Clivia gardenii Hook.
Common names: Major Garden's clivia, Natal drooping clivia (English); boslelie (Afrikaans); umayime (Zulu)
Clivia gardenii is a subtle and delicately pretty sister to the well known Clivia miniata (Bush Lily), which has been in cultivation for many years.
Like all Clivia, C. gardenii grows in the shade of forests and is a clump-forming perennial plant which, although slow growing, can attain a great age. The clumps reach up to 60 cm in height. Flowering occurs in autumn, from April until June. Bright red fleshy berries follow the flowers and are eaten by birds.
Where Clivia miniata has a head of trumpet-shaped flowers, Clivia gardenii has slender, tubular flowers which hang downwards in the inflorescence. The flowers are orange in colour, the petals tipped with green. There are two other species of Clivia which have similar pendulous flowers, C. nobilis (Eastern Cape Clivia) and C. caulescens (growing predominately in Mpumalanga and Northern Province).
Distribution and habitat
There are four species of Clivia in total and all occur naturally only in South Africa, although they are cultivated widely throughout the world.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Clivia is named after the Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Charlotte Clive, who first cultivated and flowered the type specimen in England. The specific name gardenii is after Major Robert Garden, who was stationed in KwaZulu Natal as a soldier between 1848 - 1853.
Clivia are the subject of many breeding programs which produce spectacular colours and forms.
Some Clivia species are used traditionally for the treatment of childbirth complications and also snakebite. However, there are findings that the chemical constituents in Clivia rhizomes (the parts used) are dangerous and should be avoided for medicinal purposes.
Sadly its popularity as a medicinal plant and the fact that the rhizome is removed for use has led to the demise of natural Clivia populations in many areas.
Growing Clivia gardenii
Originating mostly from KwaZulu-Natal, C. gardenii makes a beautiful addition to the shady garden. It is apparently able to tolerate fairly dry conditions, as the roots are fleshy and have water storage capabilities. This makes it a wonderful waterwise garden plant. It is also an excellent pot specimen that requires a well drained humus-rich potting medium.
If planted in very deep shade, flowering may be adversely affected. Clivia also do not thrive in sunny conditions, becoming yellow and stunted. They should be planted in a shady position with plenty of compost and bone-meal added to the soil.
Propagation may be through division or by seed. Clumps can be split up in late winter and replanted or bagged. Seed should be cleaned as soon as it is harvested. The fleshy pulp is peeled off revealing the large, pearly seed within. The seeds should be sown immediately in a deep seed-tray with seedling mix. The large seeds can be pressed gently into the seedling mix until they are flush with the surface and then covered lightly with sieved mix. If the seedling mix is too tightly packed in the tray, the young root will not be able to penetrate it and will lift the seedling right out of the soil. The medium should not be allowed to dry out and since germination is relatively slow, the seed trays should be monitored for signs of algal or fungal growth on the surface.
PLEASE NOTE that Clivia belong to the family Amaryllidaceae of which many species are poisonous and it is advisable to wash your hands after handling the plants.
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Perennial
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal
Soil type: Loam
Flowering season: Late Summer, Winter
Flower colour: Orange
Gardening skill: Average