Alstroemeria care in winter

How to Plant and Grow Alstroemerias

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Most folks have never heard the term alstroemeria, but just about everyone has seen this delicate flower native to South America while waiting in line to buy groceries. More commonly known as Peruvian lily or lily of the Incas, this is one of the most common flowers found in supermarket bouquets for everything from Mother’s Day to Christmas and a favorite among florists for its versatility and wide range of hues.

They are often the last flowers standing after weeks of removing dead blooms from bouquets and do not have a scent, which makes them a perfect addition to arrangements with more aromatic flowers. Although referred to as a Peruvian lily, alstroemeria is not a true lily and is generally considered a pet-friendly choice that is not known to be toxic to cats or dogs. This makes it a good choice for gardeners looking for a versatile addition for their backyard cutting gardens. It should be noted, however, that the ASPCA does consider the Peruvian lily potentially harmful to cats if consumed in large amounts, which can induce vomiting and diarrhea.

Alstroemerias come in almost any color you can imagine, including yellow, pink, purple, red, orange, lavender, peach and blue. You can grow them in containers, cutting gardens, island flowerbeds, or borders, and the wide variety of cultivars available ensures that you will be able to find options that are well suited for your climate and cut flower needs. Since Peruvian lilies are relatively easy to plant and maintain, the most difficult thing about growing alstroemerias will likely be choosing which colors to grow.

As with most plants, it is best to buy alstroemerias as close to home as possible. Local nurseries stock and will be able to recommend varieties that thrive in your area. They will also be a valuable resource if you have any future questions or issues.

How, When and Where to Plant Alstroemerias

Alstroemeria plants are difficult to start from seed, and those started from seed are usually not as impressive as their parent plants. If you choose to start alstroemerias from seeds, soak the seeds overnight and start them in seed starting trays. After about six weeks, you should have at least a few seedlings ready to transplant into containers or your garden. If you are planting Peruvian lilies in the ground or raised beds, plant your seedlings about 12 inches apart. Add a layer of mulch around the plants and water thoroughly. Alstroemeria plants started from seed will take longer to flower.

Alstroemeria plants are also difficult to start from bare root tubers and are vulnerable to fungal diseases while they are not in soil. So, while this may seem like an easy option with wide availability online, you may be disappointed with the results and may end up with nothing growing at all. If you decide to start your plants from bare root tubers, plant them in fertile, well-draining soil at least 12 inches apart.

It is best to start your first round of alstroemerias from established plants available in containers from a local nursery. Plant them 12 to 24 inches apart in well-draining soil. Add a layer of mulch around the plants and water thoroughly.

Alstroemerias will stop blooming if the soil gets too hot. This means that you can plant them in full sun if you live in coastal California, but you will want to choose a place with partial shade if you live farther inland. If you are growing alstroemeria in containers, use larger planters to keep the soil from overheating. Another option for plants in containers is that you can move them onto a covered patio or other shaded area during warmer months.

How to Care for Alstroemerias

Growing alstroemeria is relatively easy and does not require much time or effort. With proper care, you can get many varieties to bloom from late spring or early summer through fall, during which time you should be watering regularly to promote increased flower development. When the weather is not too hot, you should be able to deeply irrigate your flowerbeds once per week. During the hottest times of the year, you will likely need to water more often.

Your plants will then go dormant for a few months between growing cycles. While the plants are dormant, you can cut back on watering while they rest. If you live in an area that freezes, be sure to add a thick layer of mulch to your garden bed to keep your alstroemerias cozy over winter.

Gardeners generally do not have many pest issues with alstroemeria plants. Slugs and snails are really the only issues and you can ward these pests off by running some copper tape around the edges of your containers or flowerbeds.

