Alstroemeria – Peruvian Lilies

Alstroemeria - Princess Lilies in garden -1200

Peruvian Lilies or Alstroemerias are very popular as long-lasting cut flowers which will survive for up to three weeks when picked. I will admit that they do drop a few petals after 10 days or more and while that bothers some people, I tend to just blow them onto the floor!? 😊 They are also sought after for their beautiful lily-like flowers and long flowering period when grown as a garden plant, coming in a range of colours and flowering spectacularly in spring and autumn, as well as intermittently throughout the year.

The main drawback with the common varieties, most of which grow between ½ and 1 metre high, is that the plants tend to get floppy and sprawl over a large area, often 1.5 metres across. This does not bother the gardeners who treasure their blooms as cut flowers, but for those who may have limited space to garden or who just want a compact plant, the solution lies in trying the new dwarf varieties.

These compact, dwarf Alstroemerias grow as low mounding perennials, and have proved themselves to be a wonderful addition to any garden as specimen or border plants, as well as being reliable and long flowering pot plants. Sold under names like ‘Princess Lilies’, there come in a range of colours including shades of white, yellow, pink, crimson, burgundy and purple, some with variegated foliage.

Growing up to 40 cm high by 50cm wide, these dwarf Peruvian lilies perform brilliantly with a continuous display of flowers from spring to late autumn. Pluck off the dead flower stalks to encourage further flowering. Even though they do not grow very tall as their larger growing cousins, as you pick the flowers by plucking them, stem and all, it is still possible to pick a good bunch of flowers from these beautiful blooms.

These new dwarf Peruvian Lilies have proved themselves to be ideal for smaller garden spaces and brilliant in pots, providing a mass of colour for at least nine months of the year. Their growing conditions are the same as their taller cousins, and they are very adaptable to almost any position in the garden, but ideally with good soil, in sun or partial shade, and regular applications of organic based fertilisers. Once established, they are both drought and frost tolerant.

Their fleshy roots resent disturbance so once planted, either in a pot or in the ground, it is wise to leave young plants to settle for several years before dividing. Once established, they can be divided in autumn, however always leave them in large chunks, rather than smaller pieces, as these are likely to transplant better. If growing one of these compact forms in a pot, be aware that it will need to be watered and fed more often than plants growing in the ground. Daily watering of pot plants is required during the heat of summer and mulching the top of the pot is beneficial.

One last word of caution – all parts of the plant can cause dermatitis in susceptible individuals so wear gloves when handling them if you have sensitive skin.

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