Get to Know Freesia Flowers

Organic fressia at the farmers market
Elisa Cicinelli/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Conduct a search for freesia on the internet and you’ll come up with a myriad of wedding flower and floral arrangement results. However, you can grow this African native in your greenhouse or as a houseplant, and enjoy its exotic perfume in the winter months when little else is in bloom.

Description

Available in a rainbow of colors, including pink, white, red, orange, yellow, and purple, you can create a vivid bouquet using nothing but freesia flowers. Some consider red and pink flowers to have the headiest fragrance. Healthy plants should produce five to seven tubular flowers per stem, all pointing in one direction like fingers. Freesia foliage is narrow and grass-like.

Planting

Freesia corms enter their active growth phase during the fall, so this is the best time to plant them. Choose soil that is rich, but not heavy. A sandy garden loam amended with humus or compost is ideal. The corms are small and don’t require deep planting, only about two inches deep. The plants look best when grouped in odd numbers of at least five to seven per container.

Within a couple of weeks of planting, you should see the first sprouts emerge from the soil. Apply a balanced flower fertilizer at this time, and keep the plants in full sun. Fertilize them again when buds appear.

If you’re interested in propagating your freesia, you can dig up the dormant corms in the summer. You’ll notice small corms forming as offsets from the main corm. Remove these and plant and care for them as you would the mature corms; flowering may occur one-two seasons later.

Maintenance

Some gardeners complain that freesias are fussy and difficult to grow. A big part of growing this flower is replicating the growing conditions of its native African habitat. You must find a way to keep the corms warm and dry during the summer dormancy period, and very cool and damp during the active period of growth. Cool means more than “I need a cardigan;” so get out your thermometers: The plants need nighttime temperatures around 50-55 degrees F to form buds. Many gardeners don’t have access to a cool greenhouse, but taking the extra effort to move the pot into an unheated garage or shed each night may reward you with flowers.

Freesia stems are thin and can’t always support the weight of the flower heads, especially in varieties that produce double blooms. A grow-through staking system that has a grid to support the flowers and leaves will keep the plants upright.

Freesia plants will appear to decline after their active blooming and growth cycle. The plants are probably entering dormancy, not dying, so don’t discard them. Trim back yellowed foliage, and keep the container in a dry place. You can move the container outdoors in the spring, keeping the dormant corms in a dry, warm spot until fall growth begins again.

Design Tips

Freesia plants are best grown as an individual specimen in a container for most gardeners, due to their specific growing requirements. If you live in a Mediterranean climate that mimics the native growing conditions of the plants, they are a must for the cutting garden. You should cut the flowers for bouquets when the first flower on the stem is open, and the rest are beginning to show color. Expect your fresh cut flowers to last about 12 days in the vase, as compared to five to seven days for purchased flowers.

Varieties

  • Belleville: Fully double pure white flowers
  • Golden Passion: Yellow flowers with a high bud count per stem; as many as 10 flowers
  • Oberon: Brilliant red and yellow bicolor
  • Royal Blue: Bright lavender with white throats and delicate purple veining