How to divide a clivia
Clivias are gorgeous indoor plants with great foliage and beautiful flowers, but how do you propagate them? and explain the best technique Steve Val Bradley
INDOOR plants were enjoying a resurgence in popularity before lockdown, but last year sales went through the roof as people who were at home all day began to yearn for contact with nature. Foliage plants, in particular, have become hugely popular, thanks to the vast range of sizes, shapes and textures that mean you can have a whole mini jungle indoors.
The only issue that has been raised, especially with plants that come directly from abroad, is that the pot label sometimes contains very little cultural information other than a few symbols. This means that getting things right can be tricky but, when you succeed, the plants can grow very well indeed.
Interesting foliage and regular flowers
One plant that ticks the ‘interesting foliage’ box and flowers regularly into the bargain is the clivia. Originating from South Africa, it will grow very well indoors away from direct sunlight (which can scorch the leaves), so will enjoy the shadier spots where other plants might struggle. The flower colours range from dark orange though to pale yellow, including a few bicolours, and some have attractive variegated foliage.
Clivias are remarkably tolerant of a little neglect, but do appreciate the leaves being wiped with a soft, damp cloth to remove dust build-up. An established plant often flowers twice a year and, once these blooms fall, you need to remove the seed capsules (unless you want to use them for propagation), but leave the flower stem until it dies down, as it acts like a leaf and manufactures food for the plant.
Propagating by division
Clivias can be propagated by seed (the capsules need to turn orange before you harvest them), but division is more common as they naturally produce offsets (young plants) around the base of the parent. The best time to split these is just after flowering has finished.
As the offsets grow, the plants within the pot can become pot-bound as a result of several root systems growing together, competing for water and food. You can leave them in one pot, but you will need to increase the pot size to accommodate the increased roots and flowering may eventually decrease if they begin to struggle to compete.
Many indoor and outdoor plants can be propagated by division, a process crudely described in some books as “Pulling a plant apart and then repotting the divisions into separate pots with fresh compost.” However, this fails to note the most critical point – each division must have roots and at least one shoot to survive and grow as a new independent plant.
When a clump of plants is divided, it must be done carefully, which means painstakingly removing the soil or compost around the base of the plant and roots so you can see where plants are joined together. You need to decide the best point to separate the tangled plants so you cause the minimum injury to each division as it is removed. Broken roots can provide an entry point for fungal infections.