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hello, pretty baby: my yellow clivia blooms

yellow-clivia-detailA PHOTO OF MY YELLOW CLIVIA, which opened up last Friday, graced this week’s A Way to Garden email newsletter, and caught the eye of many subscribers. “Where’d you get it?” “How do you get it to bloom?” And just plain, “Love it!” All of those answers, and more:

(First, a plug for the weekly email newsletter, though, a new A Way to Garden feature that’s delivered every Monday to your inbox if you subscribe. Be sure to get on the list if you want to see such goodies as the yellow Clivia first.)

The plot resumes: The yellow Clivia came to me years ago as a gift when it was little, originally from the wholesaler San Marcos Growers in California, breeders and growers of several yellow varieties. Nurserymen friends of mine had visited San Marcos, and brought me back a baby.

potbound clivia miniataAnother Clivia miniata, the more familiar orange-flowered type, is my oldest houseplant, a creature I have carted along with me through my life from my family home more than 25 years ago. Now in its umpteenth pot (above) and bursting from that one, too, it’s heavier than I can carry, a monster long in need of yet another division. Sorry, baby. Soon.

If I lived in a spot where winters don’t get below the 20s (instead of where they frequently don’t get above that point, as my winter-walk slideshow hints), I could grow Clivia as a landscape plant. It’s hardy to Zone 9, and happy in shade, even dry shade (details on growing it in California can be found in this thorough article). Indoors or out, it offers thick-textured, strappy evergreen leaves and late-winter blooms in remarkably low light, followed by showy fruit that’s red in the case of the orange-flowered standard kind and generally yellow in yellow-flowered forms.

This Amaryllis relative, a native to South Africa, gets to maybe 2 feet tall, and there are varieties whose flowers differ in intensity of color and size, and also whose leaves are wider or less so. Whichever one you get, it asks what many plants from that area do: Let it go dry and cooler in late fall to trigger the late-winter bloom cycle. I simply stop watering for two and a half or even three months, and deliberately grow it in the mudroom, where the temperature shifts noticeably with the season.

As for food, I offer it with a moderate hand, but only from after flowering through the end of summer, never close to or during the rest cycle or leading up to bloom.

Repot after flowering if needed, perhaps once every five years (potbound is fine with Clivia, within reason). And one more detail, particularly helpful if you talk to your plants, and want to call this one by name: The first syllable in Clivia rhymes with hive. Well hello, baby.

Yellow Clivia Sources: