Preparing Clivia for Exhibition

This is a timely topic for me considering the Melbourne Clivia Group Expo is only 9 days away as I write this. This is not just for people who wish to exhibit their plants, but even for people who would just like the plants looking their best when visitors come to see them flower. Often we see photographs that people have posted on a forum or Facebook and although the flower may be beautiful, the leaves look dirty, yellowing or generally very untidy. Being a bit of a neat freak, I like my flowering plants to look their optimum whether exhibiting them or not.

It is always preferable for a plant to progress their flower spike and flower outside the house where it is cold and has good lighting. The reason for this is that the colour of the flower will be truer and if there is a green throat to the flower then it will be more prominent. Most years at this particular time of the year, I have to bring many of my plants into the house where it is warm to speed up the flower spike and flowers open, so I can exhibit them at the expo. A warm house is the fastest way of bringing up a spike or getting a flower to open. However, it is important to place the plant near a window or in a location that has good lighting. A common problem with beginners is to place the plant in a slightly dark room or location and the flowers end up looking more of a pastel or lighter colour than they usually would. I made this mistake many years ago and wondered why my pastel was orange the next year when flowering outside.

It is amazing how quickly flowers can open when in a warm house, though with 9 days until the expo and still many green buds, perhaps I left this a bit late. In the right circumstances you can speed the flower spike up by bringing into the house, but then put the plant outside just before the flowers open. If you are not in a hurry to have the flowers then you may have the luxury of leaving the plant outside until the flowers open naturally.

It is important to place something under the pot such as a saucer or even a piece of cardboard as moisture from the pot can find its way out and onto the floor surface ruining your carpet or floor boards.

Around the time that I need to bring the plants in the house, I have a good look at the plant and remove any outer leaves that may be looking a bit worn or unbalance the plant. I wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust or spray residue. I also look for leaves that are broken, yellowed on the ends or have any fungal spots. Using scissors, I trim off the damaged part of the leaf but I shape the end of the leaf to match the rest of the leaf ends. This looks so much better than a straight cut across the leaves.

I also give the plant a good water with a weakened liquid fertiliser or similar to give the flowering a bit of a boost. If the plant is a little crooked in the pot, I may use a small stake to try to straighten the base. Make sure you water the plant once per week if it is in a warm house and heating will dry the pot out faster. Also check for little creepies and crawlies such as Mealy bug, spiders, ear wigs or other nasties.

The day before show day, I clean the outside of the pot with water and a touch of vinegar in the water. This will remove any staining around the drain holes of the pot. If the pot is in really poor condition and won’t come up clean, I place the plant and pot inside a new pot. It needs to be a good tight fit and you would barely realise that it is a pot within a pot.

With cleaning a plant, some people use water with a touch of milk to shine up the leaves. I have tried this but these days I tend to lean towards water with a tad of White Oil in the water. You need to ensure that you do not add too much White Oil or the leaves will look greasy. Just a drop or two into the water will give the leaves a lovely shine without looking oily.

I use a small paintbrush to get at dirt or any other litter that falls down between the leaves. If the top of the potting mix in the pot looks a little old or messy, I lightly top the pot with a new layer. If the flower has a long peduncle and will be travelling by vehicle to a venue, it may be necessary to place a long stake in the pot and gently tie the peduncle to the stake so there is not a lot of movement. It is amazing in a car how much the flower spike shakes around with the normal movement of the vehicle. You can always remove the stake and tie when you arrive at the venue. If you feel the peduncle needs the support then leave the stake and tie. I understand in official shows that this is frowned upon, however for display purposes this is fine.

Plant ready for exhibition.

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 spongey 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.