower. Even if it is situated in front of a sunny window, I find the flower colour is not completely accurate if the plant has been in a warm house. Also if the flower generally has a green throat or green tips to the petals, this may be reduced by being housed in a warm environment. Green likes the cold.

Enjoy your budding plants as it is a long time until next spring.

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Preparing Clivia for exhibition

This is a timely topic for me considering the Melbourne Clivia Group Expo is only 9 days away as I write this. This is not just for people who wish to exhibit their plants, but even for people who would just like the plants looking their best when visitors come to see them flower. Often we see photographs that people have posted on a forum or Facebook and although the flower may be beautiful, the leaves look dirty, yellowing or generally very untidy. Being a bit of a neat freak, I like my flowering plants to look their optimum whether exhibiting them or not.

It is always preferable for a plant to progress their flower spike and flower outside the house where it is cold and has good lighting. The reason for this is that the colour of the flower will be truer and if there is a green throat to the flower then it will be more prominent. Most years at this particular time of the year, I have to bring many of my plants into the house where it is warm to speed up the flower spike and flowers open, so I can exhibit them at the expo. A warm house is the fastest way of bringing up a spike or getting a flower to open. However, it is important to place the plant near a window or in a location that has good lighting. A common problem with beginners is to place the plant in a slightly dark room or location and the flowers end up looking more of a pastel or lighter colour than they usually would. I made this mistake many years ago and wondered why my pastel was orange the next year when flowering outside.

It is amazing how quickly flowers can open when in a warm house, though with 9 days until the expo and still many green buds, perhaps I left this a bit late. In the right circumstances you can speed the flower spike up by bringing into the house, but then put the plant outside just before the flowers open. If you are not in a hurry to have the flowers then you may have the luxury of leaving the plant outside until the flowers open naturally.

It is important to place something under the pot such as a saucer or even a piece of cardboard as moisture from the pot can find its way out and onto the floor surface ruining your carpet or floor boards.

Around the time that I need to bring the plants in the house, I have a good look at the plant and remove any outer leaves that may be looking a bit worn or unbalance the plant. I wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust or spray residue. I also look for leaves that are broken, yellowed on the ends or have any fungal spots. Using scissors, I trim off the damaged part of the leaf but I shape the end of the leaf to match the rest of the leaf ends. This looks so much better than a straight cut across the leaves.

I also give the plant a good water with a weakened liquid fertiliser or similar to give the flowering a bit of a boost. If the plant is a little crooked in the pot, I may use a small stake to try to straighten the base. Make sure you water the plant once per week if it is in a warm house and heating will dry the pot out faster. Also check for little creepies and crawlies such as Mealy bug, spiders, ear wigs or other nasties.

The day before show day, I clean the outside of the pot with water and a touch of vinegar in the water. This will remove any staining around the drain holes of the pot. If the pot is in really poor condition and won’t come up clean, I place the plant and pot inside a new pot. It needs to be a good tight fit and you would barely realise that it is a pot within a pot.

With cleaning a plant, some people use water with a touch of milk to shine up the leaves. I have tried this but these days I tend to lean towards water with a tad of White Oil in the water. You need to ensure that you do not add too much White Oil or the leaves will look greasy. Just a drop or two into the water will give the leaves a lovely shine without looking oily.

I use a small paintbrush to get at dirt or any other litter that falls down between the leaves. If the top of the potting mix in the pot looks a little old or messy, I lightly top the pot with a new layer. If the flower has a long peduncle and will be travelling by vehicle to a venue, it may be necessary to place a long stake in the pot and gently tie the peduncle to the stake so there is not a lot of movement. It is amazing in a car how much the flower spike shakes around with the normal movement of the vehicle. You can always remove the stake and tie when you arrive at the venue. If you feel the peduncle needs the support then leave the stake and tie. I understand in official shows that this is frowned upon, however for display purposes this is fine.

Plant ready for exhibition.

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Winter care of Clivia

Different seasons require different care of your plants, particularly plants in pots. For most Clivia, winter is a time of a degree of dormancy. There is very little root growth or leaf growth during this time.

Clivia need about 6 weeks of cold weather in order to flower. Often species plants such as Gardenii and interspecifics may be flowering during this time.

Watering

I have heard of growers with plants in pots under cover who do not water at all over winter. I do still water my plants but not as often as I do during the growing season. With plants in pots under cover, I water around every 10 days though I always feel the potting mix to determine how dry it is first. With my plants in pots that do get rained on, I may only water every 2 – 3 weeks depending on how much rain we have had and how dry the mix is.

