Growing Kaffir Lilies

By J.W. Carpenter , last updated September 9, 2011

The Kaffir Lily (Clivia miniata), sometimes known as the Bush lily, is a showy flowering plant native to South Africa. Though referred to as lilies, these plants are not actually members of the true lily genus, Lilium. The Kaffir Lily is a slow developing plant and can take up to five years or more to reach flowering size when propagated from seed. They can also be propagated from offshoots of a mature plant, but this method still requires two years of development before flowering begins. Kaffir Lilies can be grown outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 and 10, but they are typically kept in containers indoors where they will do wonderfully in virtually any climate.

Description

Kaffir Lilies grow to about two feet in height at maturity. They feature wide, leathery, strap-like leaves reaching about 18 inches in length. Glossy and dark green, the leaves grow up from a center base and fan out gracefully to the sides. Later in winter, flowering stalks begin to emerge from the center of the plant. By late February or March, clusters of large trumpet-shaped flowers are borne above the foliage on the mature stalks. The lightly fragrant blooms are available in a range of colors, from nearly white on to yellow, orange, and red.

Obtaining a Kaffir Lily

Potted Kaffir Lilies can be found at some full service home and garden stores and specialty plant shops. They can also be ordered online. Kaffir Lilies are well known for being on the expensive end of the houseplant scale. Prices generally depend on the size of the plant and the flower color. The larger the plant, the earlier that flowering can be expected to begin. While mature Kaffir Lilies with rare flower colors can fetch prices of more than $1,000, many fine options are available at $50 and below. A small immature specimen requiring at least several years of growth to reach flowering size can often be had for around $10.

You can also grow Kaffir Lily from seed if you don’t mind waiting five years for your first bloom. To germinate Kaffir Lily seeds, plant them one-quarter inch deep in a seed-starter mix. Maintain consistent moisture and a temperature around 70 or 75 degrees. When they emerge from the soil after a few weeks, give them eight hours of bright light per day. Once a seedling has developed two or three leaves, it can be repotted in a 2.5 inch pot.

Plant Care

Potted Kaffir Lilies should be watered regularly through much of the year; allow the soil to dry out somewhat between watering. A monthly application of an all-purpose fertilizer is recommended. Kaffir Lilies prefer nice bright sunlight, but can cope with somewhat shady conditions.

Kaffir Lilies flower best when they are slightly root-bound in their pots. However, you will need to eventually repot your plant. Experts recommend repotting every three years. Do so later in spring after the plant’s blooms have faded.

Flowering

Kaffir Lilies need a rest period each year prior to flowering. Around early November until late January, stop fertilizing your plant and only give enough water to prevent foliage wilting. For best flowering results, it will need nighttime temperatures in the forties. At the end of January, begin watering and fertilizing the plant again. Flowering will follow a month later.

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