Collection: Clivia

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.

Clivia Hybridisation

Clivia are typically grown from seed, but seed grown plants do not generally grow true to form and will vary in leaf width, length, flower colour, petal shape, number of flowers per flower head, etc. Breeders can by knowing the genetic backgrounds of the plants being used to breed with produce some siblings that appear like one or both parents. 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 cultivars is a lot more complex today. For example, if you wanted to breed a new clivia with 6 traits - flower colour, petal shape, plant vigour, disease resistance, leaf length and leaf width - 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. Most 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 vigour to name just a few attributes.

Breeding is an ongoing learning experience and expected outcomes can disappoint. For example, if one crosses a group 1 yellow with a group 2 yellow or crosses a green flowering with a group 1 yellow then all the seedlings will flower orange. There are many more examples of this, so it is important when buying seed to get it from someone experienced with breeding and understands the genetic backgrounds of the plants. Nevertheless, it is always exciting to create something special and can be a cost-effective way to producing something special.

Other options include buying seedlings or young plants where potential orange flowering progeny that often dominants outcomes have been removed to reduce the risk of supplying flowering clivia that are not yellow, peach or green. For example, yellow, peach and green flowering young plants have unpigmented bases (generally green in colour) whereas orange, pastel, bronze and red have pigmented (coloured) bases. But other uncertainties still exist, for example, in terms of colour intensity, flower petal shape, number of flowers, leaf length and width, etc. Given these risks, non-flowered plants are less valuable as there remains a higher level of uncertainty that they will not turn out as intended by the breeder.

Flowered plants and offsets enable one to purchase exactly what one wants in a clivia. However, it takes many years to grow plants to flowering and often longer to produce and then separate offsets making these selections more expensive. The advantages are many including knowing exactly what one is getting.

Pine Mountain Clivias

Pine Mountain Nursery has been growing and hybridising clivias for more than two decades. Our early collection was obtained from seed purchased from the Clivia Breeding Plantation in Japan. This was supplemented with seed from China, Europe, South Africa and USA and plants from Australia. Over this period, we have generated a large genetic pool of clivia types, mainly centred around miniata. Today we breed a range of clivia including -

  • · 6 petal flowers, multi-petal flowers and double flowers;
  • · Ghosts, Particolors, Picotees, Versicolor, Watercolors,
  • ·

At Pine Mountain, we grow lots of clivia up to flowering and also grow our best plants in larger containers for offset production. In an endeavour to provide a higher level of certainty, Pine Mountain Nursery offers flowering and flowered plants and offsets from time to time. During the flowering season each year, we will post clivia in flower and known clivia offsets on our website for sale. Unfortunately, many never get there because we also allow customers by appointment to come out and view and purchase flowering clivia through September.

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