Clivia planted in the garden probably will not need watering over winter. There will be enough moisture in the ground to keep them happy. If you are in an area of low rain fall, you may need to give them the odd watering.

Repotting and Dividing

You can repot or divide a Clivia any time of the year though winter is not the best time as the plant will take longer to establish due to the low root growth during the cold season.

Fertilising

I don’t fertilise my plants over winter as I want them to go through their dormant period and not be induced to grow.

Pests and diseases

Mealy bug tends to disappear of lessen during winter as they prefer a warm humid environment. Having said that, it is still important to keep an eye out for Mealy bug as well as snails, slugs, earwigs and other creepies.

Other care

As berries are ripening and colouring up, often mice or possums think they look like something that may be good to eat, and try to eat them. Usually you find berries missing and seed scattered around where they have been dropped when deemed inedible. If the berries are important to you as you wish to harvest seed, it may be worth covering the berries with netting to protect them.

Watch for water dripping from trees or bushes in the garden. Normal dripping is fine but sometimes the plant may be in a position where it gets extensive water pouring down on it. This can damage leaves and cause rot.

Also watch for leaves and debris building up in the leaves of your plant. After autumn with all the trees losing their leaves, these can easily catch around the base of the plant as well as in the leaves. These leaves then get soggy with the rain and can cause rot.

Winter is a great time as it means we are closer to flowering season.

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Why won’t my Clivia flower?

This is a question I have heard many times over. It can be frustrating when you have waited and are excited about the flowering season only to find your plant doesn’t flower.

There are so many reasons why a plant does not flower.

Age of the plant

My first question is ‘How old is the plant?’ Often people buy a Cliviaseedling at a market or nursery not realising that it can take around five years to reach flowering size. This comes as a shock to those that thought the plant would be fast growing and flower within two years. Some buyers are told that the plant will flower when it reaches 4 years of age, or when it has 11 leaves. This is only a guide and not necessarily accurate. All plants are different and reach maturity at different times. I have had plants flower at 3 – 4 years of age and yet I have other plants that are now 10 years old and I am still waiting. The species, C. nobilis, is notoriously slow to flower often taking more than 10 years.

Health of the plant

With C. miniata, the flower embryo develops around January/February timeframe and the plant flowers in September. If the plant was stressed or was in bad condition around this time, the flower embryo may not develop. Even if the health of the plant improves after this and looks great in September, it may have missed flowering due to its health at that critical time of development.

Clivia love a good fertilisation regularly. Although Clivia in the garden may flower for many years without being fertilised, the flowers do tend to become more scarce and smaller. A good regular fertilisation will keep the plant healthy and producing flowers each year.

Environmental conditions

Clivia are subject to weather conditions like other plants. They need at least 6 weeks of cold weather to flower. After this cold spell, the warming temperatures prompt the plant to commence flowering. Plants that are kept in pots inside a warm house may miss this cold spell and not flower. Best to put an inside plant out on an outside verandah or cold room for a while. In some countries where it is gets to freezing point over winter, growers keep their plants in a basement or garage where it is cool but not freezing.

Clivia can flower at slightly different times each year depending on if we have had a cold winter or a warmish winter. Although most C. miniataflower in September, some are a little slower and may flower in October or November.

The amount of light seems to also be a factor. I have seen a huge array of lovely healthy plants planted in the ground under a forest of tall trees. They rarely flower and I believe it is because it is too dark for them. ‘Bright shade’ is the best.

Often a first time flowering plant will not flower the second year. Perhaps the energy involved in producing the flower and usually berries as well, exhausts the plant. Some growers will not pollinate a first time flower. Every now and again it seems that even a plant that flowers regularly will take a break.

Potash

Many people swear by using Potash to promote flowering. I have tried Potash for the last few years, just a small amount sprinkled around the plant and then watered in. Knowing the flower embryo develops around January/February, I use the Potash in November/December. I cannot say whether it has worked or not. Some plants have flowered when I didn’t think they would but others that I felt should have flowered, did not. I will keep using the Potash as it can’t do any harm and anything that may help flowers to develop sounds like a good idea to me.

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Stuck flowers

I have seen many people ask questions on various forums regarding plants with flowers stuck down between the leaves and what they can do to get the flower stem to come up. I have also heard of some very weird and wonderful remedies that are ‘guaranteed’ to bring the flowers up.