Most gardeners who grow the alstroemeria flower do so for the purpose of cutting them for use in floral arrangements. During the first growing season, most gardeners cut the stems for use in bouquets. After the first year, you can encourage future blooms by pulling the stems from the base of the plant. For those who are not regularly cutting flowers for arrangements, you will want to deadhead your plants as your flowers fade. Unlike other flowering plants where you deadhead by simply pulling off the dying flower, with the alstroemeria flower, you deadhead by removing the entire stem. This causes a small amount of damage that encourages more flowers to grow.

You will start to notice your alstroemeria plants flowering less somewhere between two and four years after planting them. Once you notice this, it is time to divide the plants to keep these perennials thriving. Most gardeners prefer dividing their alstroemerias in April. At this time, they gently dig up the fragile roots, divide them, and immediately replant them to get them back in the soil before any fungal issues can occur. Add a layer of mulch and water the container or flowerbed until the soil is thoroughly moist. This is also a great opportunity to turn the soil or add amendments before planting your divided plants.

Alstroemeria

Alstroemeria

The cut flower of all cut flowers, alstroemeria is a staple flower in almost all bouquets. With blooms that can last up to two weeks and a color palette almost as wide as the spectrum itself, it is easy to see why. This South American native has made itself into a commodity for the flower markets—and has even worked its way into home gardens.

genus name
  • Alstroemeria
light
  • Part Sun,
  • Sun
plant type
  • Bulb,
  • Perennial
height
  • 1 to 3 feet
width
  • 1-2 feet wide
flower color
  • Purple,
  • Red,
  • Orange,
  • White,
  • Pink
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Summer Bloom
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Attracts Birds,
  • Good for Containers,
  • Cut Flowers
zones
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9,
  • 10
propagation
  • Division,
  • Seed

Garden Plans For Alstroemeria

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Fanciful Flowers

The flowers of the alstroemeria plant are so interesting and diverse that they are often likened to that of orchid blooms. You can always find an alstroemeria to meet your design needs, thanks to the wide variety of color combinations available. The center three petals on these beautiful blooms feature streaks and speckles that almost remind you of whiskers. Some flowers come in multicolor blooms with brushstrokes of color. Speaking of brushstrokes, you can craft your very own pressed flowers with alstroemeria’s amazing blooms!

Alstroemeria Care Must-Knows

Alstroemeria is a fairly easy plant to grow. The roots of the alstroemeria form tubers, which are a form of storage root. These tubers allow the plants to store up nutrients and water for times of need. This allows the plants to deal with drought and other stressful periods better than most.

Tuberous roots also mean that these plants are easy to divide and multiply. As the plants form large colonies, it’s easy enough to dig them up and divide them. Make sure there are healthy tubers among the bunch, then simply replant and water well. In general, alstroemeria doesn’t enjoy having their roots disturbed too often, so avoid dividing every year. With some of the more temperamental varieties and species, you may have to go a year or two after dividing with no blooms as the plants reestablish.

Like caring for any perennial, plant alstroemeria in well-drained soil that won’t stay too wet. Because of their fleshy tuberous roots, alstroemeria is likely to rot in too much water. However, they do appreciate consistent moisture, especially during flowering, but once the plants are established, they can handle short droughts without a problem.

For the best display of flowers, make sure to grow these plants in full sun. Many varieties can handle part sun, but they are much more likely to flop and not be as floriferous. To prevent flopping, which is especially likely with older varieties and varieties grown for cut flowers, make sure to have some sort of support or stake to hold up the tall stalks.

Cut Flower Care

Growing alstroemeria in your home garden is a great way to supply cut flowers with minimal care. It’s actually best to not cut alstroemeria blooms from the stem as you would any other cut flower. The best way to pick stems of blooms is to pull the stem out of the flower. Simply grasp the flower stalk at the base of the stem near the ground and pull upward until the whole stem comes up from the ground. This helps encourage the plant to form new shoots at the base. Cutting the stem halfway down (like you might any other bloom) can actually slow the growth of the plant. Once you pull the whole stem up, cut the stalk to the length you need, remove any lower foliage that might be sitting directly in the water, and place in your vase. You’ll have blooms for weeks!

