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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.

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Cultivation basics for the garden

CLIVIA CULTIVATION BASICS FOR THE GARDEN

Clivia are happy in the garden in a well-lit shaded position. They can tolerate morning sun or filtered light but will burn in full sun. Planting them in a very dark area of the garden may result in a lack of flowering as they need light in order to produce flowers. Often people plant them under a deciduous tree and this is fine provided they do not get too much sun when the tree is bare, or are exposed to frost. Clivia do not handle frost and will end up with damaged leaves or worse.

Planting

They can be planted any time of the year but best to avoid extreme days where frost is expected, storms or very high temperatures. Plants from Clivia Market have been grown in shade houses that are not heated so there is no need for them to acclimatise. Very young seedlings can be fragile and are best kept in a pot until at least 2 years of age (around 5 leaves). It is recommended that seedlings in particular are staked to help them to establish. A bamboo stake and soft ties are easy to remove in the future when the plant is established. This can be determined by gently rocking the base of the plant. If there is movement, then the plant has not established yet. If the plant feels like it is not moving, then the stake and tie can be removed.

Soil and watering

Clivia need a well-drained medium where the water will drain away from the roots of the plant. Sitting in wet or soggy soil will result in root rot and the plant ‘falling over’. Clivia are better kept on the dry side than too wet. Adding coarse orchid mix to the soil around the plant when planting can help to prevent the plant sitting in wet soil.

Always water the Clivia in when first planted (Seasol is a good tonic for newly planted Clivia). Once established, Clivia in the garden barely need any water. They can survive easily on the natural rain fall. In summer they will benefit from weekly watering if there is insufficient rain. Younger seedlings may require more regular watering than mature plants. If the plants are in an under-cover area, they may need the occasional water over winter and weekly water over summer.

Fertilising

Clivia love being fertilised and will produce darker green leaves and better flowerings when fertilised. It also assists them in fighting off diseases or pests when they are strong and healthy. A slow-release fertiliser is recommended such as Osmocote. The occasional drink from a watering can of a diluted liquid fertiliser, such as Thrive, Charlie Carp etc. also helps. The only fertiliser I would not use on a mature plant is one very high in nitrogen as it will promote leaf growth rather than flowering.

Pests and diseases

The biggest enemy of the Clivia gardener is the mealy bug. They will strike whether the plant is in the garden or a pot. Often the damage is done before they are discovered. These pests are small white bugs with a tail and can be seen on the underside of leaves or in-between leaves along with white cotton-wool looking material. The mealy bugs bite into the leaves and fungus can then get into where the leaves have been bitten. Damage can be extensive if left untreated and possibly result in the plant dying. Mealy bug can be treated with Eco-oil and Eco-neem by diluting to the stated ratio and spraying with small or large spray bottle, depending on the amount of Clivia you have. Always spray under the leaves, between the leaves and around the soil at the base of the plant. You will need to spray again in 2 weeks. A good rule of thumb is to spray plants in warmer months as a preventative measure.

Snails and slugs like to eat leaves and particularly like to eat the flowers. I have not had a problem at my property with snails but have seen slugs occasionally in the shade houses. I have used an old treatment of a plastic container (Chinese take-away) with good size holes drilled into the sides. This is filled with beer and I have had success with slugs drowning in the beer. Obviously this would not work for snails unless the holes were much bigger perhaps.

I also occasionally see ear-wigs between the leaves that bite into the leaves and cause damage. The treatment for mealy bug (Eco-oil, Eco-neem) will take care of the ear-wigs as well.

Rot

Other Clivia problems include crown rot and root rot. Root rot as mentioned earlier, is usually caused by the plant sitting in a soggy medium and not draining well. Symptoms of root rot include yellowing leaves, plant leaning, plant loose in the ground and plant falling over. The treatment is to take the plant out of the ground, remove all soft and rotted material from the roots and base, even if it means there are no roots left. Cover the base and roots with Sulphur Powder or Mancozeb (both available at Bunnings). Do not plant the Clivia back into the same soil. Remove the affected soil as there most likely will be rotted roots and fungal spores in the position where the plant was. If you can, place the plant in a different location or a pot for a while. If you must use the same position, remove affected soil and place some coarse orchid bark in the position to help keep the plant from becoming soggy. The plant will need to be staked until roots establish and kept as dry as possible.

Crown rot is when rot develops on the top of the plant between the leaves. This can be caused by bug damage or water damage from a tree above. All affected leaves need to be removed and all soft and rotted material needs to be cut off the plant. Sulphur Powder or Mancozeb should be applied to the affected area. Mancozeb can be made into a paste with a little bit of water and painted on with a small brush. The plant needs to be kept dry if possible. Depending on how far the rot penetrated the crown of the plant, it is possible that new offsets may develop all around the plant and the mother plant may cease to grow again. This is not the end of the world. One plant may suddenly become six plants. You just have to be patient and realise it may not look as good for a while.

Flowering

Generally, Clivia will flower around 5 years of age with around 12+ leaves. Miniata flower in Spring (September) but may flower out of season now and again. A flower spike develops down between the leaves around July/August and may become damaged if hit by heavy rains or hail. The flowers will be open for a few weeks and may be pollinated by bees or other insects. If pollinated, berries will form that are green until they are ripe around June/July. When ripe, orange flowers will have red berries, yellow flowers will have yellow berries and peach flowers will have peach berries.

Reasons for plant not flowering:

  • Plant is too young
  • Plant was under stress at the time the flower embryo should form (January- – February)
  • Plant is in a location that is too dark
  • Plant is not healthy (has rot, insect infestation, needs water or fertiliser)
  • Plant produced many flower heads and berries the year before and is recovering
  • Plant did not get cold enough over winter. Clivia need 6 weeks of cold temperatures in order to flower in Spring. Plants kept in pots in the house may not flower if kept warm over winter
  • Sometimes we cannot determine a reason.