Bush lily (Clivia miniata, Natal lily)

Bush lily, Clivia, Clivia Lily, Flame Lily, Kaffir Lily, Natal lily, September Lily

Few houseplants boast blooms as vibrant as the fire lily (Clivia miniata). Despite its exotic appearance, the fire lily is easy to grow as a houseplant, producing large clusters of blooms in the dry environment of the typical home. This tropical perennial from South Africa is also grown as an outdoor landscape plant in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11, where it is often mass-planted in large drifts, much the way daylilies are used. Planting outdoors can be done at any time other than during the hottest part of summer.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Clivia miniata, the Natal lily or bush lily, fire lily is a species of flowering plant in the genus Clivia of the family Amaryllidaceae, native to woodland habitats in South Africa (Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces) and Eswatini. It is also widely cultivated as an ornamental.

Clivia miniata has a fleshy, mostly underground stem (rhizome) to 2 cm (1 in) in diameter, with numerous fleshy roots. The stem produces long, arching, strap-like leaves growing to about 45 cm (18 in) long, arranged in two opposing rows (distichous). The showy, funnel-shaped flowers are produced in an umbel-shaped inflorescence, colored red, orange or yellow, sometimes with a faint, but very sweet perfume. The fruit is a bright-red spherical berry to 5 cm (2 in) in diameter, producing one to a few seeds.

It is sometimes known in cultivation as “Kaffir lily” (a term considered extremely offensive in South Africa). The same derogatory name is also applied to the genus Hesperantha (formerly Schizostylis).

It contains small amounts of lycorine, making it poisonous.

The genus Clivia, was named after the Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Charlotte Clive, who first cultivated the plant in England and provided the flowers for the type specimen. The Latin specific epithet miniata means “cinnabar”, the color of red lead, referring to the flowers.

In cooler or temperate regions, C. miniata is normally cultivated as a houseplant. Within US hardiness zones 9–11, or anywhere where frost is not a threat, it may be grown outdoors, year-round, provided the average temperature is between 5 °C (41 °F) to 29 °C (84 °F). Like its relative, C. nobilis, it has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, along with the variety C. miniata var. citrina (confirmed 2017). In warmer sites, it is frequently seen in public installations and is used in shaded landscapes for its attractive, evergreen foliage and showy sprays of flowers. This clump-forming plant spreads via rhizomes, and is naturally well-suited for tranquil, protected spaces.

II. How to Grow and Care


Fire lilies prefer partially shady conditions, which makes them valuable as a houseplant. If you grow your plant indoors year-round, place it in a bright window. If you give your plant an outdoor location in the summer months, put it in a spot with dappled sunlight or morning sun.

Temperature and Humidity

Average room temperatures and low humidity help fire lilies look their best. A cool dormancy period increases the beauty of fire lily flowering. Keep the plants in an unheated shed or garage in November and December (see details under Overwintering).

If moving fire lilies back and forth between indoors and an outdoor location, it’s best to acclimate them slowly if the temperature range is substantial. Make sure to bring them back indoors before the first fall frost.


The soil should be watered often during the spring and summer months but only seldom during the fall and winter months. Do not allow water to pool in the tops of the leaves because this will promote mould growth. They thrive in cool, dry shades and produce more flowers as a result.

If you overwater your plants, the roots will rot. Put your pots on pot feet instead of a saucer. Plants thrive in terracotta containers because the material can absorb excess water. Fall is the time to cut back on watering, and watering should be stopped altogether throughout the winter. At the end of winter, when flower stalks emerge, you can restart watering. Do not mist-spray the leaves.


Good drainage is important to a healthy fire lily plant. A chunky soil mix full of shredded bark, like those used for orchids, is suitable for a container-grown plant. A sandy cactus mix is also a good choice.


Once a Clivia plant has stopped flowering, which typically occurs in early summer, feed it monthly with a balanced indoor plant food diluted to one-half the recommended strength. Never fertilize during the plant’s winter rest period of four to six weeks. After the plant has rested, treat it with a potassium-rich fertilizer to enhance flowering.


The only pruning measures required for Clivia miniata are to cut off the infructescence after flowering and – a little later – remove the dead shafts.


