A native of South Africa, freesia pleases with upward-facing blossoms in bright colors and by adding a citrusy perfume to the air in late spring to early summer. Each freesia stem produces five to 10 tubular flowers, all of which grow on only one side of the stem. Double-flowered hybrids provide an even showier display. Worth noting: The stems turn at right angles just below the lowest flower, which results in blossoms that face the sky and attract pollinators. This characteristic makes freesia wonderful for arrangements.
Perfume the Landscape
A petite plant that packs a powerful perfume, freesia's fragrance is often enjoyed before the blooms are noticed. Rising from an unassuming corm, or underground storage structure, freesia is hardy in Zones 9 and 10 and is regularly grown as an annual plant in cooler regions. Freesia is native to hot, dry regions of South Africa and thrives in similar environments in the garden. In Zones 9 and 10, count on freesia to unfurl its colorful racemes of flowers in spring. In cooler regions, it can be planted in the garden in spring and then will bloom in late summer or early fall.
A unique cutting flower, freesia is not commonly grown in the home garden and commands high prices at the florist. But growing your own freesia lets you enjoy all the beauty of florist shop bouquet right from your own backyard. Plant the elements of a charming garden bouquet by pairing freesia with dahlias, gladiolus, lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis), larkspur, cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus), amaranth, and pincushion flower (scabiosa). When creating a cutting garden, don't hesitate to plant in rows for easy care and harvesting all season long. Add structure to the planting bed by surrounding it with a low fence.
When it comes time to cut freesia, do so early in the morning before it gets warm and dries out the petals. Hold the cut stems under water while you cut them again at a slight angle. Immediately arrange them in a vase of water. Change the water every day or use a floral preservative.
Freesia Care Must-Knows
Freesia grows best in well-drained soil and full sun, but a location with light morning shade will also work. Hot, dry planting sites, such as south-facing foundation gardens and curbside and sidewalk gardens, are often great growing places for this plant—as long as it gets the cool nights it needs to flower well. Freesia also grows well in containers placed in full sun or planted alongside annuals and perennials that do not require excessive watering.
When in Zones 9 or warmer, plant freesia corms at least 2 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches apart in the fall. In cooler zones, plant corms after the last frost in spring. Water corms well after planting and continue watering often during the growing season to keep the soil moist. After freesia blooms, let the narrow, bladelike leaves turn yellow and wilt before digging up the tender corms and storing them in a cool, dry place until planting the following year.
Freesia can be forced to bloom inside. Plant the corm in a container filled with quick-draining potting soil in October or November. Water the container well and place it in a bright sunny window. Expect freesia to bloom 4 months or more after planting.