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.