Fertilising Clivia

Clivia love fertiliser. Fertilising your plant will result in darker green leaves, more growth, a better root system and better flowers. I have often seen plants in need of a good fertilising and the leaves have taken on a more lime green colour. Nothing looks better than a healthy plant with dark green leaves and new leaves developing.

I use a slow release fertiliser that lasts for 12 months on my plants. A small amount is mixed throughout the potting medium and a handful is sprinkled around the top of the pot. I also give my plants a liquid fertiliser once per month. These are plants in pots. Plants in the garden would also benefit from a slow release fertiliser and the occasional watering can of liquid fertiliser.

The following fertilisers are the most popular ones used at present. There are many more good fertilisers not listed here but I have not had experience with the others.

Seasol

Seasol is not a fertiliser. It is more of a tonic. I find it great to give to a stressed plant or when I have just repotted a plant. I use it on plants that seem to have a problem or have dried out too much. It is reported to be good for root growth. I use it diluted in water and watering it in with a watering can.

Aquasol (No longer available)

I find Aquasol a great liquid fertiliser. I give it to my mature plants and a diluted version to my seedlings. I sometimes use it as a foliar spray and sometimes in a watering can.

Charlie Carp

Charlie Carp is a very smelly liquid fertiliser. I have heard some experts say that it is not as good as others such as Aquasol due to the carp living in fresh water and not sea water. I have used Charlie Carp extensively and find it great, however be aware you will need a shower afterwards. I also like the thought that we are helping to get rid of the carp in our rivers.

Thrive

Thrive is also a great fertiliser. I find that it is great for the growth of the leaves and not so much for inducing flowering. I use it at times on my seedlings.

Osmocote

I love Osmocote but to buy it in the quantity I need, it is too expensive. There is a similar product available called Multicote which has the same properties as Osmocote and is a great slow release fertiliser. The one I use lasts for 12 months.

Powerfeed

This product is made by the same company as Seasol. I use this on my young seedlings as I find it is not too strong and encourages growth. I use this as a foliar spray.

Seamungus

This product I also use on seedlings. It comes in a pellet form or a crumble form. I find this not too strong and very good for the young plants.

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.

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 Clivia seedling 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. miniata flower 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.

Germinating clivia seeds

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 where the radicle 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.

Clivia colours and crosses

Colours with Clivia and breeding for colour has always been a controversial topic and continues to be. Many can’t even agree on the same terminology for colours, and there are many opinions on what the outcome of certain colour combinations will be. These notes are based on my own observations and notes from fellow growers. We will not delve into the scientific reasons for colours or in-depth genetic possibilities. I have also not gone into great details regarding green-throats, white-throats, picotee, splash, bi-colours and a few others. Time for that in another post.

Orange

Orange is the dominant colour in Clivia and most crosses involving an orange parent will result in orange offspring. With crossing an orange with a yellow there are three potential outcomes:

  1. All offspring will be orange.
  2. If the orange parent had a yellow parent, then approximately 25% of the offspring will be yellow and the remainder will be orange.
  3. There is also a possibility of the yellow diluting the orange to a certain degree and result in some pastels.

A pigmented based seedling will most likely flower orange or a shade of orange.

Group 1 Yellow

In my experience, breeding a yellow with a yellow will always result in yellow offspring. I have heard discussions from several growers who say that yellow crossed with yellow can breed orange until there have been seven generations of pure yellow breeding, but there is also the possibility that any pigmented based seedlings are the result of stray pollen.

A non-pigmented based seedling of yellow breeding will flower yellow. See also Group 2 Yellow.

Pastel

Pastel is a colour that can have a wide range of possibilities, with anything from a light pinkish colour and apricot through to salmon and a darker pink. They are all a form of orange dilution and many pastels are a result of crossing with a yellow. Crossing a pastel with another pastel can result in orange offspring, possibly pastels and often yellows if the pastels have a yellow gene each. Likewise crossing a pastel to a yellow can result in orange, pastel and yellow offspring.

