The flowers of the Peruvian lily shine tirelessly throughout the summer. But the colorful, bushy perennial is wayward: it only blooms profusely when it grows in a light spot in a humus-rich, acidic soil and is a little ensnared. With their splendor of colors, the South American ornamental plants represent an exotic and fragrant enrichment for your own garden.
Profile of Peruvian lily:
Scientific name: Alstroemeria
Plant family: Peruvian lily family (Alstroemeriaceae)
Other names: lily of the Incas
Sowing time: March, inhouse; June, outdoors
Planting time: Mid-May, after frosts
Flowering period: June to September
Location: sunny to partially shaded
Soil quality: gritty to sandy, nutrient rich, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower beds, planters, borders, flower garden, potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 7 (-15 °C / +5 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of Peruvian lily
Plant order, origin and occurrence of Peruvian lily
The native countries of the Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria) are South and Central America, as well as Australia and New Zealand. The Peruvian lilies offered in other countries are cultivated garden hybrids that usually carry the genes of several wild species. It belongs to the Peruvian lily family (Alstroemeriaceae)
The Swedish botanist Clas Alstroemer discovered this exotic looking plant on his travels in the 18th century and brought it back to Europe. Countless cultivated varieties have emerged through many years of propagation and various cultivations.
Characteristics of Peruvian lily
Peruvian lily is a well-branched, bushy perennial that survives dry seasons or winter temperatures in the soil with rhizomes. Depending on the variety, their height varies between 30 and 90 centimeters (12 and 36 in).
The Peruvian lily has a large number of pointed, fresh green leaves on its stems which are lanceolate in shape, have a smooth edge and rotate with the light.
The Peruvian lily captivates with lively colors. Its exotic looking orange, yellow, white, pink or red funnel-shaped flowers stand together in umbels and open a hundred times between June and September. The inner petals are often of a different color and have delicate, dark lines or dots.
Peruvian lily – cultivation and care
A Peruvian lily needs a sheltered location with lots of light and as little wind as possible in order for it to become a permanent bloomer. In the bed, however, it can still manage in partial shade. Choose the place where you want to plant them carefully, because Peruvian lilies are extremely sensitive to a change of location.
Peruvian lilies love an acidic, moist and permeable soil, rich in nutrients and humus. They don’t feel comfortable in calcareous, loamy soils.
Planting Peruvian lily
If you grow the subtropical plants yourself or use plants bought from specialist shops, you should only plant them out from mid-April. It would be even better if you wait until there is no more danger of late frosts. Peruvian lily only come into their own as solitary plants. However, you can cultivate bamboo or ornamental grasses in the immediate vicinity of the perennials. The minimum distance for Peruvian lilies planted in groups is about 20 centimeters (8 in).
There is little to consider when planting. The roots or the bulbs of the flowers must be completely sunk into the ground; digging a hole about 25 centimeters (10 in) deep has proven to be effective. Press the substrate lightly all around and water it firmly. The fleshy roots are very sensitive and it takes a long time for the perennial to take root in the new location. It is therefore not uncommon for the Peruvian lily to show its impressive flowering for the first time in the third or fourth year after planting.
In a planter
The pretty lilies also make a distinctive impression in the planter. Be it as a visual eye-catcher for the sunny terrace or the bright balcony.
Regarding the location, the same conditions apply as for conventional cultivation in the flowerbed. The planter should be big enough and have drainage holes in the bottom. A drainage made of porous material also protects the sensitive roots and drains excess water more quickly. You can use normal potting compost as a substrate, which should be mixed with humus beforehand.
Perennials in the tub require special care. The vessel should not be chosen too small so that the soil stores enough moisture and does not dry out completely after a few hours of sunshine. The substrate also only contains a small amount of fertilizer. In contrast to the open field, where rain and rotting cause more nutrients to reach the plants naturally, you must not forget the regular supply of liquid fertilizer in the planter of Peruvian lilies.
The exotic ornamental plants are sensitive to waterlogging, but they cannot tolerate long periods of drought either. Regularly check the moisture content of the soil and water with lime-free water as soon as the top layer of soil has dried noticeably. The distance and the amount of water depend on the weather and the location. In planting locations in full sun it is not uncommon for you to have to water twice a day, especially on hot summer days. To avoid waterlogging, you should water at intervals. This means that the water will only be refilled as soon as the previous amount of water has completely drained away.
Like many flowering plants, Peruvian lily also need a lot of nutrients during the main growing season. In early spring and autumn, the soil is enriched with compost, manure or horn shavings. Potassium and phosphorus promote the flowering and its duration. From June to September you should therefore regularly provide the Peruvian lily with a fertilizer that contains these minerals. In the winter months it is advisable to stop fertilizing completely.
