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Clivia Miniata

Clivia History

Clivia are native to the Republic of South Africa and Swaziland. A pendulous form of Clivia was first discovered by the English naturalist, William J. Burchell in September 1813 in the Eastern Cape.  In 1828 this form of clivia was described as a species by John Lindley of Kew Gardens.  He named it Clivia nobilis after Lady Charlotte Clive, Duchess of Northumberland who was borne into a plant-loving family.  The next to be described was Clivia miniata in 1854 by Sir William Hooker (miniata meaning the colour of red lead).

In 1856 Sir William Hooker named plants sent by Major Robert Jones Garden to the Royal Botanical Gardens as Clivia gardenii (gardenii refers to Major Garden). In 1943 the fourth legitimate species of the genus Clivia was named as Clivia caulescens (caulescens refers to the fact that it tends to grow on an elongated stem or trunk in the wild) by Dr RA Dyer.  Almost sixty years later Clivia mirabilis was described and named in 2001 by Dr John Rourke, curator of the Compton Herbarium at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (mirabilis is translated as astonishing; miraculous; to be wondered at). In 2004, the plant known up to then as Swamp Clivia, was found to be a species in its own right, and it was named Clivia robusta.

The first introduction of Clivia into Australia occurred in 1844 when JC Bidwill, an early director of the Sydney Botanical Gardens, brought some Clivia nobilis on board the Arachne to Sydney. More introductions followed in subsequent years and today Clivia are very popular in Australia. The similarity between the Australian and South African climate makes it possible for Clivia growers to grow plants in shade houses or in shady spots in the garden. Hence, the plants are a favourite of landscapers and gardeners alike.

Each year visitors to our annual display days in September are able to purchase clivia in a range of flower colours, petal and foliage forms. We also sell clivia via this mail order service. 

Clivia generally flower when they have 12 to 14 leaves. This usually occurs in 3 to 4 years. However, there are some exceptions:

                  the "old" Aurea (yellow) cultivars; 

                  multipetal flowering clivia;  

                  peaches based on Aurea;

                  reds; and 

                  variegated types.   

They grow well outdoors in a cool to temperate frost free climate.  Plant in the shade or part shade on mass for best flowering results.  They prefer being planted in a well drained soil.  Keep relatively dry in Winter and increase water in Spring and Summer. 

Clivia Hybridisation

Clivia hybridise relatively easy and it is possible to produce some new outstanding colour variations. Hybridisation has been rapidly occuring over the past decade or so and a greater understanding about how to breed for certain flower colours and types is improving. Unfortunately with some new cultivars there remains very little understanding about how to breed to replicate desirable traits. This is because of the genetic backgrounds of these new cultvars is a lot more complex today.  For example, if you wanted to breed a new clivia with 6 traits - flower colour, petal shape, plant vigor, disease restance, leaf length and leaf wdith - the probability of doing that is the same as winning lotto!

Unlike many plants that can be cost effectively propagated by micropropagation, micropropagation of clivia remains a challenge in terms of limited quantities that can be produced and its associated cost.  The majority of plants available in the market today are seed grown and just like children, seed grown clivia can all end up different in terms of flower shapes, flower colour, leaf lengths, leaf widths, plant height and vigor to name just a few attributes. Clivia readily send out offsets and offsets from good quality clivia can be purchased from time to time.  These can be very expensive to purchase as demand for them often exceeds supply. Seed grown clivia provide an inexpensive way to build a clivia collection but with the disadvantage that until the plants flower it is not possible to determine with a high level of confidence the outcome. In an endeavour to provide a higher level of certainty, Pine Mountain Nursery offers flowered plants from time to time through this website and also each September via clivia open days.