Every Blooming Thing: A chance to get to know Alstroemeria
If you are familiar with the Alstroemeria, a lily-like flower, it is probably because it was in a bouquet from a florist.
Since the 1950s, this colorful flower has been used almost exclusively by the international cut flower industry because of the vase life and the variety of colors.
The flowers have a vase life, after being cut, of two weeks or more. The blooms are like miniature lilies and come in a variety of colors such as yellow, cream, orange, pink, rose and lavender with striped, spotted markings or contrasting patches.
But they can easily be grown outside in the garden from as far north as Redding and the Lake Shasta area, to Arizona and the high desert of Mexico.
The Alstroemeria, commonly called Peruvian Lily or Lily of the Incas, is a South American genus of about 50 species. Almost all the species are restricted to one of two distinct centers of diversity, one in central Chile, the other in eastern Brazil. The plants are either deciduous or evergreen types.
For many years, the deciduous was the only Alstroemeria available to the home gardener. The evergreen type includes two species and a number of hybrids. The plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide on sturdy branched stems with multiple flowers on each stem. Each trumpet-shaped flower is an inch or two in diameter.
It can be grown in flower containers or directly in the garden. It prefers light, well-drained soil, but the soil can be amended to improve the drainage.
In the very hot central valley of California, some shade in the summer will be needed to shield it from the very hot temperatures. The plant grows from cluster of white peanut-sized tubers arranged like the spokes of a wagon wheel.
The glistening parallel-veined pale green leaves on the stem tend to curl under at the edges and droop at the ends making them appear limp. This is the reason the florist will always strip the leaves before putting them in a bouquet.
Plant Alstroemeria in full sun in well-drained soil. Add a light application of organic fertilizer to the planting hole. Place the plants no deeper than they were growing in the container unless you live in a colder area.
Set the plants a foot apart. Spread mulch around, but not on top of the plants, with three inches of organic compost. Water well until soil is completely moist. Deadhead flowers as they finish blooming to prevent them from spreading too much seed.
The Alstroemeria are easy to grow, deer resistant and attract hummingbirds. If planted in the same bed with Chrysanthemums they will finish blooming as the Mums start their fall bloom cycle.
Red Bluff Garden Club will offer horticulture tips for successful flower show exhibits by Kathy Bramhal on Feb. 26. The social hour begins at 12:30 p.m. and the meeting starts at 1 at 12889 Baker Road, Red Bluff. For additional information, call 527-4578 or 527-2226.
Lorna Bonham is a member of The Red Bluff Garden Club, which is affiliated with National Garden Clubs Inc., California Garden Clubs Inc., Pacific Region and Cascade District.