Alstroemeria ‘King Cardinal’
Very large flowers of glowing pillar box red are borne in clustered heads on 90cm. stems. The petals are boldly marked with perfect patterns to create landing strips for bees and other pollinating insects. Alstroemeria ‘King Cardinal’ is an excellent bloomer, with repeated flushes of flowers from mid-spring right through summer, autumn, and in a sheltered site can ever produce colour into winter.
A hardy old florist’s variety
‘King Cardinal’ is an old florist’s variety. So while the fickle fashions of floristry have moved on to newer hot-house varieties, Alstroemeria ‘King Cardinal’ remains valuable as an all rounder. It is equally good making a dramatic statement in the garden as it is to cut for a vase.
Long lasting flowers in a vase
Stems of flowers last at least for a fortnight in a vase. When you are picking, it is better to twist and pull the stems off right from the base, rather than cutting. This promotes quicker repeat flower production from the rhizome, and protects rhizome health.
Flowers have no scent, so they don’t become musty over the long vase life.
Where to grow in the garden
‘King Cardinal’ is hardy and easy in Sun or ½ Shade.
Full Sun is the preferred position for stronger flower stems. But it can also handle 1/2 Shade, Dappled Sun and Shade, and still grow happily. The stems will just be a little more floppy with more shade.
These old tall florist’s varieties can be planted to grow up through supporting small shrubs.
In areas with very hot summers, some Dappled Shade or Shade for part of day is an advantage, as the fleshy rhizomes will take a rest from blooming if they get too hot. A good summer mulch does the job in hot areas.
Hardy easy growers
Alstroemeria are frost hardy down to approximately -6C. But with overhead shelter from trees these old hardy varieties can do even better than that. In very hard frost areas a mulch over winter will also help protect the crowns.
Not fussy about soil
Alstroemeria ‘King Cardinal’ are not a bit fussy about soil, though they must have good soil drainage so the fleshy roots do not rot.
Because they are such abundant bloom producers, they do need feed during the long growing season.
Alstroemeria tolerate humidity quite well, and do well in Sydney gardens for instance.
Low maintenance and easy care
Alstroemeria are very low maintenance, hardy and easy plants.
A tidy up over winter by cutting back any old stems to ground level is the only work required.
Clumps last for many years in the garden, so some slow release fertilizer in the growing season will reward with abundant blooms. Though Alstroemeria clumps have been known to persist for decades even when abandoned.
Their fleshy, tuberous root systems allow them to store water and nutrients ready to survive tough times. This helps them to withstand periods of dry well. A mulch over winter is an advantage in hard frost areas.
Growing: Alstroemeria ‘King Cardinal’
– Height with flowers: 90cm approx.
– Position: Full Sun to 1/2 Shade
– Soil: Happily tolerate sandy soils to heavy clay, as long as it is well drained. Will rot in waterlogged soil because of the fleshy tuberous roots. In heavier soils raise the planting mound in heavier soils to give better drainage.
– Frost: Hardy down to approximately -6C, but with overhead shelter from trees can do even better. In hard frost areas mulch in winter.
– Growth: Hardy Herbaceous Perennial
Loved by wildlife
– Beneficial to wildlife: The long blooming period gives a steady supply of food to nectar and pollen gathering bees, birds and butterflies. The Alstroemeria flowers make it easy for them to zoom in accurately using those handy landing strip markings on the petals.
– Beware: Wear gloves when cutting, as the tulipalin compound in the sap may cause skin irritation in susceptible individuals. Do not plant the species Alstroemeria psittacinais as it is an invasive and declared a noxious weed.
– Care: Very easy low maintenance, only requiring some fertilizer during the growing season, and a winter trim to the ground to tidy. In very hot summer areas mulch in summer. In hard frost areas mulch in winter.
– Deer & Rabbit resistant: The whole plant contains a toxin called called tulipalin which burns the mouth, so rabbits and deer are wise enough to leave them alone.
A bit of history
– Origin: Alstroemeria are native to South America, particularly in Chile and Peru. Hence their common names of ‘Peruvian Lily’, ‘Lily of the Incas’ or ‘Parrot Lily’.
The name Alstroemeria commemorates a gardening hero – Claus von Alstomer. Claus was wise enough in 1753 to send some Alstroemeria seed home to Sweden from Spain, where he had spotted the spectacular flowers of recent introductions from the Spanish conquests in South America.
– Myths & legends: Tradition says that each of the six Alstroemeria petals represents a special desirable quality: understanding, humour, patience, empathy, commitment and respect. If only people can be like Alstroemerias they will be very whole humans.