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What is a Peruvian Lily?

By Todd M.
Updated May 16, 2024
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The Peruvian lily is a genus of flowering plants native to South America and belonging to the Alstroemeriacae family. Also known as Alstroemeria, there are about 50 different recognized species of Peruvian lily. In addition, 190 cultivars and hybrids of the flower have been developed since the 1980s to be used in home gardens and the commercial cut flower industry. Nearly all species and hybrids of the Peruvian lily have miniature lily flowers that bloom in May or June. Some of the most popular types of Peruvian lily plants include the lily of the Incas (Alstroemeria psittacina), the parrot lily (Alstroemeria pulchella) and the Brazilian lily (Alstroemeria caryophyllacea).

Like all Peruvian lily species, the lily of the Incas was originally only found in certain regions of South America, most notably the Pantanaal and Cerrado regions of Brazil. However, lily of the Incas are now most commonly cultivated in New Zealand as an ornamental plant that reaches its peak bloom during Christmas. Lily of the Incas is an invasive plant that has become naturalized in areas where it has escaped cultivation, including New Zealand, Australia and the Southwestern region of the United States.

These perennials grow as high as 12 inches (about 30 cm) and are propagated by dividing offsets of the bulb of the plant. Breeders have created cultivars of this species with a wide variety of colors and shapes of blooms that range from very modest trumpet blossoms to large, striking flowers that are used in flower arrangements.

Parrot lily cultivars are similar to lily of the Incas in the many hybrids and cultivars that agriculturists have created for use in home gardens and flower arrangements. The parrot lily is often used as a form of ground cover with notable flowers. This plant will rapidly spread to cover an area in short, low maintenance foliage if left unattended.

The Brazilian lily is one of the few species of Peruvian lily that is completely evergreen. This species is also often used as a dwarf ground cover in nearly tropical zones with a rating of 10 to 12 according to the United States Department of Agriculture hardiness zones. While the flower of the Brazilian lily is highly prized by many gardeners, it can often take as long as eight years before the plant will blossom. The heavily aromatic blossom features delicate white and pink petals and smells strongly of carnations.

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Discussion Comments

By LisaLou — On Jul 13, 2011

I ordered some Peruvian lily seeds from a gardening catalog because I just love their big, bright blooms.

I don't have much space for outside flowers, so planned on planting mine in a container. When I received the seeds, I soaked them in water over night, and placed them in the soil.

I did not have any blooms in my plants for two years, but once it began blooming, it still produces beautiful blooms every year.

By John57 — On Jul 12, 2011

I do agree that the Peruvian ily is a very beautiful plant and have some planted alongside my garden.

One thing I would caution about is that especially in warmer gardening zones, this plant can be somewhat invasive if it is not controlled. I have some friend who will not plant it for this reason.

I enjoy using the flowers in bouquets, so continue to keep them in my garden, but make sure that I do not let them spread or they could take over a large area very quickly.

By Mykol — On Jul 12, 2011

One of the most beautiful home accents is a fresh Peruvian lily bouquet. These flowers have long stems and colorful blooms that stay fresh in a bouquet for a lot longer than many other cut flowers.

Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies, and I like to have something in bloom at all times that I can use for fresh flower arrangements. I have found that I use Peruvian lilies mixed in with many other flowers, or they can be just as stunning by themselves.

Any way you use them, you will enjoy their big blooms and the way they can cheer up any room or outdoor space.

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