Alstroemeria x aurantiaca: Peruvian Lily
This lily has surely appeared as a table decoration in the home of many readers for its cutcan be bought at the florist’s all the year round. Alstroemeria is a genus embracing some 60 species native mostly to the Andes. The persistent storage organs are the fleshy, tuberous, keel-shaped roots which are very fragile and prone to break readily when the lily is transplanted. The stems are covered with leaves that are turned a full 180°C so that the undersides face upward, a characteristic typical of this group which also includes the genera Leon-tochir, Schickendantzia and the beautiful Bomarea. The flowers, generally in loose umbels, are large, with petals arranged in two distinct rings; largest is the inner bottom petal, which, like all those in the inner ring, is spotted a different colour.
The hybrid differs only slightly from the type species A. aurantiaca from Chile, which grows to a height of 90 cm (3 ft) and has greyish-green leaves up to 10 cm (4 in) long. The umbels may contain as many as 30 flowers, but such a number is only to be found in older specimens that have not been moved for years.
Chile is also the home of the best known species A. ligtu, which in the wild grows to a height of about 60 cm (2 ft). The flowers are likewise arranged in an umbel, but the flower stalks branch so that the total number is about 20 to 25. They are mostly pale violet marked with pink and yellow. Selection and crossings gave rise to the so-called Ligtu-Hybrids, robust, profusely-flowering cultivars, particularly good for cutting.
Most species of the genus Alstroemeria are hardy or almost hardy and will survive the winter in sheltered areas without a protective cover. They are best grown in a cool greenhouse in good humusy compost, such as John Innes potting compost No. 2, and are readily propagated by division of the clumps. Plants attain their full beauty, however, only after being left undisturbed for several years. Propagation by seeds is also easy; these may be sown directly in the bed where they are to grow, or in pots.