Plant of the week: Alstroemeria
Peruvian lilies will keep you supplied with exotic flowers
Alstroemeria brings a touch of the exotic to the garden. The choice of varieties used to be limited to the invasive, but boldly coloured Alstroemeria aurea, to the pastel jazziness of the A. ligtu hybrids, which were often cut back by late frosts, or the green and redflowered species A. psittacina, known as the parrot lily, which is still worth growing.
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, while others were specifically bred for more general garden use and growing in containers. The Princess, Planet and Parigo ranges 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 longer to establish and can fail. They prefer moist, welldrained soil in sun or light shade. Plant them 10-15cm (4-6in) deep, and mulch them over winter to protect from frost. When in growth apply a general fertiliser or liquid feed with a high potash fertiliser when flower buds are showing. Grow more compact varieties in pots of John Innes No 3 or multi-purpose with added