Foliage Friday: Alstroemeria and Its Rhizomes

Starting 2021 off strong by learning about a weed!

Or at least it’s a weed to me. This plant was planted where my garden space is now, and we apparently didn’t do a very good job of pulling it up before putting the garden in, because it won’t go away. Some people actually like this flower….it’s sold in grocery store bouquets. Can you guess what it is?

If you guessed alstroemeria, you would be correct!

Alstroemeria, which was reportedly named after Linnaeus’s friend/student, Swedish botanist Clas Alströmer, also goes by the name Peruvian Lily or Lily of the Incas. It has lily-like petals that come in a variety of colors depending on the species. The petals are usually striped or dotted. 

Image source: here

As you can probably guess from its name, this flower is native to South America. It is hardy in zones 7-10, and is a long-lasting perennial. The grocery store varieties are often hybrids formed from crossing winter-growing species and summer-growing species, creating super-flowers that are evergreen, and produce flowers almost year round. These flowers also have a long vase life. Sounds like the perfect flower for bouquets – a florist’s dream!

But don’t be fooled. I’m not the only one who considers this plant a weed. There are many reports online of the invasive nature of this plant in the garden. This plant is rhizomatous, which spreads easily and can be hard to contain or eliminate. Horsetail is also a rhizomatous plant, and that has been a beast to control in the blueberry patches in Seattle.

What we tried to do in Seattle, and what I’m trying to do here is to pull out a shoot every time I see one. I’m hoping that if I stay on top of it, the plant won’t be able to photosynthesize and it will eventually run out of energy. If I understand Charles Dowding’s philosophy, he would agree. Others, however, say that when you try to pull out the rhizomes they just produce more and grow back stronger than before. While I agree that cutting rhizomes doesn’t get rid of the plant, as the rhizome will continue to send up shoots, sending up shoots takes energy, and if you keep cutting the plant back before it can do very much photosynthesis, the rhizome will eventually burn out, right? Right??? Somebody please tell me that I’m right.    

Either way, be careful where you plant it…. The flowers are nice, but I’d rather to have a garden of vegetables

One thought on “Foliage Friday: Alstroemeria and Its Rhizomes”

  1. I had horsetail when I first moved here and I did the same, pulling every one I found. It took a couple years, but they were soon gone. Not all plants are so easy, though– Goutweed, bamboo, houttuynia, and polygonum are true garden thugs and close to impossible to eradicate.

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