Friday, May 24, 2013

Plant profile: Alstroemeria (Peruvian Lily)

Dusty Rose - meh
Latin name: Alstroemeria ("al-stro-eh-MEER-ia")
Common name: Peruvian lily, Lily of the Incas, Ulster Mary
Originally from: south America - mostly central Chile, and eastern Brazil.
Blooms: From early spring through summer.
Light: Full sun to light shade
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water needed.
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: A clump will grow to 3'-4' tall and wide, spreading by rhizomes. Plant them about 1' apart.
USDA Zones: 6-10
Where to find in P. Garden: We had a few come in by accident and they seem to have spread - mostly in the front border, brights bed and left bed.

This is another one of those plants I didn't appreciate at first, but which has come to be quite useful! Initially, the ones that showed up by mistake at the garden where just the type of dusty pink color I dislike - that, coupled with their flower's golden throat (bad combo!) and floppy habit made me recoil. I asked Matt to remove them from the front bed but they just laughed at him and multiplied rapidly.

Third Harmonic - fab!
Noting their toughness, I picked up some of the cultivar "Third Harmonic" which is orange and gold (better combo), and they are coming along nicely.

Now, tough can = invasive, and since they spread on rhizomes you may want to watch where you plant them.

They have weird looking roots - sausage-like water storing structures suspended from the rhizome by large roots. The above-ground shoots that pop up may be very short in some alpine Andean species (a few inches tall) or up to about 5 feet tall in other species. Each year (more often in some hybrids) up to 80 new shoots are produced from the rootstock and each ends in a group of 3-10 flowers. So - lots of flowers for your buck!

A funny thing about Alstroemeria is that the leaves are resupinate - they twist from the base so that what appears to be the upper leaf surface is in fact the lower leaf surface. This very unusual botanical feature is easily observed in the leaves on cut flowers from the florist.

Alstroemeria is named after the Swedish botanist Klas von Alstroemer (1736-1796), who was a pupil of the great botanical classifier Linnaeus. Since then, many hybrids and about 190 cultivars have been developed, with different markings and colors, ranging from white, golden yellow, and orange, to apricot, pink, red, purple, and lavender. None of them have much of a scent, but they're very popular in the cut flower industry thanks to the fact they look good in a vase for about 2 weeks.

The most popular and showy hybrids grown today result from crosses between species from Chile (winter-growing) with species from Brazil (summer-growing).  This has resulted in plants that are just about evergreen and flower for most of the year, thanks to  trials that began in the US in the 1980s.

Grow this plant in among other plants that will hold it up - we have ours in with Agapanthus, and they stop the Alstroemerias flopping. Deadheading? Don't bother - just pull the entire stem out with your hand when the flowers fade. More stems will be on their way!

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