Only in early spring is the complete plant cut back to about 6 centimeters (2.4 in) above the ground. In autumn, Peruvian lilies use the wilting shoots to store enough energy reserves in the fleshy roots. If this process is carried out, for example by a radical pruning directly after flowering, the perennials react sensitively to sub-zero temperatures, and the formation of new shoots in the following year can also be weaker.
Peruvian lily also exudes its distinctive beauty as a cut flower. In order to enjoy the cut flower stems for as long as possible, you should consider the following tips:
- As soon as the flower buds are colored, cut them off near the ground
- Completely remove the lower leaves
- Change the water regularly
- Use a fertilizer for cut flowers
- Dispose of wilted inflorescences
- The ambient temperature should not exceed 18 °C / 64 °F
- Avoid close proximity to ripening apples
In order to propagate the subtropical perennials, you can fall back on growing seeds or dividing the rhizome roots. As early as March you should cultivate the Alstroemeria on the window sill at home. You can get the seeds in well-stocked specialist shops or on the Internet. If you already have Peruvian lilies in the garden, you can simply harvest the seeds yourself. To do this, wrap a fleece around the ripening seed chambers to catch the fine seeds. Allow the seeds to dry sufficiently by the coming spring and store them in a dark, not too humid place.
When sowing, proceed as follows:
- Choose a flat growing container
- Press the seeds into a nutrient-poor substrate
- The location must be bright
- Cover the jar with perforated foil
- Keep the soil moist with a water sprayer
- Remove the film for a few hours every day to allow air to circulate
It can take several weeks for the first green shoot tips of the seedlings to appear. Prick out as soon as the young plants reach a height of about 7 centimeters (3 in). As soon as there is no danger from late frost, you can move the perennials to their final location in the field.
Shortly before the start of the main vegetation season, preferably in March, Peruvian lilies can be propagated by dividing the roots. To do this, dig up the entire plant and use a sharp ax or the edge of a spade to cut the roots into pieces of the same size. Immediately dig in again without further intermediate steps and water firmly. Do not lose patience if the ornamental perennials you have grown yourself do not bloom in the first few years.
Diseases and pests
Plants weakened by incorrect care are susceptible to diseases and pests. However, not every discoloration on the leaves or shoots is due to a fungal pathogen or a damaged insect. A lack of nutrients or an oversupply of fertilizer also leads to a visual change. Correct this error immediately to prevent damage to the plant. The lilies are prone to waterlogging and the often associated rotting. A compacted soil and the oversupply of water essentially contribute to the fact that the entire plant slowly dies.
Sac fungi most often attack the root system and slowly decompose it by releasing toxic substances to the cell tissue of the plants. The Peruvian lilies take care of them and a pungent, putrid smell also penetrates from the soil, caused by the decaying roots. There are no effective home remedies or even fungicides commercially available for this disease. Prevent this by regularly loosening the substrate and avoiding waterlogging when watering. If the infestation has not progressed too far, move the perennials into dry substrate. Do not remove roots that are already affected. In some cases, the infected growths recover.
Peruvian lilies are extremely robust and withstand sub-zero temperatures of down to –15 °C / +5 °F without damage. Nevertheless, especially young plants have nothing against a warming protective layer. For example, pile a thick layer of withered leaves directly over the perennial bed or cover the soil with a special fleece, which is also weighted down with stones. Alternatively, you can dig up the tubers of the plants in late autumn and overwinter them in a frost-proof basement. However, this measure is rather counterproductive if you want to enjoy the lush and colorful flowering of the perennials every year.
Container plants have to be prepared for the cold season before the onset of the first frost. Temperatures around zero are enough for the substrate in the planter to freeze completely. Put the bucket in a frost-proof environment or wrap the entire container with a winter fleece. The close proximity to the house provides additional warmth, and you should also place the planter on a styrofoam plate or wooden block.
Use in the garden
The Peruvian lily has made known its good reputation as a durable cut flower. The South American beauty is also a splendid summer guest in the flowerbed. There are also many attractive, compact types for boxes and pots that decorate balconies and terraces in summer.
Higher Peruvian lilies need to lean against in the bed. Without natural support by their side, they often look a little disheveled. Rhododendrons and azaleas can be used as living plant supports. Not only do they have the same demands on the soil, but they also intensify the luminosity of the Peruvian lily flowers with their dark leaves. Grasses such as sedges (Carex) and woodrushes (Luzula), as well as hart’s-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) and hardy fuchsias go well with the style of the perennial.
There are now many different Alstroemeria hybrids to buy. Their flower colors and sizes leave nothing to be desired. Two beautiful classics should not be left unmentioned:
- Tiger lily ‘Orange King’ (Alstroemeria aurea): 50 to 60 centimeters (20 to 24 in) high, orange-yellow flowers with purple-violet stripes, frost-resistant!
- Fragrant Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria aurea x caryophyllea): 80 to 120 centimeters (32 to 48 in), fragrant, sun-yellow to 5 centimeters (2 in) large flowers with dark dots