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Feature Story

Alstoemerias: Value in a vase

Long life and extensive color choices are just two of the reasons this cut flower is a great buy for both consumers and retailers.

by Monica Humbard

Your floral customers may not know them by name, but they certainly will recognize Alstroemerias when they see them in bouquets. These adaptable flowers find their way into many styles of mixed bouquets and arrangements, but their extensive color range and interesting bicolor choices give them the fortitude to stand alone as well.
Alstroemerias’ outstanding characteristics have made them the No. 4 most sold cut flower in the United States, according to the cut flower import and domestic production figures published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), following roses, chrysanthemums and carnations. Here are just a few reasons why these beautiful bloomers are staples in most floral departments.

RAINBOW OF COLORS The range of colors for Alstroemerias includes hues of white, yellow, orange, apricot, pink, red, purple, lavender and bicolors. Most have freckled throats although the concentration of freckles varies.
Breeders haven’t yet achieved a blue Alstroemeria that is worthy of the quality the market demands. However, Wilfred Keijzer, production manager for Konst Alstroemeria B.V., expects a true blue Alstroemeria to be on the market in the next three to four years.

STYLE FLEXIBILITY A member of the Liliaceae (lily) family and a native of the South American Andes, the Alstroemeria, whose common names are “Peruvian lily” and “lily-of-the-Incas,” is nicknamed the “friendship flower.” And true to its name, it seems to play nicely with a number of different flowers and in a variety of bouquet or arrangement styles. It is at home in a wedding bouquet with roses or in a playful party arrangement with Gerberas. And because of its exotic appearance, it even combines well with a bouquet of tropical foliage.

LONG VASE LIFE On average, Alstroemerias have a two-week vase life, but Mr. Keijzer says they usually last even longer. To capture the maximum vase life for consumers, he recommends that retailers purchase Alstroemerias at the point when the first flowers on the stems are open a little.

STEM STABILITY Along with a strong will to survive, Alstroemerias have sturdy stems. This is one reason designers like using them in arrangements.

AREA OF GROWTH As Alstroemerias have proved to have a great value for both retailers and consumers, the U.S. supply has increased a whopping 18.7 percent, from 224.2 million stems in 2004 to 266.0 million in 2005, according to the USDA’s 2006 Floriculture and Nursery Crops Yearbook. Colombian growers supplied about 96.9 percent (257.7 million) of those stems in 2005, and U.S. growers supplied 2.7 percent (7.2 million stems). The remaining 1.1 million stems (0.4 percent) were imported from other countries, including Ecuador, Canada and Mexico. (2006 figures had not been released at press time in March.)

care and handling

Although Alstroemerias have a long vase life and sturdy stems, their Achilles heel is a low tolerance for ethylene gas. The level of sensitivity varies by cultivar. Wilted flowers and/or petal drop can result from ethylene exposure. They also can develop a somewhat transparent, water-soaked appearance of the petals.
Based on his research, Terril A. Nell, Ph.D., AAF, professor of floriculture and chairman of the environmental horticulture department at the University of Florida, says buyers should insist that Alstroemerias receive anti-ethylene treatments as well as hormone treatments to prevent leaf yellowing. His studies show that these two treatments can extend vase life by 20 percent to 25 percent.
PROCESSING Before placing Alstroemerias into flower-food solution, recut the stems and remove any whitish or blanched bottom portions to enhance solution uptake. Remove all foliages that would fall below the waterline, but note that removing too much of the foliage may reduce vase life.
STORAGE Store Alstroemerias at 36 F to 38 F for three or fewer days. For longer periods of time, drop the temperature to 32 F to 34 F.
CONSUMER CARE Advise customers to keep cut Alstroemerias out of direct sunlight and high temperatures.
ALLERGIES Alstroemerias are known to cause allergic reactions on the skin of some people. This can be avoided by wearing latex gloves when processing and handling these flowers.

the many colors of alstroemerias
One reason Alstroemerias are so popular is the wide choice of colors they offer. Here is a sampling of their versatile hues.
Photos courtesy of Konst Alstroemeria B.V.

Care information provided by:

The Chain of Life NetworkÆ,
Wilfred Keijzer, production manager for Konst Alstroemeria B.V.
Terril Nell, Ph.D., AAF, the University of Florida


You may reach reach Monica Humbard by phone at (800) 355-8086.

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