- Author: Lanie Keystone
For years, I have been buying flowers with Peruvian lilies in the bouquet because those beautiful “lilies” last and last for at least two weeks. I have longed to grow them myself and have coveted any neighbor who has the good fortune to grow them in their own front yards. Alas, I've never grown any myself…until now! Two months ago, my husband and I moved to wonderful Dixon—and low and behold, when we walked up the front walk of our new home, there they were—exquisite, pink Peruvian lilies—right in my own front yard!
After my initial excitement of being greeted by these happy flowers, I decided to do a little research to make sure I keep them growing and thriving. Peruvian “lilies” are also known as Lily of the Incas or Princess Lilly. They are of the Alstroemeria genus, are not actually true lilies at all. But, because their blooms extend up from clustered spear-like foliage, they resemble lilies in many ways. Natives of South America, (Argentina and Chile), they come in the most vivid shades of yellow, orange, pink, red, white, and purple and seem to be sun-kissed with distinctive warm brown “freckles”. Besides being elegant and long lasting in bouquets, they make wonderful border plants, growing 1-3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. Typically, Peruvian lilies bloom in the summer. However, with our warmer than average spring, our little guys are blooming their gorgeous funnel heads off right now in early May. They are tubers which should be planted in the spring after the last frost. Moderately fast growing, they often bloom in the first year. However, if planted as bare root, they bloom in the second year. Planted in full to partial sun in rich, well-drained acidic soil is the key to success.
Peruvian lilies are definitely “pass-along” plants—growing strongly enough to dig up the tubers and pass them along to all who love them. In their native South American habitat, they grow profusely in large, spreading colonies. If planted in favorable conditions and tended well, they will grow vigorously anywhere in Zone 7-10. You can control spreading by cutting the blooms with abandon to prevent seeding…so it's just a win-win for everyone. They do need proper moisture, about 1 inch of water per week—so check the soil, especially in the hot weather. They do best in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees—so, in our hot summers, it's best to plant them for morning sun only. Happily, they are not prone to pests, just the usual suspects of slugs, mites, and aphids. Keep that insecticidal soap and slug bait handy to prevent damage. Remember to cut them back after blooming to redirect the plant from seed production.
To me, one of the best parts of the “care and feeding” of Peruvian lilies is--the more you harvest the blooms, the more they will produce! Talk about a win-win. The best way to harvest the flowers is not with a pruner. Rather, grasp the flower stem, leaves and all from the root crown and pull up laterally. After that, just place them in a vase with the leaves. And now that I'm armed with that great harvesting advise, I'm off to gather my first bunch of Peruvian lilies right in my own front yard!