Alstroemerias – How to Grow & Care For The Peruvian Lily
To get the most flowers from your alstroemerias, be sure to keep it well-watered and in a position with plenty of sunshine. It is drought-tolerant but won’t produce as well if left dry.
|Common Names||Peruvian lily, Lily of the Incas, Parrot lily|
|Height||Up to 3 feet|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people and pets|
|Light||Full sun to partial shade|
|Watering||Moist well-draining soil|
There are over 200 varieties of Peruvian lilies available, so fans of the flower will have plenty of choices. Popular varieties include the following.
This is one of the taller varieties of Peruvian lily and is commonly seen in traditional gardens. It produces startling yellow and white flowers in abundance from June until November.
This is another tall variety, which features stunning flowers in various shades of patterned pink. It is particularly popular in cut flower bouquets.
Alstroemeria inticancha ‘Dark Purple’
This is a dwarf variety that will grow to around 8 inches in height, making it perfect for use in a container or as a border plant. The flowers of this variety are a deep rich purple that brings a feeling of drama to the garden.
Alstroemeria ‘Princess Mathilde’
This variety grows to a maximum height of 14 inches, making it suitable for a container garden or as a bedding plant. It produces an abundance of large peach flowers with deep red freckles. It has a compact habit and is particularly attractive to butterflies.
This variety of Peruvian lily doesn’t bloom for as long as most, with a flowering period of a few weeks from mid to late summer. However, the attraction of this variety is that it is very hardy, making it suitable for growing in areas where Peruvian lilies are typically not able to survive. It produces a mass of small golden-yellow flowers, which often feature dark speckled patterns. It is slow-growing and spreads to form a bush at the height of around 3 feet (Gardenia).
Caring for Your Alstroemerias
Peruvian lilies are grown from tuberous roots, rather than bulbs, and are best planted in the ground after being grown in containers. Bare root tubers have lower success rates, though if you do try to grow Peruvian lilies from these tubers, be sure to soak them for 24 hours before planting.
The tubers should be planted in spring after the last frost has passed, with the pointed side facing upward, at a depth of around 8 inches. Set the tubers quite far apart from each other, ideally a minimum of 20 inches apart. This allows adequate space for the plant to grow and spread out because once it has been planted, you shouldn’t try to move it.
The roots do not respond well to being disturbed, so it is important to ensure you provide the plant with enough growing room that it won’t need to be moved in the future.
Plants grown in containers can be planted at any time during summer, but the roots need a chance to establish themselves properly before the first frost arrives, so the earlier in the season you plant the Peruvian lily, the better. Before planting, set the container in a shallow tray of water to allow the roots and tubers to absorb some moisture. Meanwhile, dig a hole to around 10 inches deep and add in sand or grit if you need to improve the drainage quality of the soil.
Peruvian lilies require well-draining soil as they are thirsty plants which like to be kept in consistently moist soil; however, they dislike wet or soggy soil. Well-draining soil will ensure the correct balance of moisture, helping to prevent root rot.
Sit the root ball into your hole so that the plant sits at the same level in the soil as it was in its container, and fill around the roots with rich fertile soil. Water the plant heavily and press down on the soil to remove any air pockets. Ideally, the soil should be neutral or mildly acidic.
When young, this plant will need to be kept moist. If the soil is allowed to dry out, the result will be a lack of flower production. For the first two years of the plant’s life, ensure the soil is kept moist but not wet. Once mature, the plant is drought-tolerant; however, Peruvian lilies that have been kept in moist conditions will flower more freely.
Mulching the soil around the plant is recommended to help the soil retain moisture. The mulch will help to prevent water from evaporating from the soil, and it also helps to keep the tubers protected from the heat during summer months, ensuring they stay cool. Mulch should be replaced periodically, as some will blow away while the remainder decomposes. Mulch will also help to increase the quality of the soil, and encourage a longer blooming period.
Peruvian lilies should ideally be grown in full sun, but they will tolerate partial shade. For the best flowering results, you will need to ensure the plant receives a minimum of 6 hours of sun each day. For plants in partial shade, the ideal scenario would be for them to be in full sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. This is because the tubers do not like to get too hot, so being sheltered from the sun during the hottest part of the day will help to protect the roots of the plant.
Peruvian lilies are native to South America, though despite what their common name suggests, they are not primarily found in Peru. Their main homes are in eastern Brazil and central Chile. They are therefore accustomed to high temperatures and will thrive in warmth. In the US, they are hardy through USDA zones 7 to 9.
Young plants will need extra care in their first few winters. Cut the plants back in fall and mulch them over to protect them from frost and low temperatures. The mulch should be removed in spring. Once the plant is at least two years old, it should be hardy enough to survive winters without any extra help, though mulching the soil is always a good idea to offer some insulation for the roots against freezing.
Peruvian lilies do not require any pruning, though spent flowers should be deadheaded. Unlike many flowers, which are deadheaded by pulling off the flower from the top of the stem, Peruvian lily flowers should be removed at ground level.
In their first year, cut the spent flowers off at the base of their stems. However, in the following years, you should remove them by pulling the stem. The plant responds to this damage by sending out new flowering stems. For this reason, if you wish to make a bouquet out of Peruvian lilies, you should pull them rather than cut them, to encourage more new growth on the plant (Royal Horticultural Society).
Some varieties of Peruvian lilies can be propagated from seed. They are best sown in spring and will typically take 2 to 3 years before they begin flowering.
A more common method of propagation for this plant is division. Peruvian lilies are known for having sensitive root systems that do not respond well to disturbance, but they can be divided with success every two years with care. To divide your plant, dig up the root system and separate one plant into two by carefully pulling apart the roots. This is best done in April, and the plants should be replanted immediately.
Peruvian lilies can be grown in containers, especially the dwarf varieties, which are the ideal size for this. Container plants will need extra watering during the summer as the soil will typically dry out quicker than those planted in the ground. The pots can be kept outside during summer months and brought inside for winter, or alternatively, they could live in a greenhouse all year round.
Peruvian lilies grown in a greenhouse will benefit from a longer blooming period, but they may also grow taller than expected and become top-heavy, causing the pot to fall over. Those grown in pots will need to be re-potted every two years to ensure adequate growing space, though take extra care as the roots do not like to be disturbed.
The stunning flowers in a wide range of colors, along with a long blooming period, is the reason why this plant is so popular. The dramatic flowers grow in a trumpet shape, in an exotic array of colors, and feature speckled marks for added interest.
The low maintenance plant offers a large reward for gardeners, with big showy blooms, for very little work. The flowers are commonly found in cut bouquets as they have a long life once cut, typically around two weeks. The plant flowers freely throughout summer and fall, with blooms generally making their first appearance in June, and continue to bloom until the first frost.
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