How to get your hands on scarce alstroemeria seeds.

November 16, 2017 General Studies

Judging from the response to Sunset’s cover article last September, in a few years you should be seeing many more alstroemerias (Peruvian lilies) blooming in home gardens. The supply of plants is increasing but still limited to a few nurseries.

The most certain way to get these choice plants is still to start your oun from seds. All three of the sources listed in last year’s article quickly sold out. Here is the status of seeds in 1984:

The Berkeley Botanical Garden will again sell seeds of Ligtu Hybrids in mixed colors (the plants shown on last September’s cover). It will accept orders only from now until September 15, on a first-come, first-served basis. Seeds will be harvested during summer and mailed in November. To bring its price into balance with that of other sources, Berkeley Botanical Garden now charges $2.40 for 40 seeds, including mailing costs, with a limit of one packed per order. Make checks payable to UC Regents and mail to Seeds, Box 1901, Berkeley 94701. Checks or money orders must be printed with your name and correct mailing address; other forms of payment cannot be accepted. The botanical garden does not sell other kinds of seeds. These two mail-order sources offer seeds of a Ligtu-type alstriemeria and also of the hardier, gold to ornage-flowered A. aurantiaca: Thompson ; Morgan (Farmingdale, N.J. 07727); and Geo. W. Park Seed Co. (Greenwood, S.C. 29646). Order their free catalogs for prices. Another way to improve germination
Once the seed coat turns hard and brown, alstroemeria seeds need special treatment to get a good percentage of germination. Without treatment, only 10 percent of seeds may sprout withing the first few months; with treatment, about 85 percent grow. In last September’s article, we reported one technique–soaking the seeds in 3 percent hydrogen peroxide for an hour. Here is another method from Magic Gardens Nursery in Berkeley.

Put the seeds into a plastic bag along with a handful of vermiculite that’s as damp as a squeezed sponge; secure the top and put in the refrigeraton for three weeks.

To prepare the seed containers, spread 2 inches of sterile soil over the container bottom, cover with about 1 inch of vermisulite, and sspread the refrigerated seed and vermiculite mixture thinly over the surface. Cover thinly with more vermiculite, firm the surface gently with a board, and water. Keep the seedbeds dark by covering them with sturdy cardboard or similar material. Support the covering about an inch above the soil so that sprouts aren’t damaged. Uncover them as soon as most seeds germinate–usually within 2 weeks.

As soon as they are large enough to move–about 2 to 2-1/2 inches tall– lift them with a fork, shake them apart, and pot separately into cell-packs or similar small cubicles. Use an especially fast draining mixture such as 2/3 potting soil, 1/3 perlite. Clip off about 1 inch of the shoot, cutting about a leaf node.

About three weeks later, begin checking the roots. As soon as they fatten into tubers, pop seedlings out of the cell-packs and move into larger containers. Nurseries put them into 4-inch pots; you may get faster growth by putting each one into a gallon can, or several into a larger container. Use the same porous mix described above. Be careful not to overwater.

When plants resume growth, feed with a low-nirogen fertilizer as directed on the package. If seedlings appear yellow, look clossely for aphids; spray with a mild soap if needed.

For more information about kinds of alstroemerias available and how to grow them, see page 80 of the September 1983 Sunset.


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