No one can guarantee a young seedling will flower pastel as it is too variable. If the seedling has a pigmented base then the flower colour may be pastel, or could well be orange.

Peach

There are two types of peaches that behave differently with breeding so to simplify it, I will call this one the African peach and the other, the European peach. The African peach is the more common of the two in the general gardening population and less expensive.

This peach has a non-pigmented base as a seedling. The flower colour can vary from a very pale, almost yellow peach through to a dark, rich peach colour. Breeding peach to peach should result in peach, however, if both of the peach parents have a yellow gene then there is a 25% chance of the offspring flowering yellow. Peach is dominant over yellow so many peaches have been crossed with yellow to improve the flower shape and form. This means that there are a lot of peaches out in the gardening world that have a yellow gene.

European Peach

The European peach is different to the African peach in many ways. It may have a pigmented or non-pigmented base as a seedling though I would worry if I saw a very dark pigment as I would expect the plant to flower orange. It demonstrates ‘bleeding’ on the petals if there is any damage to the flower. Often the flower is more of a tulip or cup shape than the African peach. It is NOT compatible with a yellow plant and will breed 100% orange offspring if crossed with a yellow. It is also not compatible with the African peach and will produce orange offspring. Crossing a European peach to another European peach should ensure the offspring are all European peaches. Having said that, I have had plants flower orange that were supposed to be European peach. As the seed came from other sources, it is possible that stray pollen was involved.

Group 2 Yellow

A Group 2 Yellow plant behaves differently to a Group 1 Yellow. The most common yellow seen in Australia is the Group 1 yellow.

The Group 2 Yellow bleeds on the petals if they are damaged and is only compatible with other Group 2 Yellow plants. This includes the very green flowers like ‘Hirao’ which appears to be green but is still classed as a Group 2 Yellow.

A Group 2 Yellow seedling will have a non-pigmented base.

Ghost

A Ghost can be a wide range of colours and exhibits patches on its petals that have a ghosting or watercolour effect. A Ghost can also be known as a parti-colour or water-colour. There are cases where a ghost has resulted unexpectedly from crossing an orange or pastel to a yellow.

Many ghosts carry a yellow gene so there is a possibility of yellow offspring if selfing a ghost, crossing with another ghost, or breeding to a yellow. No one can guarantee a seedling will flower with ghosting characteristics.

Red

Officially there is no such thing as a red Clivia. All Clivia referred to as red are actually dark orange. Many dark orange flowers appear to look red as the flower ages. Some flowers do actually open with what appears to be red flowers though they are very dark orange.

White

There are no white Clivia flowers. Yellow can have a wide range of depth to the colour. Some yellow flowers are a deep buttercup yellow and there are many that are a very light cream colour with all hues in between.

Bronze

A bronze can be a very dark orange/brownish colour and always with a degree of green in the throat or on the outside of the petals. The dark orange with green gives the bronze colouring. Breeding a bronze to a bronze does not necessarily mean the offspring will be bronze. We hope for bronze but also realise that a percentage may be orange.

There have been some lovely flowers that are the result of crossing colours. Bronze is often crossed with a Group 2 Yellow and there are many lovely bronze offspring from this cross. If the bronze has a Group 2 Yellow gene then there is also the possibility of a percentage of Group 2 Yellow progeny. Pastel has been crossed with a Group 2 Yellow and produced some lovely pastels with green throats.

Be careful if buying for colour. It is best to buy a plant that has already flowered or an offset from a plant as you know you are getting what you want. A seedling is always a risk. I have seen more than one large mail-order organisation guarantee a seedling will flower pastel, or red or ghost. As Clivia can take around five years to flower, it is a long time to wait and find out your plant is an orange. I have also seen Clivia advertised as ‘red’ or ‘white’ which is misleading and seedlings advertised as peach pastel. As peach and pastel are two very different colour types, one with a pigmented base and one without, then I have to wonder what these seedlings actually are.

It depends on the breeding aim as to what to cross with what. It is nice to have an outstanding coloured flower but the flower shape and form is more important.