Alstroemeria, also known as Peruvian lily and Lily of the Incas as it originates from South America, is a hardy perennial renowned for showy and vividly coloured summer blooms. The flowers are borne from midsummer to mid-autumn in colours that include red, orange, purple, pink and yellow, as well as softer shades of pink and white.
Alstroemeria flowers are borne in clusters on top of stout leafy stems and are attractively patterned and marked on the inside, creating an exotic and lily like appearance. Alstroemeria is also popular as a cut flower, as the blooms are long-lasting. Alstroemeria has long been a popular garden border plant as it is hardy and easy to grow. Over recent years, plant breeders have introduced many spectacular new alstroemeria varieties with a wider colour range and longer flowering qualities that give outstanding garden performance, including compact varieties that are especially suited to growing in pots. Alstroemeria flowers are also attractive to bees and pollinating insects.
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How to grow alstroemeria
Alstroemeria is a hardy herbaceous perennial, which means it lives for many years, with growth that dies back to the ground each winter. Ideally, plant alstroemerias in spring so they can settle in before flowering, spacing them 60 cm apart. For cut flowers, grow alstroemerias in an out of the way spot or ‘cuttings patch’ if you have space, such as on an allotment.
Where to grow alstroemeria
Alstroemerias look fantastic in a sunny border amongst other perennials and shrubs, and they look particularly good with roses. They can also be grown in pots. Alstroemerias need full sun to flower well and should be grown in reasonably fertile and well drained soil. Choose a sheltered spot, ideally away from prevailing winds, and add organic matter to the soil before planting. In pots, use a peat-free. soil-based potting compost.
How to care for alstroemeria
Water newly planted alstroemerias during dry spells until established but take care not to over-water as the fleshy roots are susceptible to rotting. Alstroemerias growing in pots should always be watered regularly to keep the compost evenly moist. During long dry spells, plants in borders can be given an occasional thorough watering to boost flowering. Feed in summer with a high potash fertilizer, such as a liquid tomato feed.
Taller varieties of alstroemeria benefit from staking to support flower-laden stems, using either twiggy ‘pea sticks’, canes and string, or different designs of plant support available to buy.
Once flowers have faded, rather than just cutting off the dead head, remove the whole stem by gently pulling it from the base of the clump – this stimulates new growth.
How to pick alstroemeria as a cut flower
Alstroemeria makes a superb cut flower as it lasts for weeks in a vase. To harvest, remove the whole stem by pulling it from the base, then trim to fit the vase. Refresh the water every few days to keep flowers fresh.
How to propagate alstroemeria
Like most perennials, alstroemerias form clumps of roots that grow larger over time. After several years, large clumps can be divided up: this makes more plants for free and also rejuvenates congested plants when flowering starts to decline.
Divide alstroemerias in early spring. Alstroemerias have fleshy tuber-like roots which can damage easily, so lift and handle with care, dividing the clump up into several pieces and replanting immediately into soil that has been improved with organic matter.
Growing alstroemeria: problem solving
Given the right conditions, alstroemerias are easy to grow and rarely suffer from problems. Excess winter wet can cause the fleshy roots to rot, so ensure border plants are growing in free-draining soil. Move pot-grown plants to a sheltered spot to protect from heavy winter rains: once dormant, pots can be laid on their sides if remaining outdoors.
Slugs and snails may attack the young spring growth of alstroemerias. Be vigilant and if necessary, protect with an environmentally friendly barrier or bait.
Alstroemeria varieties to grow
An extensive choice of Alstroemeria varieties is available from mail order suppliers, nurseries and garden centres.
- Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’. Unusual orange and yellow flowers. 80-100 cm high
- Alstroemeria ‘Inticancha’ series. Range of flower colours on compact plants. 30-60 cm high
- Alstroemeria ‘Lutea’. Pure bright yellow speckled with brown. 100-120 cm high
- Alstroemeria ‘Orange King’. Bright orange blooms blotched with yellow. 100-120 cm high
- Alstroemeria ‘Sirius’. Peach-pink flowers marked with yellow. 80-100 cm high
- Alstroemeria ‘Summer Sky’. Pure white with pale yellow markings. 100 cm high