This can happen to a plant during normal flowering season but I have found it is more common when a plant is flowering out of season. I don’t worry if I can see buds down between the leaves and they seem to take a while to come up. Some plants are just slower than others at elongating the peduncle, however when the flowers start to open when still down firmly between the leaves, then I take action. I have had a number of plants where the stuck flowers have eventually rotted and caused damage to the crown of the plant.

My solution is quite simple. Give the plant a good watering and bring it into the house where it is warm. The warmth in the house brings the peduncle up quite remarkably. The photo on this page shows a plant that has flowered out of season in the shadehouse. The flowers were opening down between the leaves. The second photo shows the flowers one week later after being in a warm house, and yes, my house is very warm. I do like the heater.

Forget about closing the plant in a dark cupboard, giving it all sorts of chemicals, banana peels, or cutting the head off a chicken and dancing naked at midnight. At the end of the day, I have found the warm house works almost every time. I have only had one plant that the flowers did not come up. Later I realised that I had been too late in bringing the plant in. Rot had already started down in the buds and the damage was already done. I had to cut quite a bit of the crown out to save the plant.

Why do some plants have stuck flowers? I don’t really know. As I have mentioned, it does tend to happen when a plant flowers out of season. A plant may flower normally every year and then one year it will have stuck flowers with no real rhyme or reason for it. Some may say a lack of fertiliser, though I can say that is not the case with my plants.

If your plant has stuck flowers and it is in the garden where you cannot bring it into a warm house, I would suggest keeping a close eye on it. Water tends to gather down between the leaves and contribute to the rot. Sometimes I use clothes pegs to hold the leaves apart as then more air can get to the affected area. If you can see that rot is starting or you are concerned about it as the stem has not come up at all, then cut the buds, flowers and stem out. Make sure you sprinkle Sulphur Powder or Mancozeb on the cut areas to help eliminate fungal problems.

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Seed lists

Every year the seed lists seem to come out earlier and earlier. It is almost like a competition to see who can get their list out the fastest. Why does this occur?

When the seed lists come out, we all get a bit excited and order copious amounts of seeds. Then another comes out and we are still excited and order. Gradually by the time the seed is actually ready to harvest, we are all ordered out and have spent too much money so don’t order anymore. The late seed lists miss out. The earlier seed list is the best marketing ploy and attract those in a seed-drought and are ready to order and spend money.

There is nothing wrong with having an early seed list, but potential buyers should be aware that it is easy to fall in love with the beautiful photos of parent plants and the excitement of ordering seed, particularly international seed. Often the description offered by the seller is less than adequate and the two lovely photos we fell in love with may result in a quite ordinary flower five years later. If the expected outcome is not stated, it can’t hurt to ask the seller what they expect from the cross. You may also have to wait for up to 6 months from when you paid for your order for the seeds to arrive.

A few tips with reading seed lists and ordering seeds

  • Early seed lists are generally pre-ordering where the order happens from January and the seeds will not be harvested until June/July (for Australia and South Africa). This is quite common and has its advantages for the seller and buyer. Usually payment is required in advance though some just ask for a deposit.
  • If ordering from overseas, be aware that Australia has certain requirements. Read the blog post on the changes to seed importation so you are aware.
  • Also keep note of the exchange rate if ordering from overseas. From pre-ordering to time of harvest, the cost of the seed may have increased due to the currency fluctuations.
  • Not all seed will germinate for whatever reason, so when ordering, assume that some may not sprout and order enough for this possibility. Some sellers are generous and add a few extra seeds should this happen, but many don’t.
  • If it is an international seed list, check the postage. Most sellers offer reasonable postage rates to send overseas but I have come across a few that offer outrageous postal costs as they include administration costs and handling fees. This can make the seeds end up very expensive. ALSO, recently there have been additional charges in Australia for inspection of seeds.
  • Check the quantity and crosses of seed when they arrive. I have had parcels arrive that have all the wrong seeds (someone else’s order), half the order missing (where I had to pay postage for a second time from overseas) and seed arrive that is brown and mouldy.
  • Be aware that mistakes can happen. Even the most careful of growers may find that a stray bee has pollinated a flower before they had the chance to. I have many seedlings that on the breeding should have had non-pigmented bases and yet they are pigmented and will most likely flower orange. There is always a risk when buying seed.

Buying seeds in a risky business but also an exciting time. They could potentially grow into a beautiful flower and although many plants will flower ordinary, there is the possibility of some outstanding outcomes.