Few houseplants can boast blooms as vibrant as the fire lily. After your winter holiday plants like poinsettias and amaryllis have faded, the fire lily fills a gap when the days are short and spring still seems far off. In spite of 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.
|Botanical Name||Clivia miniata|
|Common Name||Fire lily, natal lily, bush lily, flame lily, Kaffir lily|
|Mature Size||Two feet|
|Sun Exposure||Partial sun|
|Soil Type||Average and well-drained|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic; 6.5-7.0|
|Bloom Time||Late winter|
|Flower Color||Orange, yellow, cream, pink|
|Hardiness Zones||USDA zones 10-11|
|Native Area||South Africa|
How to Grow the Fire Lily
Like many South African plants, the fire lily is a tough and resilient specimen. Too much sun or water will cause plant demise; don't kill them with kindness. If you've purchased a fire lily and it won't bloom, it usually due to lack of winter dormancy or immature plants. Fire lilies will grow for years in the same pot with little intervention.
Fire lilies prefer partially shady conditions, which makes them valuable as a houseplant. If you grow your plant indoors all year, place it in a bright window. If you give your plant an outdoor vacation in the summer months, put it in a spot with dappled sunlight or morning sun.
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.
Fire lilies need moderate water. Allow the soil to dry between waterings. When it's time for the early winter dormancy period, stop watering completely.
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. You can achieve this by keeping the plants in an unheated shed or garage in November and December. Plants should be between 40 and 60 degrees F during this time.
A slow-release houseplant fertilizer can help your fire lily thrive. Use a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer from January until August, then use a fertilizer designed to increase blooming in September and October. Do not fertilize in the winter months leading up to bloom time.
Potting and Repotting
Fire lilies are slow growing, and like to be a little bit root bound, 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.
Propagating Fire Lily
You can propagate fire lilies by gently digging and dividing them. The base of the plant will branch off into thick roots that are easy to cut apart. Remove the plant from its pot, and wash away the soil with a hose or sink sprayer. Each division should have one fan of leaves. If your plant doesn't have at least a dozen leaves, it won't flower.
Varieties of Fire Lily
Most fire lilies sold in garden centers are orange, fewer are yellow, and the rare and expensive cream or pink varieties are usually found through specialty nurseries. 'Doris' is dark orange with a yellow throat. 'Jenny' is orange with a yellow stripe. 'Tiny Tim' has shorter leaves and miniature orange blooms with white throats. 'Solomone Yellow' is a bright yellow, while 'Vico Yellow' is a very pale yellow.
Toxicity of Fire Lily
Fire lilies are toxic to people and pets. The toxins are more concentrated in the bulb. The alkaloids can cause severe intestinal distress and cardiac arrhythmias.
No pruning is necessary for the fire lily. You can remove dead foliage as needed to keep the plant tidy.
Being Grown in Containers
Fire lilies will grow happily in a container for years. A porous terra cotta pot will help with air circulation around the roots, preventing rot. Do not place a saucer under the pot, rather you should use pot feet to let extra water drain away.
Growing From Seeds
Growing the fire lily from seed takes patience, as it may take several years for the slow-growing plants to bloom. Plant fresh seed collected from the fruiting capsule after bloom. Press seeds lightly into moist, sandy potting soil, and keep warm. Germination takes about three weeks.
Common Pests and Diseases
Mealy bugs sometimes infest fire lilies. The fuzzy white pests will hide in the crown of the plant and suck out its juices. Dislodge them with a spray of water, or use insect soap.
Fire Lily vs Amaryllis
Fire lilies are in the same plant family as the popular winter holiday gift plant amaryllis (Hippeastrum). Both have the same strappy foliage, and both are from South Africa. The amaryllis has larger flowers, and blooms earlier in the year. The amaryllis has several hundred cultivars, so you can find greater diversity in size, shape, and color within the amaryllis group than you can in the fire lilies.