Grandma’s Lily

Clivia miniata thrives as a houseplant, even though it’s an outdoor lily in warmer climates. It’s easy to grow, has spectacular blooms in late winter and stays a glossy dark green the rest of the year.

Cluster of three orange lilies with one bud.
Clivia miniata bears flowers in clusters.

The flowers I sent to his funeral included the orange daylilies I asked for.  He was my husband’s friend, the first one I met. He became my friend too.

We couldn’t make it to the service several states away. Child in school, jobs and limited finances made it impossible.

I was hoping to send an earthly message to him that we knew him and always would know him. And I wanted some orange daylilies similar to the flowers on the indoor plants that he’d given us when he moved back home to his family, his town.

‘Grandma’s Lily’ he called it. That was his nickname for the division of a plant his grandmother had given him.

He remembered that I loved it the first time I saw it hanging in a west facing window of his house. Suspended from a simple knotted hanger in a clay pot, its slightly glossy, thick green strappy leaves formed layers to the right and left of center like well-behaved hair parted in the middle, falling to either side.

No flowers at the time, just a healthy green plant. Orange trumpet shaped blooms popped out a few months later, several together on a sturdy stem above the leaves. This calm plant didn’t prepare us for the spectacular show of flowers!

We were happy he gave us two plants as a parting gift when he moved.

Funny how something passed from one person to another can mean so much especially when it becomes a connection to someone no longer alive. Always a remembrance of our friendship, they flower every year at the end of a dreary winter.

They’re even more special now – a bittersweet reminder of the time we learned that our friend died in a car accident only a few weeks after the most prolific blooms we’d ever seen on our plants. The flowers were a happy burst of life – “remember me!” – before the shocking farewell to our friend.

Glossy strap-like leaves cascade over each other.
Glossy strap-like leaves curve over each other.

Features

Clivia miniata is considered a slow growing plant and takes several years to become mature in size. It blooms once it’s mature.

Native to: South Africa

Name refers to: Its common name as a lily – Natal lily, bush lily or fire lily doesn’t mean it is in the Lily family. It’s in the Amaryllis family.

Zones: 9-11

Leaves: Dark green straps curve over one another; approximately 2″ wide and 18″ long.

Blooms: Cluster of trumpet shaped flowers. The most common color is intense orange with a yellow center. There are also plants with blooms from white to peach to red.

Height: 1.5 – 2 feet

Width: 2 – 3 feet

Grows from: Rhizomes – those thick stems that grow horizontally underground.

They store plant nutrients and produce new plants. Stems of a new plant grow out of the ground from the rhizomes’ nodes as do new roots.

Three lily buds.
Buds at the ends of flower stems.

Care

Indoors

  • Sunlight: Bright but avoid direct sun as it may scorch the leaves.
  • Soil: Average potting soil.
  • Water: Test the soil to see if it needs water. Overwatering causes the rhizomes to rot.
  • Fertilize: Feed once or twice in spring with standard fertilizer.
Many lily plants crowded in one pot.
Many lily plants crowded in one pot increases the blooms.
  • Other: Blooms indoors in late winter by keeping it on the dry side through most of the cold season. Definitely water when buds on stems appear. Since older plants bloom be patient with younger, smaller plants.

This plant likes to be crowded in a pot which also increases blooming. Repot only every 3-4 years. Divide for new plants by removing the young plants from the parent plant.

Outdoor

Can summer outside in the colder zones by placing in part or dappled shade. Water well.

Problems/Pests

A warning that all parts of the plant are toxic to people and animals.

Cats that like to chew on strap-like or blade leaf plants should be kept away. You can give cats their own pots of grassy plants to chew through kits available at stores.

Pests include mites and scales.

Seed heads of lilies after flowering.
Seed heads follow the dried out blooms.

Uses

Decorative even without the blooms because of the sturdy, glossy leaves. Flowers can be cut for an arrangement in a vase. Blooms last longer if left on the plant.

We have photos, memories and a large colorful glazed pot he had his brother make for our wedding present. But as a lasting reminder of our friendship it’s nice to have a living gift that flowers every year, popping into our life at the end of a dreary winter – the blooms say he’s still with us.

References

Guide to Houseplants

House Plants Expert

Missouri Botanical Gardens

Copyright Juli Seyfried 2020

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juli

Juli is a writer and serious gardener. She gardens a small yard in an older suburban neighborhood. There is a lot of problem-solving and fun on a small property. She likes to share what she's learned. She learns from others too.

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