Clivia miniata 'Sir John Thouron'

Sir John Thouron Natal Lily

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The cultivar 'Sir John Thouron' is valued for its showy, pale yellow flowers that form a ball-shaped umbrella well above its dark-green leaves. The flowers are small versions of amaryllis blossoms, clustered atop a thick, fleshy stalk. It was only eight years ago that White Flower Farms offered 36 plants for $950 each; all were sold out to a movie star, a fashion designer, and several collectors. (The cost has dropped since then.)

Clivia is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family. Unlike most amaryllis, however, Clivia does not form bulbs; instead the plants have large, fleshy, white-and-yellow roots. Their deep-green leaves are two-ranked—arising from the soil directly opposite one another in an alternating sequence. Because the leaves arch directly above one another, a mature plant develops a symmetrical, fan-shaped silhouette that provides a perfect foil for its masses of trumpet-shaped flowers.

Native to damp woodlands in southern Africa, the plant has a habitat that ranges from subtropical coastal forests to ravines in high-altitude forests, where they thrive in dappled shade and in well-drained, humus-rich soil. In their native habitat, the plants are often found in large colonies. Unfortunately, many colonies of Clivia have been destroyed by harvesting for traditional medicine; the plants are extremely toxic to people and pets but are used medicinally for various purposes.

The world's love affair with Clivia began in 1854, when specimens were sent back to England from Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. The plant was named after the Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Charlotte Clive, who first cultivated and flowered the specimen in England. To many collectors, this cultivar has become the plant world's Holy Grail. Originally discovered in the forests of Zululand in 1888, bush lilies make spectacular indoor plants, due to their tolerance of low light levels and the need for little to no water during the winter. They grow to a height of about 18 to 24 inches and emit a faint but very sweet perfume. Relatively easy to grow, they need a six- to eight-week rest period in the winter. During this rest period, plants should be kept at 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit and be allowed to dry out. When a flower stalk begins to emerge in late winter, increase watering and move the plant to a warmer area. After the danger of frost has passed,  plants can be placed outdoors in a shaded location. The soil should be kept uniformly moist; fertilize every two weeks in spring and summer. Move the plant back indoors in fall. The plant is one of those rare plants that actually blooms best if slightly pot-bound, but its roots are perennial. The plant resents root disturbance (which usually displays as a skipped flowering cycle). Re-pot carefully in all-purpose potting soil only when roots can be seen at the surface of the soil, usually about every three years.

Plant Shape
Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade
Bloom Time
January - February, March - April
Bloom Color
Landscape Use
Bedding or Border, Specimen Plant
Wildlife Interest
Attracts Birds, Attracts Butterflies
Plant Type
Hardiness Zone
9 - 10