Originating from South America with its home in the Andes mountains, the inca lily is a welcomed import to South African gardens. This flirtatious flower is also known as the Peruvian lily, or Alstroemeria after the Swedish botanist Baron von Alstroemer who introduced the flower to Europe in the 18th century. Since then it has become one of the most popular flowers for bouquets across the world, symbolising friendship and devotion. Inca lilies have an extensive flowering time, limited problems with pests and diseases, and a relatively low-maintenance nature. Their popularity as cut flowers makes them a perfect addition to a summer cutting garden.
Get to planting
Inca lilies have a wonderfully wide range of colours and markings. While you can get flowers in orange, pink, purple, red, yellow and white, our favourite varieties for 2019 are ‘Indian Summer’, the ‘Summer’ series or the compact ‘Inticancha’ series. Once you have chosen your favourite, plant in well-composted soil about 40cm apart. They will flower best in full sun but can benefit from some afternoon shade. When planting in pots, be sure to choose a larger pot that won’t restrict the roots of the plant and keep in mind that Inca lilies in pots will need more water and food than those in the garden.
Growth and care
- To get the best out of your alstroemerias, feed them regularly with a 3:1:6 water-soluble plant food. This will increase the length of the stems and the plants will produce more flowers.
- Water 2 – 3 times per week in summer, depending on the climate, and once a week in winter.
- Inca lilies can survive colder climates, down to -5°C, if they are well mulched.
- The taller varieties may need to be staked if they begin to fall over.
- Once the flowers have faded, pull out the stems completely to initiate new growth.
- The plants can be divided every three years between September and March.
Inca lilies are incredibly popular cut flowers, lasting 2 – 3 weeks in a vase. You can bring the beauty of your outdoor garden indoors regularly through spring, into summer and all the way to autumn as these plants bloom continuously for several months, producing many flowers. When cutting these flowers for a vase it is best to pull the stems completely out of the plant, rather than cutting them off in the garden as this damages the tuber, making the plant wider and sparser. Once picked, cut the stems at an angle to make sure they can absorb water, and remove any leaves below the water line. Replace the water every few days to keep them fresh for up to three weeks.
Inca lilies are flexible bedding companions and can be planted alongside aquilegias, Salvia salmia, Salvia leucantha and kniphofias. They also work very well with soft, feathery ornamental grasses and are actually beautiful next to roses. Phormium ‘Yellow Wave’ and Phormium ‘Bronze Baby’ are other lovely complementary plants, as are daylilies and the ever-popular gauras.