Alstroemeria Care – Growing The Peruvian Lily
Alstroemeria is a beautiful peruvian lily that comes in many colors sure to delight and please the most uptight of acquaintances. It’s a plant you can grow in the ground or in containers, and it multiplies over time.
That means you can have unlimited lilies! Simply divide them in spring, and propagate. With fairly easy care, members of the Alstroemeria genus are a lovely sight in the garden that are fun to grow.
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?
Quick Care Guide
|Common Name(s)||Peruvian lily|
|Height||Up to 4 feet tall|
|Water||Plenty, but don’t overwater; 1 inch per week|
|Soil||Slightly acidic, fertile, well-draining|
|Fertilizer||Balanced 6-6-6 fertilizer applied every 2 weeks in the growing season for potted lilies|
|Pests and Diseases||Aphids, thrips, spider mites, slugs, spotted wilt virus, botrytis, root rot, mosaic virus|
All About Peruvian Lilies
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. Here are a few popular types:
- “Apollo”: a summer bloomer with white flowers, a yellow throat, and green edges
- “Orange Glory”: summer blooming tall variety with red flowers that have fiery orange tips
- “Yellow Friendship”: yellow flowers with peachy tips bloom in summer on this tall cultivar; some petals have a greenish tint
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 and Temperature
If you live in a place where the temps of your soil soar over the 70 degree F mark (21 degrees C), pick a spot where your Alstroemeria will be protected from the sun in the afternoon. Otherwise, go for a full-sun area (dappled sun 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. You can dig up your tubers and overwinter them in regions with constant subfreezing winter, or simply grow them in containers and move them indoors.
Water and Humidity
At first planting, keep the rhizomes well-watered until the first shoots appear. After that, a one-inch deep watering every week until well established should be fine. Too much water can create conditions where fungal diseases can proliferate.
Therefore, keep the soil somewhat moist, but do not let your lilies get waterlogged. If there has been regular rainfall, additional water may not be necessary. Container-grown plants may need more water than in-ground plantings.
Start with ground cleared of all debris. A soil of 70 percent organic material and 30 percent perlite is a good idea if you have heavy clay soil. 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. In areas where winters are cold, apply a couple of inches of mulch in fall for root protection through frosts.
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.
For both in-ground and container lilies, feed with a high potassium liquid fertilizer every week when blooming begins. Cease at the end of bloom period, and do not apply during dormancy, in late fall through winter.
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.
Of course, if any damaged or diseased leaves crop up, remove them as needed.
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 in fall. Cut the plants six inches above ground 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.
In fall, if you’d like to you can overwinter your tubers. Having a space to store Alstroemeria roots in freezing weather is great for gardeners outside the plant’s hardiness range. Put them in a box with coconut coir or peat moss, and leave it in a cool, dry place. Then re-plant the tubers in spring.
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.
If you live in an area with very cold winters, and you don’t protect or remove tubers in fall, your Alstroemeria may die. Those tubers can be stored over winter, or covered with a thick layer of mulch for winter protection.
Overwatering is the number one way to put your Peruvian lilies in peril. This invites pests and diseases which can weaken or kill your flowers. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. In rainy weather, don’t add extra irrigation.
Most of the diseases your Peruvian lilies contract can be carried by thrips and aphids, so do your best to control these populations to prevent infection. Both pests feed on the sap of plants, causing overall weakening of the plant and yellowing and/or curled leaves. Insecticidal soap can be used to treat these pests.
Spider mites may attack your lilies, and drink the plant’s juices as well. If you see masses of tiny mites on leaves or notice tightly woven webs, wipe these off with a damp cloth, and follow up with a misting of insecticidal soap or neem oil.
Slugs and snails may also feed on leaves when the soil remains moist for too long. In an especially rainy spring or summer, there’s no getting away from them. You can hand pick them off your plants at night, or trap them with slug bait or a beer trap.
Pythium root rot causes wilting, stunted growth, and weak stems that collapse. This occurs 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 may also give the plant a chance to recover. Remove and dispose of any affected plants.
Rhizoctonia root rot causes wilted leaves and dried stems that don’t respond to watering. 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 is 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.
Diseases like tomato spotted wilt virus and 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.