More Varieties of Alstroemeria

Alstroemeria aurea

Alstroemeria aurea has yellow or orange clusters of lilylike flowers on graceful stems 2-3 feet tall. Zones 7-10

Alstroemeria Inca Series

A series of alstroemeria bred for their compact habit, bright colors, and strong stems. 2 to 3 feet tall. Zones 7-10

Alstroemeria ligtu

Alstroemeria ligtu hybrids grow to 3 feet tall and come in numerous shades of pink, orange, and scarlet with a distinctive contrasting stripe of yellow or gold. It is sometimes called St. Martin’s flower. Zones 7-10

‘Indian Summer’ alstroemeria

This variety of Alstroemeria has blooms of orange and yellow that stand out against bronzed foliage on compact plants. Zones 6-10

Plant Alstroemeria With:

Chrysanthemums are a must-have for the fall garden. No other late-season flower delivers as much color for as long and as reliably as good ol’ mums. Beautiful chrysanthemum flowers, available in several colors, bring new life to a garden in the fall. Some varieties have daisy blooms; others may be rounded globes, flat, fringed, quill shape, or spoon shape. They work exceptionally well in container plantings and pots. Learn more about using mums for a fall-flowering garden.

There are hundreds of different types of salvias, commonly called sage, and they all tend to share beautiful, tall flower spikes and attractive, often gray-green leaves. Countless sages (including the herb used in cooking) are available to decorate ornamental gardens, and new selections appear annually. They are valued for their very long season of bloom, right up until frost. Not all are hardy in cold climates, but they are easy to grow as annuals. On square stems with often-aromatic leaves, sages carry dense or loose spires of tubular flowers in bright blues, violets, yellow, pinks, or reds that mix well with other perennials in beds and borders. Provide full sun or very light shade and well-drained average soil.

Pruning Peruvian Lilies: How And When To Prune Alstroemeria Flowers

Any fan of cut flowers will instantly recognize Alstroemeria blooms, but these spectacular long-lived flowers are also excellent plants for the garden. Alstroemeria plants, aka Peruvian lilies, grow from tuberous rhizomes. The plants benefit from deadheading but you may also want to try pruning Peruvian lilies to create shorter, less leggy stems. Be cautious, however, as improperly cutting Alstroemeria plants can diminish blooming and kill the vegetative stems. When to prune Alstoremeria flowers is also an important consideration in order to promote beautiful, bountiful plants.

Should You Cut Back Alstroemeria?

Only a few cultivars of Peruvian lily are hardy to United States Department of Agriculture zone 4. The majority of the species will be treated as annuals in zones under USDA 6 or should be potted up and moved indoors for winter.

They will remain green in warm climates until the bloom period, so there is no reason to cut them back like you would with many perennials. Cutting Alstroemeria plants to the ground is not recommended, as it will stunt the vegetative growth and diminish blooms the next season.

Deadheading Alstroemeria

Deadheading most flowering plants is a common practice and enhances beauty and blooming. Many plants also benefit from pruning, pinching and thinning for thicker stems and more branching. Should you cut back Alstroemeria?

Alstroemerias have both flowering and vegetative stems. The plant is a monocot and stems form with one cotyledon, which basically means pinching won’t force branching. Plants don’t need to be cut back either, but they respond well to deadheading and can be kept shorter if a few flower stems and seed pods are pruned off.

Pruning Peruvian lilies that are spent will keep the plant tidy and prevent the formation of seed heads. Deadheading can be done with shears but simply cutting off the “head” has been shown to weaken the next season’s display. A better method of deadheading involves no tools and will promote better blooms the following year.

Simply grasp the dead flower stem and pull the entire stem out from the base of the plant. Ideally, a bit of root should come attached with the stem. Be careful not to pull out the rhizomes. This practice is common with commercial growers and encourages more blooms. If you are shy about deadheading Alstroemeria by pulling the stem, you can also cut the dead stalk back to the base of the plant.

