Inca or Peruvian Lily

As its common name implies, the Alstroemeria, or Inca Lily, originates from South America.

Alstroemeria is a popular plant, lasting well in the vase, even if picked as swelling buds. They are available in a wide range of striking colours, all with attractive darker stripes or striations on certain petals.

A tuberous rooted perennial that forms large clumps in favourable growing conditions, the Alstroemeria grows easily in the high rainfall parts of the country, flowering in late spring and summer and usually dying down in winter, especially in the cold regions.

The first cut-flower Inca lilies to arrive in South Africa captured the imagination of gardeners and the search was soon on to obtain specimens to plant.

Unfortunately for us, the best long-stemmed varieties of Alstroemeria were subject to strict breeders’ rights and were kept exclusively for the cut-flower market. As time went by, certain varieties were released to the gardening market and, since then, several hybrids have come and gone. Plant cultivators worldwide still take advantage of the fact that alstroemerias hybridize quite easily, and new hybrids are carefully protected by growers.

As pretty as they are, these long-stemmed, cut-flower varieties are almost impossible to keep neat in nursery bags and, because most of us ‘buy with our eyes’, interest in them has waned. In addition, these robust annuals need quite a lot of space, which limits the number of gardeners willing to grow them.

There is a solution though, in the form of several dwarf varieties that have become available. Their blooms make as good a cut flower as those of the longer-stemmed ones and they last just as long in the vase. Even more impressive are the attributes these dwarf alstroemerias bring to the garden. They are easy to cultivate, form compact, dense clumps and never disappoint. They are perfect as filler plants when placed in the foreground of flower beds and they make beautiful pot plants.

Try these delightful Alstroemeria hybrids

Alstroemeria ‘Princess Anouska’ – deep purple flowers with white throats. (Steph, you will need to make sure that the photos match. In these articles they don’t match.)

Alstroemeria ‘Princess Fabiana’ – cream-coloured flowers with green and white foliage.

Alstroemeria ‘Princess Letizia’ – deep red flowers with a yellow throat and noticeable filaments.

Alstroemeria ‘Princess Marilene’ – white flowers with brown flecks and yellow centres.

Alstroemeria ‘Princess Paola’ – white flowers with pink edges and yellow centres.

Alstroemeria ‘Princess Mathilde’ – deep rose-pink flowers.

Alstroemeria ‘Princess Zavina’ – coral-coloured flowers with yellow centres.

When do Alstroemeria bloom?

Flowers are borne from spring through to autumn, when the plants die down and lie dormant through winter (remember to mark their positions so that you don’t accidentally dig them up).

Most suitable climate

Dwarf alstroemerias are semi-hardy and prefer a moderate climate. Gardeners with very cold winters and heavy frost could plant them in pots, but they need to be in a sheltered spot and covered with mulch when they are dormant.

What Alstroemeria need

  • Location: full sun or light shade, such as morning sun and afternoon shade
  • Soil: loamy soil enriched with compost. Add a layer of organic mulch such as compost
  • Water: Water regularly. They prefer cool, moist soil that drains well
  • Fertilizing and pruning: during the growing season feed monthly with water-soluble, potassium-enriched fertilizer. Remove spent flowers by plucking the flower stem firmly from where it emerges from the bulb. This encourages new foliage and flowers. During late autumn, when the plants start to look untidy, trim them back. Renew the mulch before winter arrives.

Watch out for – Snails and slugs love to feast on the soft leaves and flowers, so put out snail bait regularly but be careful which brand you use as it is can be toxic to domestic animals. Red spider mite may become a pest during summer – inspect your plants often and spray regularly. Light infestations can be washed off with a strong jet of water from your hosepipe.

Get more value – Divide overgrown tussocks during autumn and replant them in well-prepared soil.

In a nutshell

  • Cut flowers for smaller gardens
  • Easy to cultivate
  • Propagates easily
  • Lasting colour during the warmer months.
The Gardener