Purchase a mixed flower bouquet, and you may notice the inclusion of some funnel-shaped flowers dotted with warm brown freckles. The flowers stand out not only for their exotic form and bright colors, but also because they are likely to be the last flowers enduring in the arrangement, up to two weeks later. Florists love the versatile blooms of the Peruvian lily, and you can also heat up your sunny borders with this vigorous flower.
- Botanical Name: Alstroemeria spp.
- Common Name: Peruvian lily; lily of the Incas; princess lily
- Plant Type: Perennial
- Mature Size: One to three feet
- Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
- Soil Type: Rich, well-drained
- Soil pH: Acidic; 5.5-6.5
- Bloom Time: Summer
- Flower Color: Pink, orange, red, yellow, white, purple
- Hardiness Zones: USDA growing zones 7-10
- Native Area: South America
How to Grow Peruvian Lilies
Peruvian lilies are often available as tubers, which resemble the tubers of dahlias. Tubers are brittle, so handle them carefully while planting. Plant in the spring, after soil temperatures reach the 60's. Spread the thin tubers over a mound of soil, and cover with about two inches of soil. Keep moist as you wait for growth to emerge.
In their native habitat of Chile and Argentina, wild stands of Peruvian lilies grow and spread into large colonies. Where Peruvian lilies are hardy and well-tended in the landscape, the plants can become vigorous to the point of being invasive. Treat them as passalong plants, and dig and share tubers with friends. You can also control their spread by cutting them for the vase with abandon, which will prevent seeding.
Peruvian lilies flower most abundantly in full sun. Provide afternoon shade in hot areas.
Peruvian lilies like fertile, well-drained soil. You can accomplish both of these qualities by improving your soil with an organic amendment, like compost or leaf mold. Peruvian lilies grow well in raised beds or by using the lasagna gardening method.
Peruvian lilies need regular moisture, especially as summer temperatures heat up. Give them at least one inch of water per week, or when the soil surface feels dry.
Temperature and Humidity
Alstroemeria likes temperatures in the 65 to 80 degree Fahrenheit range. Temperatures in the upper 90s can cause the plants to produce blind stems, which are just foliage without flowers. You can prevent these blind stems by planting tubers in partial shade, or in an area that receives only morning sun. In humid areas, it's important to provide adequate spacing to help air circulation that will carry away spores of fungal diseases like botrytis.
One feeding in early spring will prep your alstroemeria for the growing season. Use a balanced flower fertilizer. A steady stream of nutrition will keep your Peruvian lilies productive in the garden. Add fertility via a mixture of organic additives like manure and compost tea.
Potting and Repotting
Use any commercial potting mix for your Peruvian lilies. Good drainage is essential. Bring pots indoors for winter, keeping very dry to avoid rot. Dig and divide tubers at the end of winter to prevent crowding.
Propagating Peruvian Lillies
The best time to propagate Peruvian lilies is by dividing tubers in early spring, before new growth begins. Cut off dead growth or cut back green growth to a height of six inches. Dig several inches around the clump you want to divide. In large colonies, you may not be able to divide without damaging neighboring plants. Cut apart clumps so that each clump you replant has three to five tubers.
Varieties of Peruvian Lilies
Peruvian lily breeders focus on introducing exciting new colors for the cut flowers market, which you can also use to enhance your garden design. 'Princess Angela' features lemon-yellow blooms with pink accents. 'Adonis' is a dwarf variety, ready to shine in your window boxes and patio containers. Cheerful sunset tones of 'Alexis' glow in the summer border as well as the bouquet.
Toxicity of Peruvian Lily
According to the ASPCA, Peruvian lilies are non-toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.
Cut Peruvian lilies back after blooming to prevent the plants from directing energy into seed production. Where plants are invasive, pull up stems that are less productive to encourage younger plants from newly formed tubers to flourish.
Being Grown in Containers
Your Peruvian lily plants can thrive in large containers. Pair them with trailing plants that enjoy the same growing conditions, like sweet potato vine, million bells, or love-lies-bleeding. Plants may need staking to remain upright in containers.
Growing From Seeds
Start Peruvian lilies from seed only where hardy, as the wait between sowing and blooming is too long for gardeners in cold areas. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep in sterile potting mix. Seeds need cold treatment to germinate; about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Check for germination after one month. Place seedlings in the garden 8 inches apart after two sets of true leaves form.
Peruvian Lily vs Asiatic Lily
With their vibrant colors, splash of freckles, and popularity as cut flowers, the Peruvian lily and the Asiatic lily (Lilium auratum) share some common features. However, the blooms of the Asiatic lily are larger (five to six inches), have more prominent stamens, and grow at the top of tall stems bearing narrow foliage. Another key difference is the hardiness of the Asiatic lily: as hardy perennials that rebound from zone 3 winters, the Asiatic lily is a staple in Northern gardens.