When to Prune Alstroemeria Flowers

Pruning out dead stems can be done at any time. The majority of pruning will be done when flower stems are spent. An interesting effect of the hand pulling method is that it also essentially divides the plant so you won’t have to dig it up.

Alstroemeria should be divided every second or third year or when the foliage becomes sparse and spindly. You can also dig the plant up at the end of the season. North Carolina State University recommends pruning back the plant 1 to 2 weeks before division.

Prune or pull out all but the youngest 6 to 8 shoots of vegetative growth. You will need to dig 12 to 14 inches down to get all the rhizomes. Rinse off the dirt and expose the individual rhizomes. Separate each rhizome with a healthy shoot and pot up individually. Ta da, you have a new batch of these beautiful flowers.

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Alstroemeria, also known as Peruvian, parrot, or princess lily, as well as lily of the Incas, is an exceptional cutting garden flower in the Alstroemeriaceae family.

There are about 80 species native to South America, with the greatest diversity in Chile. Thanks to today’s hybrids and cultivars, there’s a rainbow of options available for the home gardener.

Photo by Allison Sidhu.

Most of the species are perennial, and they grow year-round in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8 to 10. With a little mulch in winter, you may even have success in adjacent zones. Let’s find out all we can and then see where to buy some of our own.

A Floral Designer’s Favorite

Alstroemeria is prized by professionals and amateurs alike because of its striking, azalea-like blossoms.

It comes in an extensive color palette and has a long vase life. Sturdy stems support hefty clusters of vividly-colored petals that are often striated or flecked by contrasting colors.

In addition, the foliage twists in a unique way so that the underside becomes the top surface. There’s a band of leaves just beneath the blossoms, and then more alternating down the stem.

To display cut flowers in a vase, remove all stem foliage but the top cluster. This serves two purposes: the water stays clean longer, and the flowers receive more hydration.

Photo by Allison Sidhu.

Once picked, Peruvian lily lasts a good two weeks in water. My first experience with it was using it as a filler flower among larger specimens in tall vases, as well as a stand-alone in small bud vases and bubble bowls.

A Note of Caution: You should always wear gloves when handling this plant. It contains levels of toxicity that may cause illness if ingested, or an allergic reaction with skin contact.

Would you like to make your own centerpieces for dinner parties? Why not start a cutting garden? Maybe you already enjoy arranging foliage from your yard. If so, this is an exceptional flower that you need to plant.

Sowing a Stunner

To grow this prolific bloomer, find a sunny to partly shady location.

The temperate climate of southern California is the perfect setting for perennial Alstroemeria, where it readily naturalizes. Photo by Allison Sidhu.

The soil should be of good quality and on the loose side, so it drains well. Enrich it with compost and add a little sand if necessary.

From Rootstock

Mound the soil to promote drainage as you would to grow squash. Place the tuberous rootstock on the mound and cover it with earth. If there are stems or shoots, they should be upright and visible above the ground.

Alstroemeria’s vigorous roots produce “colonies” of plants. Photo by Allison Sidhu.

Tamp the soil down gently to secure the rootstock in place, water, and tamp down again. Maintain even moisture, but don’t let the soil get soggy.

From Seed

Some folks plant seed instead, but often it fails to germinate. The trouble starts once it’s harvested from spent blossoms.

You see, in nature, seed dries out completely and then undergoes a period of wetness, cold, and tumbling about all winter long. It’s this “cold stratification” that enables it to break dormancy and sprout.

To replicate this natural process, you might try the following:

  1. Harvest mature seed.
  2. Let the seed dry for several months.
  3. Soak seed overnight.
  4. Scarify by rubbing the surface slightly with an emery board.
  5. Sow in the fall.

As an alternative, you can also provide the necessary period of chilling indoors.

According to Julie Thompson-Adolph in her book Starting & Saving Seeds: Grow the Perfect Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, and Flowers for Your Garden, you can fill a bag or container with seed starting mix, moisten it, and add seeds that have been given plenty of time to fully dry.

