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Friday, 11 September 2015

Growing Clivias from seed

Clivia miniata
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Common names: Bush lily (English); Boslelie (Afrikaans)

My Clivias have grown so beautifully in the last couple of years that I've become interested in growing them from seed to try and expand my collection. From the original three plants, I now have ten. They've been clumping nicely and I will also try lifting some to transplant to another area in the garden.

The world's love affair with South Africa's Clivia began in the 1800's when specimens were sent back to England from Kwazulu-Natal. In Victorian times this beautiful plant was very popular for indoor use in England and Europe. The discovery of the yellow flowered Clivia miniata (C. miniata var. citrina) in the late 1800's fuelled an interest which still persists today.

Part of the fascination has been with the breeding of Clivia, both between the four species (C. nobilis, C. gardenii, C. caulescens, C. miniata ) and between forms and colours within the species. Breeders select for specific traits in each generation which produces pronounced qualities such as huge, broad petalled flowers, red, yellow or apricot coloration, broad leaves, fan shaped leaf arrangement, variegation, dwarfism and many others. Internationally, the most advanced breeding of Cliiva is happening in the Far East, most notably Japan.

Clivia miniata is a clump forming perennial with dark green, strap shaped leaves which arise from a fleshy underground stem. The flowering heads of brilliant orange (rarely yellow), trumpet shaped flowers appear mainly in spring (August to November) but also sporadically at other times of the year. The deep green shiny leaves are a perfect foil for the masses of orange flowers.

Clivias are endemic to Southern Africa, meaning that they do not occur naturally anywhere else in the world! The wild bush lily grows in the forests of Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Swaziland. The habitat may vary from subtropical coastal forest to ravines in high altitude forest. The bush lily grows in dappled shade, often in large colonies. The soil is well drained and humus rich. Occasionally they may be found growing in the fork of a tree.

Sadly, in many areas, colonies of wild bush lilies have been destroyed by harvesting for traditional medicine and also by plant collectors. The rhizomes are reportedly extremely toxic but are used medicinally for various purposes.

I have at last picked my fruit, which now seemed ready for harvesting and extracted some seeds from the soft pulp inside

Harvesting Seed
Pick the fruit as soon as it starts to change colour or when it turns soft. Open it carefully and remove all the soft pulp as well as the loose fitting membranes that keep the Clivia seeds together. This is quite a messy job and one's fingers can get quite slippery, so keep a cloth at hand to often wipe your hands. Clean the seeds properly and wash the seeds with an anti-fungal solution or a weak solution of dishwashing liquid. I used the dishwashing liquid.

Germinating Seeds
If the Clivia seed have not yet sprouted, put a teaspoon full of damp compost in a sealed plastic bag with a few seeds. Place the bag in a warm place or on top of your fridge, near the back where the warm air rises, to speed up sprouting.

Alternatively, place clean damp (not wet) coarse sand (river sand is ideal) in a plastic container. I opted for this method, but I used some potting soil, no river sand at hand, as I cannot seem to see that the seeds will be OK in a plastic bag!, although I did take a few and put them in a bag with a bit of damp soil to see what happens. and I covered my container with some plastic as I did not have a lid for it.

Press seeds 50% into sand making sure that the eye (small dark round spot on seeds where germination will take place) are facing to the side. Don't plant the seed under the soil surface.

Close the lid and place in warm spot for 1 to 3 weeks until the seed has germinated. Do not water again.

When the seeds have sprouted
Take a pot or seed tray, about 15cm deep and put a layer of small stones or coarse bark chips in the bottom. Fill the container with a slightly acid growing medium, such as equal parts of coarse river sand and finely milled bark or a potting mix available at nurseries. (Clivias are not very fussy).

Firmly press down the mix and water well. Then make small holes, at least 2cm apart, to take the little taproots. Gently press each seed into the medium so that half the seed rests below the surface. Handle the seeds very gently.

Place the pot in a shaded position and keep moist by watering once or twice a week with a fine gentle spray.

Seedlings can be left in the pot for up to two years and at the beginning of the third year can be transplanted into permanent pots (especially the yellow ones) or into the garden. Alternatively they can be moved into well-drained individual black bags or pots after one year, in fresh growing medium adding a small quantity of bone meal. (Use one teaspoonful on each 15cm pot). Miniata, Gardenii, Robusta and Caulescens seedlings should flower at three to four years old with slightly longer for the yellow varieties. In pots Clivias prefer a well drained, slightly acidic potting mix such as composted pine bark. If grown in the garden they grow in virtually any soil type with varying degree of success, provided that they are not over watered.

How to identify the Yellow seedlings
When the first leaf of the seedlings is about 2cm tall, you will be able to identify the yellow seedlings by looking at the stem. The stems that are green and show no colouring will produce yellow flowers. Mark these seedlings at this stage. This also applies to genuine peach seedlings.

On the other hand, if the stem has a purplish colour, you know the plant will not produce yellow or peach seedlings, but will be pastel, orange or red flowers. This purplish colour disappears when the seedlings are about two to three years old.

Remember that Clivia do not like direct sun, so they MUST be planted in full shade or dappled sunlight. They flower better in lighter shade. A little early morning sun is acceptable.
Keep your “collector’s quality” plants in pots, which will allow you to move them around easily, they could be brought indoors for display or to show off when in full flower or displayed at a show.

This is what I'd like to aim for eventually, a large bed of just Clivias!


(Some of the growing from seed information from CliviaPE)


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