When I first saw the houseplant clivia, I thought it was an amaryllis. It has the same, dark green, strap-like leaves and is also from South Africa. It was brought to England in the 1800s by plant explorer James Bowie. He cultivated plants in Lady Clive’s conservatory in London, hence the common name.
Unlike amaryllis, clivia isn't a bulb and produces clusters of mostly orange or yellow flowers in spring. The best part is 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, though, 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 it's still young. The plants need to be a certain size and age to begin blooming.
The common Clivia minuta flower color is orange, but there are variations. Yellow flowered varieties, such as Fireworks, are available as well as pink, red and other colors. 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 these colorful varieties.