Place it in the refrigerator for two to four weeks to replicate outdoor conditions before sprouting indoors, and be sure to keep the potting medium moist throughout.

Starting & Saving Seeds, available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

We haven’t tried this particular method for this species ourselves, and time requirements on cold stratification may vary depending on the cultivar. Sounds like a fun winter project to experiment with, and determine what provides the best germination rate for your collected seeds!

Keep in mind that purchased seeds should come already stratified, and ready for planting.

Photo by Allison Sidhu.

Whenever I start plants from seed, I like to sprout them indoors in egg cartons or seed starting containers. Using a mixture of sand, perlite, and vermiculite is recommended, to promote drainage.

When your seedlings are about two inches tall, transplant them outdoors to the garden or a container with good drainage holes, and remember – pots dry out a lot faster than the ground.

Allow one to two feet of space per plant. Some bloom in the first year, most by the second.

A Note on Hybrid Plants: Some hybrids do not produce seed at all. They are propagated by the division of their rootstock and bred this way so as not to become invasive. You may divide plants in spring to thin them out, make new plants for other locations, share with friends, or all three!

These plants take time to establish. Help them along with regular watering and a periodic application of slow-release fertilizer. Choose one with a low nitrogen content to avoid a proliferation of foliage with few blooms.

Photo by Allison Sidhu.

A fun-fact about Peruvian Lily is that it naturally produces some stems that are purely vegetative (non-sexual), while others produce blossoms. With diligent care, by the second year, you’ll enjoy blossoms from summer through fall. And the best part – the blooming is continuous.

In some regions, like southern California, many plants have jumped bed and border perimeters to naturalize in the wild. You can avoid this by “deadheading” spent blossoms to prevent seed fall.

Pick the entire stem at its base, and don’t just remove the top, just in case there’s still some oomph left to make more stems and flowers before season’s end.

Where to Buy

Are you ready to buy some Alstroemeria plants for your gardens or containers? Check out these beauties!

‘Indian Summer,’ available from Burpee

Enjoy all the colors of a summer sunset with the golden-hued petals and bronze foliage of ‘Indian Summer.’ This 30-inch-tall, 24-inch-wide stunner that’s winter hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 6.

‘Summer Breeze,’ available from Burpee

‘Summer Breeze’ is a marvel, with its orange-yellow blossoms and variegated foliage. It’s 30 inches tall by 24 inches wide at maturity, and winter hardy to Zone 6.

‘Colorita Elaine,’ available from Burpee

Pink with gold and maroon dots and dashes, ‘Colorita Elaine’ is a dwarf variety that reaches a height of 14 inches at maturity.

‘Colorita Claire,’ available from Burpee

‘Colorita Claire’ is snowy white dwarf variety that is sure to delight at 14 inches tall.

‘Colorita Ariane,’ available from Burpee

‘Colorita Ariane’ is another favorite. This 14-inch dwarf with freckled yellow faces on each blossom is perfect for the garden or container.

A. psittacina, available from Amazon

At three feet tall, A. psittacina is a red and yellow beauty. This species will appreciate some staking, and may overwinter as far north as Zone 6.

Flower Harvesting

When your plants are well established, they will begin to “colonize,” forming numerous mounds along a series of fleshy rhizomes. Each new plant stem that grows shoots straight up from these tuberous roots.

Photo by Allison Sidhu.

As a matter of fact, you can stimulate plant growth each time you want cut flowers. Here’s how:

Instead of cutting stems at random places with shears, pluck each one at its base, close to the rootstock, to encourage the growth of new shoots. Easy! Then use shears to cut stems to desired lengths.

The exception to this practice is if you’re lucky enough to have flowers in the first year, in which case some folks recommend trimming near the base with shears to prevent uprooting a new plant.

Overwintering Tips

There are deciduous and evergreen varieties of Alstroemeria available, with some dropping leaves and others retaining them throughout the dormant winter season.

