Freesias are a small flowering plant with an intensely sweet fragrance. They are native to South Africa but are now popular in gardens across the world. Freesias can be grown by seed, but are most often available as a fall-planted bulb. They are a perennial flower that reproduces each year. Freesias are often used in rock gardens and as border plants.
Freesia was first cultivated in Europe in 1766. At the time, some freesia varieties were classified as gladiolus. In 1866, freesia was identified as a distinct genus. By 1878, freesia was available commercially in England and quickly spread to North America and Europe. Today there are hundreds of freesia hybrids and varieties in many colors.
Freesia is a genus in the Iridaceae family of plants that originated in South Africa. The 12 to 14 plants in this genus are herbaceous, flowering plants that grow from an underground bulb, or corm. The corm is conical in shape and covered with finely netted fibers. The leaves are long, narrow and sword-shaped. Flowers are produced on a horizontally bent spike and are prized for their sweet fragrance.
Flowers bloom on freesia plants from mid-winter to early summer, with two to eight flowers on each spike of the plant. Flower colors typically range from yellow to white with a yellow or purple throat. A rare variety called freesia laxa blooms red with darker blotches. The flowers are broadly funnel-shaped and radially symmetrical.
In their native South African habitat, freesia are found growing in sandy or stony soil among scrub or at forest edges. Freesia can be naturalized to coastal areas such as Northern California with moist, frost-free winters and dry summers. In other areas, they are treated as hardy perennials.
An acid, sandy, well-drained soil is optimal for growing freesia. They prefer dry conditions and will rot with too much water. The recommended potting mix is three parts sandy soil to one part compost. Freesia grows well in pots or in a well-ventilated, sunny garden spot. Potted freesia flowers can be removed after blooming to allow the plants to regenerate corms for next year's bloom.
Freesia grandiflora is a summer rainfall species that blooms in the spring. Flowers are large and red, with darker splotches at the center petal. Freesia laxa azure is a rare blue variety that can be difficult to grow. The petals have a round shape and a darker marking near the center. Freesia refracta has apricot or white flowers with pointed, striped petals.