Speckled and freckled and striped and stippled, the intricately patterned petals of the Alstroemeria flower are a wonder to behold. Don't be fooled by their delicate appearance, they are one of the worlds' most popular cut flowers, these lily-like flowers are as long lasting as they are gorgeous.
Alstroemerias, or Lilies of Peru, are long-lived perennials with deep, thick roots. In very cold weather they go dormant and in warm areas are almost evergreen. They are hardy to around -5 to -10°C (14 to 23°F). The plants have a distinctive root system that resembles dahlias. It consists of a slender rhizome or group of rhizomes (the 'crown'). Storage roots consist of sausage-like water storing structures suspended from the rhizome by major roots.
These beautifully marked perennials, bloom most of the spring and summer in shades of pink, rose, salmon and other delicate shades. They grow two to three feet tall on strong, branched stems. Each trumpet-shaped flower is 3 to 5cm (1 to 2in) in diameter. The flowers have a sweet fragrance of mignonette.
Sowing: Sow in February to July.
Seeds need a period of cold-warm-cold to germinate. The easiest way is to plant it in autumn and expose the seeds to natural temperature fluctuations. However one can imitate the seasons by using the following method: Sow seeds 6mm (¼ in) deep, in trays or pots of good seed compost and cover with a thick layer vermiculite. After sowing, place in a propagator or seal in a polythene bag and place in a warm place. Maintain an optimum temperature of 20 to 25°C (70 to 75°F) for 3 weeks. Then place in a cold place or refrigerator at 5°C (40°F) for 3 weeks. After this place back in the warmth of around 70°F (20°C). Germination 30 days.
Transplant seedlings into 7.5cm (3in) pots when large enough to handle. Take care not to damage the roots which are fleshy and brittle. They are somewhat intolerant of root disturbance but seedlings can be transplanted if they are moved whilst small. Acclimatise young plants to outdoor conditions before planting out in full sun 30cm (12in) apart. Enrich soil with compost and manure. The roots must be well below the surface of the soil. Grown from seed, few blooms in the first year, but from the second year on, the amount and quality of the flowers improves with each passing year.
Choose a sunny, sheltered position with a good well drained soil and where they won’t be disturbed. Too much shade will give plants that are tall with weak stems. In areas with very hot summers, plant in shade. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure. Alstroemerias are hardy, but may need some protection in the coldest of winters. If the soil is not well drained, or if you live in a very cold climate, grow them in pots in well-drained soil. Store the pots indoors in a moderately cool but not freezing place for winter, and set them outside again in spring after the danger of frost passes.
Alstroemerias enjoy a good level of fertiliser and plenty of regular watering. Keep feeding and watering the plants all during their growing season. Mulch to protect from severe winter weather. If plants go too dry the foliage will turn yellow. Cut the plant down to 10 to 20cm (4 to 8in), start taking care and usually your plant will regrow again.
The roots are hardy to a temperature of minus 5°C (23°F). The plant requires at least six hours of morning sunlight, regular water, and well-drained soil.
Division in April or October with care. Ensure each portion has a growth bud. Alstroemerias have two kinds of growth. The first growth to appear is a kind of ‘support growth’. It doesn’t make flowers and is shorter and thinner than the flower stems which come up later. If you have too much support growth, thin it out by pulling them up. If you look carefully at a plant that has flowers you will see that the flower stems are taller, thicker, have more space between the nodes (where leaves come out) and of course they have flowers.
Alstroemerias are invaluable cut flowers; long lasting and exceedingly versatile, in terms of both colour and form. Always a perfect colour highlight for seasonal vase arrangements, they also serve as lovely line flowers in contemporary arrangements, and–in a short-stemmed cluster–as vivid focal areas. It is important to pick the flowers. Either pull the flower stem straight up or cut it off. Growers use both methods. Stripping the foliage is often advisable, since it will yellow long before the flowers fade. Alstroemerias are ethylene-sensitive flowers.
Some people are sensitive to this plant and skin contact with the sap can cause them to get dermatitis. Care should be exercised when handling cut stems.
Alstroemeria is a genus in the family Alstroemeriaceae. The plants are native to South America although some have become naturalised in the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Madeira and the Canary Islands.
Almost all of the species are restricted to one of two distinct centres of diversity, one in central Chile, the other in eastern Brazil. Species of Alstroemeria from Chile are winter-growing plants while those of Brazil are summer-growing. All are long-lived perennials except A. graminea, a diminutive annual from the Atacama Desert of Chile.
The genus is named for famous botanist Claus von Alstroemer (1736 to 1794), who in 1753 sent the seeds to Linnaeus from Spain where it had been introduced.
The species name Ligtu is the Chilean vernacular name for this plant.
Many hybrids and at least 190 cultivars have been developed, featuring many different markings and colours, including white, yellow, orange, apricot, pink, red, purple, and lavender. The most popular and showy hybrids commonly grown today result from crosses between species from Chile (winter-growing) with species from Brazil (summer-growing). This strategy has overcome the florists' problem of seasonal dormancy and resulted in plants that are evergreen, or nearly so, and flower for most of the year. This breeding work derives mainly from trials that began in the United States in the 1980s. The flower, which resembles a miniature lily, is very popular for bouquets and flower arrangements in the commercial cut flower trade. Most cultivars available for the home garden will bloom in the late spring and early summer.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 25 Seeds Family Alstroemeriaceae Genus Alstroemeria Species Ligtu Hybrids Common Name Peruvian Lily Other Common Names St Martins Flower, Chilean Lily, Inca Lily, Lily of the Incas Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to minus 5°C (23°F) Flowers Mixed colours in a wide range of shades - pink, rose, salmon, yellow Natural Flower Time Late spring, throughout summer. Foliage Mid-green lance-shaped Height 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in)