How to Grow Freesia

Freesia bulbs with light purple-pink, white and yellow flowers in sunlight closeup

The Spruce / K. Dave

When thinking about freesia (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. Seasonal bulbs or corms grow quickly in spring. 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.

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, at least five to seven together. Space bulbs about 3-inches apart, and then water the planting area well. Freesias should start blooming about 12 weeks after planting the bulbs.

Botanical Name Freesia spp.
Common Name Freesia
Plant Type Perennial bulb or corm
Mature Size 1-2 ft. tall
Sun Exposure Full sun to partial 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 9-10
Native Area Africa

Freesia Care

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.

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.

Freesia bulbs with yellow tubular flowers clustered and surrounded by grass

The Spruce / K. Dave

Freesia bulbs with yellow and orange tubular flowers hanging under long leaf blades

The Spruce / K. Dave

Freesia bulbs with light purple-pink and white flowers on thin stems in stunlight

The Spruce / K. Dave

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 when they're flowering. Reduce watering to allow the soil to dry out if the foliage turns yellow and begins to wilt.

Temperature and Humidity

Freesias are not cold-hardy flowers; outside their hardiness zone, they can be planted in early spring as annuals. However, the plants do need nighttime temperatures around 50–55 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 40–50% 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.

Freesia Varieties

  • 'Belleville': Double blooms of 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 flowers
  • 'Royal Blue': Bright lavender flowers with white throats and delicate purple veining

Pruning

Freesia 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.

Propagating Freesia

If you're interested in propagating your freesia, 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.

Potting and Repotting Freesia

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.

Common Pests/Diseases

Freesia is pretty hardy, but occasionally it will attract aphids, slugs, and snails. For aphids, you can use insecticidal soap daily, and wipe away dead bugs with a clean cloth. Slugs and snails should be removed by hand; then you can leave slug or snail bait, or little dishes of beer for them.