Houseplant Clivia: Tough as Nails, Pretty to Boot

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2010_02_21_blog_cliviaAbout this time every year, I look at my sickly menagerie of houseplants and wonder why I bother. The leaves of my streptocarpus have the crunch of a corn flake, the air roots on my orchids resemble cooked spaghetti and my brugmansia has become a retirement home for spider mites. The citrus trees know if they can hold out one more month, I’ll release them to the great outdoors for the next seven months.

But among this convalescent home for the once verdant is the clivia or kaffir lily as often known. It is so well-suited to the poor light conditions and chill of this old house, that it sits unbothered in a pot, mocking the conditions that otherwise wilt its nearby neighbors.

clivia-kaffir-lily-flowerA native of South Africa, Clivia Miniata was a favorite of Victorian gardeners in England because it thrived indoors unfazed by the less-than-optimal conditions. It truly is a plant that isn’t a light hog and doesn’t seem to mind if you forget to water it now and then. In fact, holding back on watering in the winter encourages it to bloom. The leaves are thick green shiny straps, especially if you dust them (hey, no judgement here). The flowers spring forth on a spike as a welcomed winter smile.  They are slow growers, so be patient if you bring home a small one. Here’s a plant to try if you are a professed brown-thumb gardener.

clivia houseplant
Clivia (Kaffir Lily) thrives on neglect and still blooms like a champ.

Growing guides (Learn more from the experts): Pacific Bulb Society, North American Clivia Society, White Flower Farm, Dave’s Garden forum, Chicago Botanic Garden, SFGate

Where to buy: As exotic as these plants look, they are fairly common, and any nursery with a good indoor plant selection should have them. If you’re looking for fancy varieties (pricier, too) or just can’t find them locally, check out: Logee’s Greenhouses.

What I was blogging about one year ago: Raising Canes: Tulameen Raspberry a Juicy Choice!

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