In the temperate zones favored by this plant, you may like the visual interest provided by foliage that lasts year-round. If you are in a fringe zone, pack some mulch around your plants and they may surprise you by holding up just fine.

If you are growing in containers where the winters are harsh, bring them inside before the first frost. Place your pots in a cool location with filtered sunlight, and water often enough to keep the soil from completely drying out.

You may also dig tubers from the earth and bring them inside in pots of soil. However, they don’t like to be disturbed, and you may end up breaking them.

The alternative is to grow Peruvian lily as an annual and replace it with a new and exciting variety, or your all-time favorite, each season.

When spring returns and the frost warnings have passed, divide large clumps of rootstock as desired. Plant them, gradually move indoor containers outside to harden off, and resume regular watering with good drainage at this time.

Troubleshooting

You should have few disease and pest issues. If aphids, spider mites, or white flies appear, it’s probably because of over- or under-watering, and the stress both can cause.

Holes in the leaves may be a warning of pest infestation.

In the event of over-watering, the roots may rot, snails and their kin may move in, and the plant may be unrecoverable. If you are under-watering, yellow leaves should give you a heads up in time to ward off pests and vulnerability to disease.

Keep an insecticidal soap on hand, just in case.

Here’s a tip: If you’re in for an unusually hot spell, water well and mound mulch around your plants to help keep the ground cool. Otherwise, your flowers may not be as plentiful.

Something for Everyone

Choices abound when it comes to the vibrant color combinations of Peruvian lily, from 10-inch dwarf varieties to the renowned Ligtu hybrid series with specimens topping out as tall as five feet.

Photo by Allison Sidhu.

And in addition to being gorgeous, the deep speckled throats of Alstroemeria attract beneficial pollinators, for a lively backyard habitat.

So, what will it be? An assortment of dwarf varieties along a border, tall specimens to anchor the back of a bed, or maybe both? Tell us more about what’s growing in your garden in the comments below.

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Photos by Allison Sidhu © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Cool Springs Press, Burpee, and Seeds, Bulbs, Plants & More. Uncredited photos via . With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

Alstroemeria, Lily of Peru

Beautifully spotted and marked perennials, alstroemerias, or lilies of Peru, are lily-like flowers with deep, thick roots. They grow two to three feet tall on strong, branched stems. Each trumpet-shaped flower is an inch or two in diameter. Flowers come in pink, rose, purple, yellow, cream, orange, and white and are spotted or streaked with contrasting colors.

How to grow: Provide a sunny location in areas with cool summers, but in Florida and other hot summer regions, plant in shade. The roots must be well below the surface of the soil or the plants will not last long. Enrich soil with compost and manure. If soil is not well drained, or if you live in a cold climate where plants are not hardy, grow them in pots in well-drained soil. Store the root-filled 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.

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Propagation: By division and also from seed, which is very slow (1 to 12 months) to germinate.

Uses: Excellent in garden containers and in flowerbeds and borders. They are long-lasting as cut flowers and are often seen on restaurant tables.

Scientific name: Alstroemeria species

Want more information? Try these:

  • Perennial Flowers. Fill your garden with beautiful perennial flowers. They are also organized by height, soil type, sunlight, and color.
  • Perennials. There’s more to a perennials garden than gorgeous flowers. Learn about all of the perennials that can complete your garden.
  • Annual Flowers. Complement your perennials with these great annual flowers. We’ve organized them by color, sunlight, soil type, and height to make it easy to plan your garden.

Can Alstroemeria cuttings be rooted?

