They are named for Frederick Freese, a 19th century German horticulturally-minded physician and botanist.
Freesia "bulbs" are actually corms, with a conical shape.
Their leaves are iris-like in appearance.
The flower is funnel or goblet shaped with 8 to 12 funnels per stem.
A very pleasing aroma is a quality in old varieties. Some of the new hybrids, however, are not as noticeably fragrant.
The flowers come in many colors, including white, yellow, blue, orange and red.
Freesias are tender bulbs that will not grow out of doors in northern states that have frost.
Freesias grow well in a cool (not cold) greenhouse. Night temperatures below 40 or 45F is probably too cold.
Freesias do not like excessive heat.
Freesias like abundant light, a good soil, and fertilizer.
Freesias are magnificent as cut flowers. A pot of them can be brought indoors for enjoyment or as cut stems.
A single freesia stem displayed in a tall and narrow vase can be striking.
They will last for over a week in a house that is not too hot.
Freesias, as with all greenhouse plants, require good air
circulation to insure healthy growth.
Suggested Freesia Hybrids
Many hybrids have been introduced in recent decades.
Freesia corms are far more popular in the U.S. today than they were twenty years ago.
Call your local garden centers to see if they stock freesia corms in August and September.
Peter De Jager Bulb Co.
George W. Park Co.
Van Engelen Inc.
McClure & Zimmerman Bulbs
John Scheepers, Inc.
White Flower Farm
It is amazing how one little event can have such a long term impact on things we do. Many years ago, while my wife and I were living for a year in southwestern England, a new friend stopped by our apartment on American Thanksgiving morning and presented us with a bouquet of one of the most fragrant and vividly colored flowers we had ever seen.
As a result of our friend's thoughtful gesture, we were hooked on freesias.
But it took another five years before we were living in our first house--one with a greenhouse no less--that we began a long love affair with growing, harvesting, sharing and enjoying these items of beauty.
One of the best greenhouse books, Greenhouse Gardener's Companion, by Shane Smith, comments that, "I am convinced that heaven has the scent of freesias." Many of us thoroughly agree.
For the greenhouse gardener it is rather easy to have this heavenly scent and incredibly pleasant blossom thriving in the winter greenhouse. How does one proceed? Here are some suggestions, gathered from 25 years of experience, for growing freesias under glass.
In this Zone 7 growing area [where average minimum temperatures range from 0 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit], raising pots of freesias is a September to April activity. First, I begin by using corms that have been saved from last year's crop and also purchasing a few new hybrids. (See source list and suggested hybrids in column at left.)
As with all bulbs, it is best to select those that are large and firm. Pots really can be any 6 or 8 inch size. I don't particularly like the low bulb pans, because they need too much watering and don't hold the amount of soil that helps good growth. Terra cotta or plastic both work well. I prefer the plastic.
As for soil, the standard mixture of equal part loam, peat moss and sand works just fine.
Some time in late August or early September, I begin the process of gradually potting up the freesias, a few pots each week, that I want to have blooming in January through March. My first year, a long time ago, I started with 10 pots. One year there were almost 100 pots, clearly too many for my 10 by 12 foot greenhouse. This past year there were 38 pots, a very adequate number for our own use, for neighbors, and for friends.
About 6 or 8 corms are gently spaced and placed an inch or two below the soil mixture, firmed down with a bit of soil and then watered thoroughly. The pots do not go right into the greenhouse, but rather are put in a cool, dark or shaded area to enable them to establish a nice rooting system.
During this early growth period below the overhang of the north side of the house, I have had trouble with squirrels getting into the pots. A fencing arrangement around the pots seems to solve this problem.
Within a week new growth appears in each pot. If necessary, add a bit of water to pots that seem to be drying out. Freesias need a good amount of water during their entire growing period, though watering shouldn't be over-done.
When the foliage gets to be 6 or 8 inches tall, it is necessary to begin staking each pot with 2 foot long bamboo stakes. Connect the stakes with green twine or even heavy thread. As the foliage grows to almost 2 feet, keep pushing the greenery inside the staking arrangement. This process helps to keep the individual pots looking neat and eventually guides the flower buds to grow tall and straight.
As the weather gets cool in October, and certainly before the first frost, move all of the pots into the greenhouse. By now they should all look neat and orderly and be ready for a 12 week or so period of growth before blooming. And now is the time to begin a program of fertilizing. This could be an every 2 week activity, or it could mean adding a very small quantity of fertilizer as you are watering. Any all purpose liquid fertilizer (10-30-20) is quite sufficient, being sure to follow the directions on the container.
Aphids and white flies can be a problem, especially in a greenhouse with inadequate air circulation and with plants too close to one another. I have long ago ceased using insecticides or pesticides. I prefer to use the finger squeezing technique, holding up each pot one at a time and examining it for aphids and white flies. It takes patience, but it does work. Those yellow cardboard devices with a sticky substance on them, hung up in the corner of the greenhouse, do help with white flies.
Sometime right after Christmas, here in Maryland, the first buds begin to show their welcome faces. Day by day, as the days get longer, the buds begin to change. Some time in late January you can actually tell what the color of each bud will be. Within days a few buds have opened. February wil bring abundant blossoms and a wonderful feeling that spring is not far away. In March, while the winter aconites, snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils are in bloom outdoors, the freesias in the greenhouse are finishing their season.
Keep watering each pot as the the foliage turns brown. In April and May the pots can be put outside. I prefer to remove the corms from the pots by May or June, let the corms dry a bit, and store them in a cool, dry and airy spot for the summer. If stored in closed containers they will certainly rot. If stored with too many on top of one another they will also be prone to rot.
Using some of the best stored bulbs and buying some new cultivars, you will be ready to begin the whole wonderful process of growing freesias in your winter greenhouse. I don't think you will ever regret growing freesias.