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|
|Height||Up to 4 feet|
|Water||Plenty, but don't overwater|
|Fertilizer||Balanced 6-6-6 fertilizer|
|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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I’m the founder of Epic Gardening, a website dedicated to teaching 10,000,000 people how to grow plants. I enjoy skateboarding, piano, guitar, business, and experimenting with all kinds of gardening techniques!