Kwazulu Natal Clivia Club Garden

Clivia in Articulture


The theme of this years Witness Garden Show allows for the imagination to go wild as it provides for the expression of various and diverse art forms to come together. The exhibit focuses on a number of aspects in terms of arts and culture. The obvious art in this case is the creation of a design where Clivias will be displayed in a domestic urban setting. 

Clivias are one of South Africa’s showiest bulbous plants with a rainbow variety of flower and berry colours complimented by rich green foliage. Growing Clivias is an art in itself, breeding the next generation of colourful flowers and waiting in anticipation for approximately 4 years to see whether you achieve the desired outcome.                                                            

The beauty of the flowers and fruit allows for colour in the shady parts of the garden for approximately 6 months of the year depending on the species utilized. Flowers are also utilized in flower arrangements and make for exquisite bouquets and corsages. Many artists have done paintings of these beautiful plants, especially in terms of flower type and colour variations. Photography is a quick and easy way to capture the vibrant flower colour as well as being an excellent tool for record keeping in breeding programmes.

In terms of culture, Clivias are grown in many countries such as USA, Belgium, the Netherlands, China, Japan Australia and New Zealand. This allows growers and collectors to be brought together to share experiences of this beautiful flower bringing about with it, the sharing of many cultures. This flower has the power to create friendships that may develop over the many years of Clivia cultivation. Some of the worlds collectors are more interested in foliage e.g. the Chinese and Japanese whilst with other growers, flowers receive the most attention.

In South Africa, in terms of culture, the subject of biodiversity conservation and education becomes very important taking into account that Clivias are used for medicinal purposes and classified by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) as vulnerable and therefore in need of conservation. However, with the domestication and hybridization of Clivias, it is hoped that the impact on some habitat populations will be lessened. 

In terms of cultural practice and conservation coming together, a habitat collected Clivia was found in the Upper Tongaat area of Ndwedwe in 1995, growing in a pot at the home of Mr. Ngidi, who advised that it was a ‘yellow’ Clivia. The plant was sun damaged and the umbel was bruised and crushed but the color contained pinky markings. On inquiry the plant was given to Mr. Thurston who at the time lived at Westbrook Beach north of Durban. No seed set that year. In 1996 the plant flowered in the base of the leaves and rotted off before the bloom could open. In 1998 it again flowered in the base of the leaves. Taking into account that most Clivias never flowered in Westbrook Beach, in 1999 the plant was sent to a fellow grower in Pietermaritzburg by Mrs. Thurston for a ‘temperature shock’ .Success at last, the flower spike pushed up to beyond the leaves and when in bud the colour of the outer side of the petals was yellow/orangey pink. As the bloom opened and matured it turned a pale-pinky yellow with a blush of darker pink on the upper and under side of the reflexed petals. The bloom has a slight scent and produces a large amount of pollen. The plant was aptly named ‘Ngidi Pink Champagne’, after the original owner of the plant. Breeding commenced making use of harvested pollen on various other Clivias. In December 2001, disaster struck when the plant rotted at the base and nearly died as the rot was in the centre core of the leaves allowing no chance of saving what was left. The small pieces of root stock, about the size of a 5 cent coin, were used to try to resuscitate the plant but sadly this failed. A decision was made to give the biggest piece to Sean Chubb with the plea: “save it, if you can” – Sean having more of a chance up in the cooler area of Eston. Months went by with no news on how the rootstock was doing. Eventually Mrs. Thurston was told that Ngidi had started to send up the tiniest shoot. Over the months to follow Ngidi grew and grew and eventually it looked like there was a good chance of saving the plant. In 2006, with great excitement, the day had arrived! Sean phoned to say that Ndigi was now in bud. The rest is now part of Clivia history – she flowered – was photographed and once again admired by Sean and Val in amazement at what was once a small piece of rootstock and 6 years later was now a flowering size plant able to be used for breeding once more.


Should you be interested or want to be part of this initiative please contact:

Martin Clement at Martin.Clement@durban.gov.za  or Christo Swart swartc5@telkomsa.net