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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.