  • Raising Clivia miniata from seeds

Big, bright red or yellow berries appear in early spring when flowering begins to wind down, depending on the variety. At that time, you can harvest the berries and peel away the flesh covering of the seeds before planting.

Press the seeds into a seed-raising mix or fine pine bark without burying them and apply a light fungicide solution. Seeds need about a month to germinate before they can be transplanted into larger containers.

You can also let the berries dry out on the plant until their skins wrinkle and the flesh becomes papery. Seeds should be washed in a fungicide and planted right away to prevent drying out.

It can take anywhere from three to five years to see it mature into a blooming plant. You should store it in a dark, well-ventilated, and relatively warm area. Fertilise once every two weeks and water deeply once a week during the spring and summer. 

  • Propagation through offsets

Utilize the offsets that arise from the tangled roots for propagation. Carefully separate each offset at the place where it connects to the parent plant. Employ a lengthy, sharp knife. The optimal time to remove an offset is soon after the last blooms of the season have fallen, but not until the offsets have at least three leaves that are 20-25cm (8-10 inches) long. 

Plant it in an 8-12 cm (3-5 inch) container containing a mixture of equal parts peat moss and gritty sand or perlite, and maintain it in medium light and warmth. Water it sparingly, just enough to moisten the potting mixture, but allow the top two-thirds to dry out between waterings. When roots develop on the surface of the potting mix, transfer the baby plant to a soil-based potting mix in a container one size larger and treat it as an adult Clivia miniata. It will typically bloom approximately one year after being separated from its parent plant.

Potting and Repotting 

Fire lilies will grow happily in a container for years and flower even if the pot is tiny compared to the plant size. A porous terra-cotta pot helps with air circulation around the roots, preventing rot. Do not place a saucer under the pot; instead, use pot feet to let extra water drain away.

Fire lilies are slow-growing and like to be a little bit rootbound, so you won’t need to repot them often. However, if the soil mix you used is getting compacted over time, give the fire lily a fresh pot of soil to maintain good aeration.


When grown as houseplants, fire lilies require a rest period of two to three months in the fall and winter. For at least five weeks, adjust the temperature to 35 and 55 degrees F. After this, water just barely for six to eight weeks. When new flower stalks appear, increase the water and gradually acclimate them to room temperatures above 60 degrees F.

Pests and Diseases

  • If your Clivia doesn’t bloom, that means that they have not got cold rest for the mandatory three months. The plant has to be indoors in winter too. Note that a Clivia Miniata plant has to be at least 3 years old before it starts to bloom.
  • Snails and slugs consume vegetation, young growth, buds, and flowers. Remove them, destroy them, or place sharp things on top of your soil.
  • The larvae of fungus gnats feed on young roots and transport fungal spores. Yellow sticky card traps are used to entice grownups, likewise with white flies and thrips.
  • The black-and-yellow amaryllis caterpillar has a voracious appetite for greens. Pick them off and dispose of them, or apply an organic insecticide.
  • In warm, humid circumstances, mealybugs, aphids, scales, and mites thrive and feed on the critical sap juices of your plants. Wash with soapy water or dab with cotton swabs coated with alcohol.

III. Uses and Benefits 

  • Ornamental uses

Clivias miniata is used for landscape designs, decorative purposes, and to dress up walls, fences, gates, and hedges.

They are also beneficial for the environment (cleaner air), insect nutrition (bugs), and soil preservation (less erosion).

  • Medicinal uses

Clivia miniata is effective in the treatment of pain, as well as uterine stimulation, muscle stimulation, fever, pneumonia, acute bronchitis and influenza. It is also used as an antidote for snake bites and augment labor.

Bush lily (Clivia miniata, Natal lily) Details

Common name Bush lily, Clivia, Clivia Lily, Flame Lily, Kaffir Lily, Natal lily, September Lily
Botanical name Clivia miniata
Plant type Houseplant
Hardiness zone 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
Growth rate Slow
Height 1 ft. 6 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
Width 1 ft. 6 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
Soil condition Loam (Silt)
Flower color Gold/Yellow
Leaf color Green