The Alstroemeria is a hardy perennial plant that goes by several names, of which the most popular are Peruvian Lily or Lily of the Incas. Peruvian Lilies are among the more exotically beautiful flowers and make great cuttings, but they also stand alone nicely in the yard, garden or pots. Because they're very resilient, you could have them as borders in your landscaping scheme, potted plants on the patio and indoors, or as cut flowers; all them with different colors and styles to add great color to your home and garden. As for cut flowers, a long blooming period makes them perfect for that use, and the cut flowers last for a nice period as well.
The flowers can be spotted or streaked with darker colors, which look extraordinary. A recent development for the Alstroemeria is the introduction of dwarf varieties, which offer more flexibility and alternatives to places you can put the plant. They especially work well for potted containers and can be placed in smaller garden beds where bigger plants may not work as well. Some of these new dwarf varieties have long blooming seasons, making them a welcome addition for your gardening strategy.
Where to Plant
The best place to plant Peruvian Lily is where they will either receive full sun or a lightly shaded area. At least allow them to have good morning sun. Drainage is essential for the survival of Peruvian Lily, so be sure it drains well. Observe how the proposed area you want to plant response after a good rain. If it still has standing water after about 5 hours, look for another location. If you're limited to a certain location that holds water too long, build up the soil to a higher level to improve its drainage capabilities. The plant will rot if it sits in standing water or soggy soil.
When to Plant
You can plant Alstroemeria after the last frost is over. If you have your bare root plants, but the ground is still hard or too wet, place the roots in a pot until the ground is ready for them. Keep them in a cool area while you're waiting. Don't water them much before placing them in the soil and are still in the pots.
How to Plant
Before you grab your plant with bare hands, be aware that Peruvian Lily can be irritating to the eyes and skin. It's best to wear gloves and remember not to rub your eyes until you're done with the job. As for the hole size to dig, go down deep enough so when you put the barefoot in, it'll be level with the top of the bed, covered with a little soil. The hole width should be wide enough, so you spread the roots out. Space the roots about a foot apart when planting. You can now fill it in, pressing down on the soil when you finished, and/or watering it to help settle the soil around the root. Assuming it's placed in a spot with good drainage, this won't hurt the plant. If the soil is cool, you can wait a little while until the ground warms up, as the plants will grow much quicker for you.
After Planting Care
For the most part, the care needed for Alstroemeria is regarding watering. They do like to get a good drink, throwing off better and larger flowers in response. You only need to be sure not to water to the point of the ground becoming too wet, which would overwhelm the plant.
Peruvian Lily will grow and bloom late into the year in zones 8-10, or possibly in other zones with the right conditions. In those zones that are borderline, you can apply some mulch to protect the plants over the winter. Sometimes in zones 8-10, the plant will occasionally throw off some blooms, giving some late-season color to the yard. In real cold zones, it's rare for Alstroemeria to survive. Below about 23°F (-5°C), they will suffer damage.
Once in awhile in the winter, give a light dose of water to your Peruvian Lilies. They will go dormant before they resume growth and blooming the next spring.
You can store your Peruvian Lilies over the winter in a temperature range of 35-41°F (2-5 °C). Keep them in a slightly moist mix during this time. Be cautious when lifting the roots as they are very brittle and can be damaged if not handled carefully. Occasionally check your tubers during the winter to be sure none are shriveling or rotting. If you find any, just throw them out.
Propagating Through Seeds
It's not a good idea to attempt to divide Alstroemeria because of the brittleness mentioned above and the difficulty of keeping them healthy during the process. It can be done; the results can't be counted on and are unpredictable. Other than digging the roots in the fall and storing them, another option is to wait until the flowers have dried out and collect them from the pods at that time. You can plant them in containers to prepare for the following year, or sow them directly into the ground.
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