Clivia (Clivia miniata)
Genus Clivia belongs to Amaryllidaceae family and it is native in South
Africa. C. miniata is native to three regions in South Africa; KwaZulu in
the Natal Province, The Eastern Transvaal in South Africa, and Swaziland.
It was in the 1800’s that the world's attention was drawn towards the
Clivia when specimens were sent to England from KwaZulu in the Natal
Today wild populations of species occur in
relatively small pockets often widely separated from each other. In
reality the genus appears to be in retreat as more of their forest habitat
is cleared for development. Increasing demands for traditional medicines (muti)
have put clivias at risk from over-collecting, as well as the illegal
removal of plants from the wild by enthusiasts.
Clivia gained their current name from the English botanist John
Lindley in 1854. Lindley (1799-1865) was the first Professor of Botany at
London University and one of the most active taxonomists during the first
half of the nineteenth century. He named the plant to honour Lady
Charlotte Florentina Clive, Duchess of Northumberland. She was the
granddaughter of Robert Clive who founded the British Empire in India and
was the first to cultivate and flower the specimen outside its natural
environment. The name ‘Miniata’ is a misnomer, as it doesn't mean
small, it comes from the Latin minium, "red oxide of lead."
Probably no plant rewards more beauty for less care than the
Clivia. A great houseplant because of its meagre requirements for light,
water and fertilizer. They thrive in dappled shade and are best kept moist
through summer in free draining soil - although they will withstand
drought. They look good all the time and produce bunches (umbels) of
wonderful trumpet shaped flowers each flowering season after reaching 3
years of age. These have neither bulbs nor rhizomes, but possess an
abundance of thick rope-like roots that allow it to tolerate root
competition. Clivia generally take at least 3 years to flower.
These plants make ideal pot plants and they love being crowded in
a pot, so leave them undisturbed for many years.
The three species most commonly grown ,in our gardens are C. cauleseens, C.
gardenii and C. miniata. All species of Clivia are evergreen with strap-shaped
leaves, thick fleshy roots that are well equipped for storing water, have
flamboyant coloured flowers and attractive cherry-like fruits. They are sensitive to sunlight and will burn
easily. This exquisite
perennial thrives in dry shade. Its dark glossy foliage and clusters of
clear yellow flowers make it a wonderful specimen in a dark glazed pot.
Frost tender, in cooler climates Clivia are best kept in containers and
moved under cover during winter. Long lasting cut flowers can be taken
from this plant. Snails love to live on this plant as they feed on the
In South Africa, the black Africans of Natal have had for many centuries a
very high regard for Clivias. According to local legend Clivias have
special spiritual healing powers. Whenever villagers are sick, flower or
leaves of Clivias are brought to the bedside of the sick person.
The late 'Old 'Blue Eyes', Frank Sinatra was so enamored by the sight of
Clivias in flower that he had a collection of three acres of them on his
property in California.
In China, Clivias have been the preserve of the powerful and the ruling
classes. Possession of Clivias is a mark of status and position. Recently
when long serving premier Deng Xiao Ping was buried his cask was
surrounded by Clivia plants and flowers.
Á remarkable plant is the extremely rare and highly desirable Clivia miniata
yellow flowering form of the Clivia miniata, which was discovered in the
forests around Eshowe in Zululand, South Africa, in 1888.
Over 100 years later this rare form of Clivia miniata is now available in
seed form for ordering, through the internet, to the world's gardening
Amongst enthusiasts around the world, the yellow flowered Clivia has a
status akin to a black rose or tulip, especially if it is an intense
yellow. Reports here on the internet indicate that established specimens
of Clivia miniata "Citrina" recently change hands for up to
US$500 per plant. While the price of smaller specimens has dropped
significantly, the price of large specimens is still strong.
At one time Clivia miniata were selling for US$1600. An
American mail order company was in the early stages selling it for US$995
blooming size. By the same token, Chinese Clivias especially the best ones
tend to be expensive, about US$25,000 to US$100,000.