Would not cut down the tree — every yard needs at least one. Because your yard is sloped, you might want to level it up to the ground level with the roots — not higher — if you want to create a patio. You don’t want to put dirt around the tree trunk because that will eventually kill the trees. In the yard below the heat pump ac unit, create a straight and level path as wide as the steps and extending from the steps to a point beyond both of the trees — to a point about 8′ beyond the end of the house and trees. The least expensive option is to use landscaping posts could be used both as a retaining wall to hold back the higher dirt between a path/sidewalk and the house and to outline the lower side of the path/sidewalk as well. Make the path as wide as the steps and have the landscaping posts continue the same straight line as the step rails. Use long nails or gutter spikes to nail the posts together to create a short retaining wall. You may need to cut in half one or more of the posts in half so you can "break the joints" — have the center of the posts on one level of the retaining wall cover the space between the level above and below. When you’ve created that form for your path, there are different ways to turn it into a sidewalk. Ideally, the path level should be the same level as (or no more than one comfortable step above) the dirt beneath all those exposed roots around the trees. Nest step is to create another landscape post retaining wall below the trees — below the area with the exposed roots (maybe 6′-8′ beyond the trees) in order to level up the ground to be the same ground level as at the level of the exposed roots. Use landscaping posts to create side "walls" as well — create the sides of a form for leveling up the space beneath and around the trees. When this is done, you can add natural colored stone atop the exposed roots to create a level spot all around your trees for beneath your hammock so you don’t need to trip on exposed roots and yet the ground water will still drain and the roots/trees can still breathe. Unlike pavers or concrete, the pebbles can be packed yet raked smooth/level should the roots move them. Level up the space below that second landscaping post retaining wall and create your new backyard patio there.

Imagine that it’s your best friend’s birthday. What, oh, what do you give to that special person that has been with you through thick and thin? The one that shares with you all those ridiculous inside jokes know one else understands? The one that remembers your most embarrassing moments and brings them up at least once a year? The one that picks you up when you fall down? (After laughing, of course.)

I’ve got the perfect answer to this quandary: alstroemeria. No, it’s not a disease. It’s a beautiful peruvian lily that comes in many colors sure to delight and please the most uptight of acquaintances. Though you could buy this popular cut flower as a bouquet, why not grow a passel or pretties yourself and have ready-made gifts for your nearest and dearest all year long?​

Peruvian Lily Overview

Common Name(s) Peruvian lily
Scientific Name Alstroemeria
Family Liliaceae
Origin Chile
Height Up to 4 feet
Light Partial sun
Water Plenty, but don’t overwater
Temperature 65-80°F
Humidity Average
Soil Slightly acidic
Fertilizer Balanced 6-6-6 fertilizer
Propagation Divide
Pests Aphids, thrips, spider mites, slugs, caterpillars

The alstroemeria lily was named after the Swedish botanist Clas Alströmer, who brought the seeds to Europe. Recognized by its upside-down, twisty leaves, this feature is how the peruvian lily flower came to be associated with the rollercoaster ride that is friendship: the ups and downs, twists and turns that the most devoted friends stick through.

You’ll find the striped petals in colors ranging from white to red, orange to lavender. What they lack in fragrance they make up for in stunning eye candy.​

Types of Peruvian Lilies

There are more than 120 species and 190 cultivars of peruvian lily, many of which are crosses of the winter-growing Chile variety and the summer-growing Brazil type. This is what allows the plant to flower for most of the year. Popular types include names like “Apollo,” “Orange Glory,” and “Yellow Friendship.”

Alstroemeria Care

The care this plant requires is well worth the effort when you see those gorgeous blooms opening to the sun. The look on your best friend’s face when you present this gift will be well worth taking a picture of so you can make fun of the expression in the future.

Light

If you live in a place where the temps of your soil soar over the 70 degree mark, pick a spot where your alstroemeria will be protected from the sun in the afternoon. Otherwise, go for a full-sun area (spotty can be a tolerable choice as well.) This gives you the best chance for blooms.

Autumn and spring are usually the best times for planting, before the soil gets hot. In early spring when the temperatures are changing, a greenhouse can be handy for avoiding scorched leaves. You can ventilate and heat as needed whenever humidity rises above 85 percent.​

Water

At first planting, keep the rhizomes wet until the first shoots appear. After that, a one-inch deep watering every week until well established should be fine.

