Freesias have exotic-looking blooms, which are loved for their strong spicy-sweet fragrance. Funnel-shaped, freesia flowers are borne in dense, branching clusters on slender stems 30-60 cm high, above long narrow green leaves, and come in a wonderful range of colours including yellow, mauve, purple, orange, and white. They're immensely popular as a cut flower.
Originating from South Africa, freesias are perennial plants that grow from bulb-like corms which can be grown in pots or planted in borders outside. These can be bought as ‘prepared’ corms which have been specially heat-treated to bloom 100-120 days after planting in their first year. This heat treatment mimics conditions in their native environment where freesias naturally bloom in winter.
How to grow freesias
For indoor growing, plant freesia bulbs (corms) in autumn to bloom in late winter. To grow freesias in indoor pots for early summer flowering, plant from January to March under cover. To grow outdoors, plant from April to June.
Plant freesia corms in well-drained soil or potting compost pointy-end up, at a depth of 3-5cm, and spaced 5cm apart. Water well and then stand the pot in a cool, shaded, frost free place – a temperature of around 5°C is ideal. After 3-4 weeks when shoots appear, move into a warmer and sunny position.
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Growing freesias: jump links
- Where to grow freesias
- How to plant freesias
- How to care for freesias
- How to propagate freesias
- Growing freesias: problem-solving
- Advice on buying freesias
- Types of freesia to grow
Where to grow freesias
Freesias do best in a warm, sheltered environment with plenty of sun. Indoors, place pots of freesias in a well-lit spot on a windowsill, in a porch, or conservatory. However, conditions must not be too warm: a maximum of 15°C is the optimum for freesias, as warmer conditions result in spindly growth and flowers that quickly fade.
Outdoors, grow in pots, or plant in the ground so long as the soil is well drained. Raised beds are ideal for growing freesias as the soil usually drains well and their delicate, exotic appearance and scent can be more easily appreciated than if growing at ground level.
How to plant freesia bulbs
Freesias are versatile and can be grown in pots indoors or outdoors, or in the ground. Freesias aren’t frost-hardy so can only be planted outdoors in spring or early summer.
Well-drained soil or potting compost is essential as freesias are likely to rot in heavy or waterlogged soil. In pots, use a soil-based potting compost mixed with around a quarter to a third by volume of coarse grit.
There's no need to soak freesia bulbs before planting. Plant the long, slender freesia bulbs pointy-end up, at a depth of 3-5cm, and spaced 5cm apart.
Once planted, water well and then stand the pot in a cool, shaded, frost free place – a temperature of around 5°C is ideal. After 3-4 weeks when shoots appear, move into a warmer and sunny position.
When to plant freesia bulbs
Planting time in the UK depends on whether you're growing freesias for indoor or outdoor flowering. For indoor growing, plant freesia bulbs in autumn, and they'll flower in late winter. To grow freesias in indoor pots for early summer flowering, plant them from January to March under cover. To grow freesias outdoors, plant from April to June.
How to care for freesias
Water freesias regularly once growth appears, aiming to keep the compost moist, but take care not to over-water. Start feeding freesias when the flower buds start to form. Use a liquid fertilizer high in potash and apply every 10-14 days.
Supporting freesia flowers in some way is necessary to stop the stems flopping over, regardless of whether they’re growing in pots or in the ground. Either buy ready-made supports or use twiggy sticks pushed into the soil.
Freesia bulbs are not frost hardy so if you're growing them outside you'll need to dig them up, dry them and store them to replant the following year. When flowering has finished, simply cut off the faded flower stems and reduce watering gradually as the leaves turn yellow and die. Once the leaves have died back completely, lift the corms from the soil. Once lifted, put them in a warm place for several months to ripen the corms, mimicking the conditions of a South African summer. Then, store in a paper bag in a cool frost-free place to plant the following year. The effects of the heat treatment will have worn off so the saved corms can only be planted in spring.
How to propagate freesias
Freesias can be grown from seed, sown into potting compost with added grit or perlite, in autumn or winter. Seed-raised plants can take a couple of years to become large enough to bloom.
Small offsets or tiny corms can be detached from the original corms when lifting in autumn. These can be planted individually in small pots in spring, to grow on into larger corms. Again flowering can take a year or more.
Pests and diseases
Freesia leaves go yellow and the corms are likely to rot if the soil or compost become waterlogged. Pot-grown freesias should be checked after watering to ensure they’re not sitting in water.
Under cover, pests such as red spider mite and aphids may appear. Inspect the undersides of leaves regularly for signs of mottling caused by the tiny red spider mite, or for clusters of aphids. Improving humidity can deter red spider might, while a jet of water, soap spray or biological control can be used to combat aphids and other pests.
Advice on buying freesias
- You'll have more success if you buy 'prepared' freesia bulbs. These have been heat-treated so they grow better in our climate
- Check the corms over to make sure they're healthy. Throw out any soft or mouldy ones
Where to buy freesias online
Freesia varieties to grow
Freesia bulbs are mostly available in mixed colours only, either as simple single blooms or more exotic-looking double flowers. Individual colours are occasionally available from specialist bulb suppliers.
Freesia 'Double Mixed' offers a range of colours with large, fully double or semi double blooms. H x S: 50cm x 50cm
Freesia 'Golden Yellow' has vibrant yellow blooms on arching stems. H x S: 25cm x 15cm
Freesia 'Single Rainbow Mixture' has single blooms and includes a wide range of colours. H x S: 50cm x 50cm
Freesia 'Super Giant Mixed' is a colourful mixture ranging from white, to shades of yellow, red and mauve, with large, fully double flowers borne on sturdy stems. H x S: 30cm x 20cm
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