Alstroemeria

Peruvian lilies will keep you supplied with exotic blooms throughout summer.

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Alstroemeria brings a touch of the exotic to the summer garden. In years gone by the choice of suitable varieties was very limited to the invasive, but boldly coloured  Alstroemeria aurea, to the subtle pastel jazziness of the Ligtu hybrids, which often were annoyingly cut back by late frosts, or the green and red flowered species A. psittacina, aptly known as the parrot lily, which is still worth growing, as it is quite distinct from other types.

Alstroemeria are herbaceous perennials from South America producing fleshy, fragile roots and slender fleshy white tubers, which enables them to endure periodic drought once established. The past couple of decades has seen an astonishing spate of new introductions in almost every colour and colour combination conceivable, except pure blue. The throat is often streaked or striped with lines or dots. Flowering often starts in June and, with modern forms maintained to first frost. Many varieties are a bi-product of the cut-flower industry, particularly the taller types, which others were specifically bred for more general garden use and for growing in containers. The Princess series from the Netherlands, Planet series from France and the Parigo range from the UK have all added to the rich variety of more compact forms now available.

Alstroemeria are best established from pot-grown plants, than dry tubers, which take much longer to establish and can fail. They prefer moist, well-drained soil in sun or light shade. Plant them 10-15cm (4-6in) deep, and mulch them over winter to protect them from frost. In mild winters they should be fine, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution. When in growth apply a general fertiliser and/or liquid feed with a high potash fertiliser when flower buds are showing. Grow more compact varieties in pots of john Innes No3 or multi-purpose with added John Innes, with grit or perlite added for drainage.