Soil

Start with ground cleared of all debris. A topsoil of 70 percent organic material and 30 percent perlite is a good idea if your soil is clay heavy. As long as the soil provides enough air and excellent drainage, though, this might not be necessary.

​To protect against summer’s heat, add a three-inch deep ring of mulch, either bark or compost, around the base without placing it directly on the plant.

Fertilizer

When your plants have reached two years of age, it’s a good time to supplement the soil with nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium during the growing season. Pay close attention to your soil’s pH levels; higher than seven will result in iron and manganese deficiencies, and a yellowing of leaves.

Pruning​

It’s a good idea to trim the stems of dead flowers and save the plant’s energy for making new ones. Otherwise, not much pruning is needed. Good thing, too, so I can save my energy for gazing at these glorious blooms from the comfort of my porch swing.

Propagation

You can propagate using two methods. Planting alstroemeria seeds is one way. Another way is to dig up the peruvian lily bulbs and divide the rhizomes. Cut the plants six inches aboveground about ten days before you intend to dig them up. A one-year-old plant may yield up to 15 rhizomes, a two-year-old up to 25.

Problems

While the alstroemeria is a fairly hardy plant, there are a few common issues. Here are ones you want to keep an eye out for.

Diseases

Pythium Root Rot – This fungi causes wilting, stunted growth, and weak stems that collapse. It takes the opportunity to invade when the soil is heavy and moist for long periods. A clean bed with one part composted pine bark mixed with four parts of soil is a good start. Allowing the soil to dry out some may also give the plant a chance to recover. Remove and dispose of any affected plants.

Rhizoctonia Root Rot – Wilted leaves and dried stems that don’t respond to watering could indicate an infection of this fungi. Double check that the soil is well-draining. You may need to improve this by working some compost into the top ten inches. Get rid of the infected ones and concentrate on keeping the healthy ones healthy.​

Botrytis Blight – Better known as Gray Mold, it shows up during the warmer damp days as furry, gray-brown spores. They transmit on wet plants, so keep some space between the plants for air. Also direct irrigation away from stems, as well as below the leaves and flowers, and remove any debris or damaged plants.​

Viruses – Diseases like tomato spotted wilt virus and Hippeastrum mosaic virus cause patterns of lines and spots on foliage, and they have no treatment. Not only will you have to destroy the affected plants, you’d be wise to disinfect your gardening tools with a diluted bleach solution as well.​

These nasty diseases can be carried by thrips and aphids, so do your best to control these populations to prevent infection.​

FAQs​

Q. My alstroemeria lily is seven years old and has stopped blooming as nice as it used to. What am I doing wrong?

A. Likely nothing. These lilies do most of their best flowering for three to six years. When their blooms diminish in quality, it’s usually best to stop putting a lot of effort into them and concentrate on replacing with newer plants.

Q. My pH levels are fine but the leaves are still yellowing. What’s up with that?

A. Check the roots of the plant. High production or low light conditions can affect the roots and cause yellowing. If this is happening, you’ll especially want to avoid cold soil or too much water, which could exacerbate your yellowing problems.

Q. Peruvian lily and cats: are they a good match?

A. This lily isn’t as toxic to cats as some others are. Your kitty may suffer from some stomach upset rather than kidney failure, possibly some vomiting and diarrhea. Always best to call your vet if you think your cat chowed down on some of your blooms.

Show your devotion to your closest friends with gifts of the alstroemeria lily from your very own humble garden plot. Tell them about its meaning and bask in the glow of their appreciation as they blubber through tears of happiness. Don’t forget your handkerchiefs.

Got some tales of peruvian lily friendship to share? We’d love to see them in the comments, as well as any questions or bits of personal advice. (Maybe not relationship advice. That’s for another blog.) Spread the love and devotion by sharing this article with others. Thanks for reading!Jump to top

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Kevin Espiritu
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