How to Grow and Care for Freesia Flowers

Freesias in vase on windowsill

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When many people think about freesias (Freesia spp.), wedding flowers and other floral arrangements probably come to mind. However, you also can grow this African native at home (under the right conditions) to enjoy its wonderful perfume. Available in a rainbow of colors, including pink, red, purple, and yellow, you can create a vivid bouquet using nothing but freesia flowers. Some consider the 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.

Botanical Name Freesia spp.
Common Name Freesia
Plant Type Perennial bulb
Mature Size 1 to 2 feet tall
Sun Exposure Full sun to part sun
Soil Type Rich, moist, well-draining
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color Pink, red, white, yellow, orange, blue, purple
Hardiness Zones 9 to 10
Native Area Africa

How to Grow Freesias

Freesia bulbs enter their active growth phase during the fall, so this is the best time to plant them. Choose a sunny garden bed with soil that is rich but not heavy. A sandy garden loam amended with humus or compost is ideal. The bulbs are small and don’t require deep planting; place them only about 2 inches deep with the pointed end facing up. Moreover, the plants look best when grouped in at least five to seven. Space bulbs about 3 inches apart, and then water the planting area well. Freesias should start blooming about 12 weeks after planting the bulbs.

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.

Furthermore, freesia plants will appear to decline after their active blooming period. However, the plants are probably entering dormancy, not dying, so don’t discard them. Once the foliage yellows, you may trim it off.

If you live in a climate that mimics the native growing conditions of the plant, freesias are a must for a cutting garden. Cut the flowers when the first bloom on the stem is open and the rest are beginning to show color. Expect your freshly cut flowers to last about 12 days in a vase, compared with five to seven days for purchased flowers.

Light

Freesias grow best in full sun. However, they can tolerate a planting location that gets a little morning shade. If you're growing them indoors, a sunny window that faces south is ideal.

Soil

Well-draining soil is key for freesia plants. You can amend the soil with organic material, such as peat moss or compost, to improve drainage. Most regular potting mixes will do if you're planting in a container.

Water

Keep the soil moist but not soggy as new sprouts are growing. Then, water your plants around once a week once they're flowering. Then, reduce watering to allow the soil to dry out when the foliage turns yellow and begins to wilt.

Temperature and Humidity

Freesias are not cold-hardy flowers, and they're typically planted in early spring as annuals in areas outside their growing zone. However, the plants do need nighttime temperatures around 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit to form buds. If you don't have access to a cool greenhouse, moving freesias in containers into an unheated garage or shed each night might be what's necessary to promote flowers. Furthermore, freesias prefer around 40% to 50% humidity, which might be difficult to provide in dry climates.

Fertilizer

Once the first sprouts emerge from the soil, apply a balanced flower fertilizer, and keep the plants in full sun. Fertilize them again when buds appear.

Propagating Freesias

If you're interested in propagating your freesia flowers, dig up the dormant bulbs in the summer. You’ll notice small bulbs forming as offsets from the main bulb. Gently remove these. Then, plant and care for them as you would the mature bulbs. But note that flowering might not start until one to two seasons later.

Growing Freesias in Containers

Freesia plants do best as an individual specimen in containers because of their specific growing requirements. Select a container with adequate drainage holes, and fill it with well-draining potting mix. Then, plant your bulbs around 2 inches deep with the pointed end up. Space them a few inches apart. Then, water the soil well, and set the container where it will receive full sun. Keep the soil moist, and expect flowers in about 12 weeks.

Varieties of Freesias

There are many species in the freesia genus. Some of them include:

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