Native to the cold mountainous regions of the Andes, alstroemeria is a hardy flower that produces beautiful, brightly colored blooms during warm summer months and even up to fall. Bloom colors include pink, yellow, purple, white, red and orange. It is also called Peruvian lily, parrot lily or Lily of the Incas. It resembles a miniature lily and symbolizes wealth, prosperity, friendship and fortune.
This beautiful flower dates back to the 18th century. The genus Alstroemeria was named in honor of a Swedish botanist, Claus von Alstroemer, who collected the seeds and brought them from Spain in 1753.
The alstroemeria flower is bilaterally symmetrical, composed of three same-color sepals (as opposed to green sepals) and three striped petals. It also has six undivided stamens. It has a slim, green stem that grows up to 18 inches long. The leaves do not spread out and are said to be "upside down," because they twist on the stem, thus reversing upper and lower surfaces. Each leaf has a long, narrow vein. It is considered a symbol of friendship in some cultures because of this unique feature that depicts the twists and turns of friendship.
Alstroemeria flowers prefer humus-rich, well-drained soil with full sunlight and partial afternoon shade. Clay soil impedes root growth and development, so amend by adding sphagnum peat moss and sand to the site. Spread a 3-inch layer of mulch over the planting site to keep the roots cool and retain moisture. Space several alstroemeria plants at least 12 inches apart. If the winter temperature falls below 35 degrees F, grow alstroemerias in indoor containers to prevent them from freezing. Make sure the containers have adequate drainage holes.
Water the alstroemeria lightly every day in the growing season, ensuring the soil is evenly moist. Water every other day in the winter; the plant does not require too much water. Fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season. Follow label directions to feed it a good quality, water-soluble fertilizer. Remove dead or dying flowers to encourage new growth.
People usually grow different colored alstroemeria flowers in flowerbeds for a colorful pallet, or use them in floral arrangements. Although they are not fragrant, these flowers can last up to two weeks after being cut, thus making them an excellent choice for bouquets.
Pests such as snugs and snails chew on the foliage and stem of alstroemeria plants and damage them. These are not easily visible because they live under the leaves in moist conditions. Inspect your plant frequently and remove them by hand, or use a snail bait available in gardening centers.