Peruvian lily, Lily-of-the-Incas
Alstroemerias’ six-“petaled” trumpet-shaped blooms resemble miniature lilies and appear individually on lateral branchlets clustered atop smooth stems that bear scattered narrow twisted leaves.
These flowers are available in virtually every color except blue, and many varieties are spotted, striped, dappled or tinged with yellow.
Stems of Alstroemerias typically provide consumers six to 14 days of enjoyment, depending on care, environmental conditions and variety (vase life varies greatly by cultivar). Individual blooms, however, have shorter vase lives.
Alstroemerias are available year-round from both domestic and foreign growers—although, according to USDA figures, approximately 93.5 percent of the Alstroemerias available for sale in the U.S. in 2011 were grown in Colombia, and only 3.5 percent were produced in the States.
Unpack Alstroemerias immediately upon their arrival, and check flower quality. Remove all stem bindings, and strip foliage from the lower portions of the stems—only the portions that will be under water in storage containers (removing too much foliage can reduce vase life). Leave plastic sleeves on while the flowers initially hydrate, to reduce damage to blooms.
HYDRATION AND NUTRITION
Recut stems on an angle with a clean, sharp blade, removing at least 1 inch of stem. Cut off any whitish, or “blanched,” portion, if present, to enhance solution uptake.
Immediately after cutting, dip or place the stems into a hydration solution to help the flowers take up water more quickly, then place them into a sterilized storage container partially filled with either properly prepared bulb-flower-food solution or low-dose (low sugar) flower food (holding solution)—made with nonfluoridated water, if possible (some Alstroemeria varieties are sensitive to fluoride, which most tap water contains). (See “Challenges: Premature Leaf Yellowing.”)
Immediately after processing, place Alstroemerias into a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F for at least two hours before arranging or selling them. Unless you need blooms to open quickly, keep these flowers refrigerated until they’re arranged or sold.
The effects of ethylene gas vary greatly by cultivar. Symptoms of exposure include wilted flowers, petal or leaf drop, and transparent petals, so ensure all your purchases are treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower or during shipping. In addition, keep them away from sources of ethylene in your facility such as fruit and other produce, decaying flowers and foliage, automobile exhaust, and tobacco smoke.
If any young secondary buds were not pinched off at the grower level, remove them to promote the development of the other flowers and to increase vase life. “Disbudding” is usually done at the grower level, before harvesting the flowers, and results in larger blooms. Leaves accompanying the buds are also removed by growers during the disbudding process, which results in no leaves above the flowers.
Advise customers to cut off individual blooms as they die and to recut stem ends and change flower-food solution every two or three days.
PREMATURE LEAF YELLOWING
Alstroemerias experience hormone imbalances when they are cut from their bulbs, which can cause premature leaf yellowing. Hormone-replenishing pretreatments formulated specifically for Alstroemerias (generally administered at the grower or wholesaler) can reduce leaf yellowing, as can bulb-flower foods, which contain naturally occurring plant hormones.
Leaf yellowing also results from too much sugar in flower-food solution. Both bulb-flower foods and low-dose flower foods (holding solutions) have less sugar than standard flower foods, and the use of either is recommended for Alstroemeria storage.
Frequent handling of Alstroemerias can cause contact dermatitis—a sometimes severe inflammation of the skin—in some people. These flowers also can cause gastrointestinal discomfort if any parts are ingested. sfr
NAME AND NATIONALITY
The genus name Alstroemeria was given in honor of Swedish baron Clas (Klas, Claus) Alströmer, who brought seeds of this plant to Europe from South America in 1754. The common names, Peruvian lilies and lilies-of-the-Incas, were derived from the lilylike form of the blooms and the flowers’ nativity to Peru (home of the Incan empire) and parts of Chile and Brazil.
The genus Alstroemeria was originally classified in the Liliaceae (lily) family and later in the Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis) family. Modern botanists, however, have created a new family, Alstroemeriaceae, which comprises only Alstroemeria and Bomarea (climbing Alstroemeria).
Select bunches that have strong, straight stems, dark green leaves, one or two open flowers per stem, and mature buds that are showing color. Watch for bruised florets and crushed, yellow or moldy foliage.
Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network® , www.chainoflife.org
Cut Flowers, by C. Gelein
Cut Flowers of the World
by Johannes Maree and Ben-Erik van Wyk
by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
Könst Alstroemeria, www.alstroemeria.com
SAF Flower & Plant Care,
by Terril A. Nell, Ph.D. and Michael S. Reid, Ph.D.
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners
by William T. Stearn