Freesia is a genus of about 14 species and belongs to the Iridaceae family along with iris, gladioli and crocus, about 1,800 species in all. The freesia flowers are symbolic of innocence and can be grown outdoors in the two warmest zones in the continental United States, zones 9 and 10 and in Hawaii.
Freesia has long, narrow, sword-shaped leaves that can grow as tall as 12 inches. The stalks are slender and support up to eight funnel-shaped flowers that form a cluster at the top. The leaves are slender, as long as the stem and grow from the bulb. The stem bends almost at a right angle to the ground just where the flowers are attached so that the flowers face up instead of to the side. Freesia flowers can be white, golden yellow, orange, red, pink, mauve, lavender, purple and bicolors and have a light, sweet scent.
Plant in late summer in well-drained soil. Adding peat moss, compost, ground bark or decomposed manure to the soil will help. Make sure they are in a place where they will get a full day’s worth of sun, at least six hours. Plant the bulbs 2 inches deep and 3 inches apart with the point of the bulb towards the top. Water well right after planting. Roots and shoots will develop in the fall, grow taller in the winter and flowers will bloom in spring.
Pot or Container Planting
Freesia grow from a corm, a solid bulb. A 5-inch pot is large enough to hold six of the corms. For 8-inch pots, plant nine. Ten-inch pots can take 12 to 14 corms, and 12 to 15-inch pots are for 15 to 20. Use a good quality potting mix. Make sure there are a good number of drainage holes in the pot so the roots will not sit in water. Put the containers where they get a full day’s worth of sun. Plant them 2 inches deep and 2 inches apart, pointed side up and give a good watering.
Freesia have very specific needs. They need hot days and cool nights. Whether they are planted outside or in containers, when the leaves turn yellow and die back, remove the foliage. The plant will go dormant until next season. Do not remove the leaves any earlier. They will be busy storing sunlight and making food for next year’s flowers. Freesia bulbs can be brought in during the winter and kept in a sunny window or they can be dried off and saved for the next year. Keep the plants well watered when the leaves and flowers are still in the development stage.
Freesia is used to make soaps, perfume, scented oils, bath salts and body lotions. One stem of freesia in a vase makes an arrangement by itself because the flowers face upward. Freesia can be planted in a bed by themselves, with other flowers as long as they are shorter so the freesia can get full sun or as a stand alone specimen plant.