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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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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.