Mark Griffiths Inspiring Plants

Alstroemeria – many of these are not alpine in any way, but some are and all the smaller ones tend to be beautiful and desirable so their questionable provinence shouldn't be a barrier to cultivation. They have however a few issues and quirks which prevents them from being more popular.

Some are a little tender, but for growers of bulbs who include other South American/ African bulbs or the tender Cyclamen this isn't a problem because they, like me, are keeping the greenhouse frost free.

A bigger problem is the way the tubers grow. They tend to be escapologists par excellence in that the roots go out of drainage holes into the plunge and then form delicate elongated tubers. If you then try to lift the plant then the tubers sheer off and the plant is severely weakened or dies. This happened when I needed to move the plants from one house to another. It took years for them to recover. Even if you managed to lift the plant you can't easily push the tubers through the drainage holes without damaging them. I now grow mine unplunged but they are less happy. They need a deep pot and repotting can be tricky as the tubers often stick to the sides of the pot. To get around this I just carefully pour out some of the top compost and refill. I don't think they need much in the way of food as I've had several grow nicely just in the plunge sand.

The other problem is that they tend to etiolate (grow tall) under glass. I've seen Alstroemeria hookeri photos from the wild and they are almost stemless. In the Oxford Botanical Gardens planted out they are about 3-4 inches. In my greenhouse they are a foot or more. Some seem more prone to this than others, A. Patagonica seems to remain very short.

Click on image for a larger picture.

Alstroemeria hookeri – I always associate this plant with Jim and Jenny Archibald. Sadly Jim is no longer with us. I first met Jim and Jenny at a plant stall at an AGS show sometime in the 70s. There I first saw and bought A. Hookeri. Then in the 90s I started getting their seed catalogue as they were collecting around the world and bought some Alstroemeria seeds from them. I think I got good germination and grew them for a while but I remember A.exerscens refused to flower. A. hookeri did well and I still have plants and descendants from that sowing although I have lost one of the colour forms.

As an experiment I put some plants out in a cloche for the winter. Despite being frozen solid several times it looks as if they are ok. Time will tell.