Their exotic beauty and long vase life have made these awesome blossoms consumer and florist favorites.

name games  Alstroemerias are most often referred to by their botanical name (pronounced al-stro-MEE-ree-uh), but their common names are Peruvian lilies and lilies-of-the-Incas, due to the form of the blooms and the flowers’ nativity to Peru (home of the Incan empire) and parts of Chile and Brazil.

The botanical name was given in honor of Swedish baron Clas Alströmer, who brought seeds of this plant to Europe from South America in 1754.

family ties  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).

color schemes  Alstroemerias are available in virtually every color except blue and usually are spotted, striped, dappled, or tinged with yellow.

Spring Bulb Flowers February 2010
Alstroemeria 'Shakira'
Peruvian lily, Lily-of-the Incas
Photo courtesy of Fresca Farms

describe yourself  Alstroemerias’ six-“petaled” trumpet-shaped blooms resemble miniature lilies and appear individually on lateral branchlets clustered atop smooth stems that bear scattered thin twisted leaves.

when and where  Alstroemerias are available year-round from both domestic and foreign growers. Approximately 93.5 percent of the Alstroemerias sold in the U.S. are grown in Colombia.

shop around Alstroemerias are commonly packaged in 10-stem bunches. Look for bunches in which at least one flower per stem is open (petals beginning to reflex) and buds are mature and showing color. Watch for bruised florets and crushed, yellow or moldy foliage.

take care  Unpack Alstroemerias immediately upon their arrival in your store, 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 the blooms.

the kindest cuts  Recut stems 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.

here’s a solution  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 sterile storage container partially filled with either properly prepared bulb-flower-food solution or low-dose flower food—made with nonfluoridated water, if possible.

cool down  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 sold or delivered.

staying green  Foliage can turn yellow quickly. Hormone-replenishing pretreatments formulated specifically for Alstroemerias and lilies (generally administered at the grower or wholesaler levels), as well as “low-dose” (low-sugar) flower foods or flower foods formulated especially for bulb flowers, can decrease premature leaf yellowing.

energy stealers  If any young secondary buds at the bases of the Alstroemerias’ primary buds (or open flowers) were not pinched off at the grower level, remove them to promote the development of the other flowers and increase vase life.

issues with ethyl  Sensitivity to ethylene gas varies 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 level or during transportation. In addition, keep them away from sources of ethylene in your shop such as decaying flowers and foliage, automobile exhaust, tobacco smoke and fruit.

fact of life  Alstroemerias typically last from six to 14 days at the consumer level, depending on variety and care (vase life varies greatly by cultivar).

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