Alstroemeria - The Lily of the Incas

Alstroemeria aurea is also known as the lily of the Incas, the Peruvian lily or the Parrot Lily. They are like small lilies, but usually comes with spotted or striped markings, shaded colour, or contrasting patches. Alstroemeria is a tuberous plant that is native to South America. The plant requires a moderate amount of care. There are approximately about 120 species of flowering plants, mainly from the cool, mountainous regions in the Andes. All are long-lived perennials except A. (Taltalia) graminea, a diminutive annual from the Atacama Desert of Chile.

Kingdom: Plantae
Super Division: Spermatophyta 
Division: Magnoliophyta 
Class: Liliopsida 
Order: Asparagales 
Family: Alstroemeriaceae 
Genus: Alstroemeria
About the Alstromeria Flower and Plant
Alstroemeria is a slightly zygomorphic (bilaterally symmetrical) flower with 3 sepals and 3, generally, striped petals. The sepals and petals on the Alstroemeria are similar in color and texture - i.e., there are no solid green sepals. Alstroemeria has six stamens and an undivided style. The ovary on the Alstroemeria is inferior, with 3 carpels. Alstroemeria features a monocot plan of having floral parts in 3s.

Anatomy of alstroemeria flower

Alstroemeria is more like grass where the veins go up the leaves but none branching across. This can also be seen in grasses, Irises and Lilies. Alstroemeria leaves are upside down. The leaf twists as it leaves the stem, so that the bottom is facing upwards.
If you look at an Alstroemeria stem you can sometimes see a spiral growth pattern on the stem. This is due to the production of new cells in a spiral sequence and this is the cause of the head moving the way it does. If the soil temperature rises too high (above about 22 degrees Celsius) the Alstroemeria plant puts its effort into producing more large tuberous roots at the expense of flowering shoots. With some varieties this can lead to production of exclusively blind non-flowering stems and no flowers.

Alstroemeria PetitePlum in clump

 Alstroemeria aurea 'Peruvian lily' leaves close-up

 Alstroemeria tubers

Alstroemeria seed pod opening
Alstroemeria pulchella seeds

Growing Alstroemerias
  • Plant Alstroemeria should be planted in the spring in a location that offers full sun, especially in the morning hours and in well-drained soil.
  • Sandy loam to clay loam soil is best for Alstroemeria.
  • Add a light application of organic fertilizer to the planting hole.
  • Place the plants no deeper than they were growing in the containers.
  • Set the plants 1 foot apart.
  • Cut off old flower stems with bypass pruners.
  • Mulch around but not on top of the plants shoot in early spring, with 3 inches of organic compost.
  • Water well weekly until soil is completely moist especially summers, when there is no rain.
  • The soil should always have medium moisture with a pH level of 5.5 to 7.
  • Always alert for the presence of spider mites, slugs, snails and leaf spots on the plants.
  • Take care in transporting the flowers as the stem joints are brittle and easily broken.

Cultivation and uses
There are many hybrids and about 190 cultivars have been developed, with different markings and colors, ranging from white, golden yellow, and orange, to apricot, pink, red, purple, and lavender. The most popular and showy hybrids commonly grown today result from crosses between species from Chile (winter-growing) with species from Brazil (summer-growing).

This strategy has overcome the problem of seasonal dormancy and resulted in plants that are evergreen, or nearly so, and flower for most of the year. This breeding work derives mainly from trials that began in the United States in the 1980s. The flower, which resembles a miniature lily, is very popular for bouquets and flower arrangements in the commercial cut flower trade. It has a vase life of about two weeks. Most cultivars available for the home garden will bloom in the late spring and early summer. The roots are hardy to a temperature of 23 °F (−5 °C). The plant requires at least six hours of morning sunlight, regular water, and well-drained soil.
 Alstroemeria flower arrangement

Some Species of Alstroemeria
  • Alstroemeria aurea - Lily of the Incas.
  • Alstroemeria aurantiaca - Peruvian Lily/Alstroemeria Princess Lily
  • Alstroemeria caryophyllacea - Brazilian Lily
  • Alstroemeria haemantha - Purplespot Parrot Lily
  • Alstroemeria ligtu - Lily-of-the-Nile
  • Alstroemeria psittacina - Lily of the Incas, White-edged Peruvian Lily/White Alstroemeria
  • Alstroemeria pulchella - Parrot Lily, Parrot Flower, Red Parrot Beak, New Zealand Christmas Bell
Following pictures are some colourful variety of alstroemeria flowers:
Alstroemeria haemantha

Alstroemeria pulchra
Pale yellow alstroemeria
Alstroemeria aurea

Alstroemeria casablanca

Alstroemeria psittacina

Alstroemeria caryophyllacea

Alstroemeria aurantiaca

Alstroemeria ligtu

Some Interesting Facts about Alstroemeria

  • Alstroemeria flowers bloom during late spring or early summer.
  • Alstroemeria flower is symbolic of wealth, prosperity and fortune. It is also the flower of friendship.
  • Alstroemeria come in orange, pink, rose, purple, red, yellow, white or salmon colors.
  • Alstroemeria is named after the Swedish botanist Klas von Alstroemer, who was a pupil of the great botanical classifier Linnaeus.
  • Sometimes called Ulster Mary, obviously an easier pronounciation of it's botanical name, or Peruvian lily from the country of origin. Pronounced Alstro-MARY-ah.
  • The genus Alstroemeria consists of about 120 species.
  • Most modern hybrid Alstroemeria plants are propagated in a laboratory.
  • Many hybrids and about 190 cultivars of Alstroemeria have been developed, with different markings and colors, ranging from white, golden yellow, orange; to apricot, pink, red, purple and lavender.
  • Alstroemeria flowers have no fragrance.
  • These are also a popular choice of Mother's Day flowers because of their beautiful petals and delicate nature.
  • Alstroemeria flowers have a vase life of about two weeks.
  • Not all Alstroemeria have striped petals.
  • Alstroemeria stops producing flowers if they get too hot.