I like flowering houseplants that need little attention. We all know Christmas cactus are one of the easiest plants to grow and mine are already starting to bloom. But if you're up for a challenge, you might want to try Clivia. This native South African amaryllis-family plant was brought to England in the 1800's by plant explorer James Bowie. He cultivated plants in Lady Clive's conservatory in London. Hence the common name.
Clivia produces beautiful, strap-like leaves all year making it attractive even when it's not blooming. If treated properly in fall, it can be induced to produce amazing clusters of orange or yellow flowers in late spring.
Growing clivias is easy. They thrive on neglect. They only need a bright, cool room without direct sunlight. Water only when the soil is dry during the growing season and don't mist the plant. Getting them to flower takes some attention. Come November, let them dry out for three months to induce flowering. Only add a little water if the plant is wilting. Like amaryllis, clivias like being root-bound so don't rush to repot them into a larger pot.
After flowering in spring, cut back the flower stalk and fertilize when watering throughout the summer. Don't be frustrated if your clivia doesn't flower when the plant is young. The plants need to be a certain size and age to begin blooming consistently.
The common Clivia minuta flower color is orange, but there are variations. Yellow-flowered varieties, such as 'Fireworks', are available. However, clivias can be difficult to propagate so these rare colored varieties can cost over $300 a plant. A center for clivia breeding is Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania where they have an annual clivia festival in March to highlight all the beautiful varieties.
Now for this week's tip: place tree wraps around young trees and shrubs to avoid mice, vole and rabbit damage in winter. Place the hardware cloth or plastic wraps an inch below the ground and a few feet high.