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.