how to plant, grow & care for freesias
- Written by:
- Sarah Raven
- Last updated:
complete growing guide
I adore freesias. I love the scent, the arching stems and their longevity – either growing or cut, each stem lasts nearly three weeks, looking and smelling delicious.
The mix of colours they offer is fantastic – zingy yellow, red, pink and mauve, as well as pastel shades and the classic white. Highly perfumed and easy to grow, they provide armfuls of incredibly scented flowers for much of summer.
Almost nothing gives me more pleasure than freesias planted in a trough in the greenhouse. However, with the new varieties we sell which have been cold and heat treated, they flower brilliantly outside in the garden, too.
Our freesias are first class, top size, healthy corms which have been stored through the winter at the right humidity (80%) and at 28°C. These so-called ‘prepared corms’ have had an experience similar to the one freesias would have in their native South Africa, ensuring good growing and flowering. Browse our range of freesia corms in a range of colours to add them to your cutting garden.
- Common name Freesia
- Latin name Freesia x kewensis
- Type Tender Perennial
- Height 45cm (1½ft)
- TLC rating Moderately easy
- Aspect Full Sun
- Planting position Border, greenhouse, cutting garden
- Suitable for pots Yes
- Good for pollinators Yes
- Good for cut flowers Yes
how to grow freesias
where to grow freesias
Soil type: Freesias like fertile, well-drained soil that’s ideally neutral to alkaline. Add plenty of organic matter to improve thin soils. In a pot, go for a rich, loam-based compost, with extra grit added for drainage – a good mix would be two thirds compost to one third grit.
Aspect & position: Plant freesias in sun or light shade. In the greenhouse, they are happiest with a bit of shading, particularly in the early stages.
when to plant freesias
Plant freesias in March or April in a greenhouse, and April or May directly outside as long as the risk of frost has almost passed. They can also be planted in September to November undercover for flowers in spring. They will flower about 4 months from planting. Stagger plantings to extend the flowering season.
how to plant freesias
Plant freesia corms straight out into the ground in April or May after the risk of frost has almost passed. If you’re planting the previous autumn (undercover) or growing them in pots for the greenhouse, plant 5 corms to a pot around 11cm (4in). Plant them pointy end up at about 2½-5cm (1-2in) deep.
Water newly planted corms regularly and keep them moist and shaded – a cold greenhouse or conservatory is ideal if they are in pots. Once the corms start to sprout, move pots into full sunlight and keep watering.
If you’ve planted freesias in September to November, leave the pots outside while temperatures are still between 10-17°C (50-62ºF) and then move indoors in winter to avoid cold weather and frost.
Always provide freesias with support, either with a triangle of canes to keep the foliage and flowering stems upright as they grow, or by using pea sticks. If the soil is poor or thin, apply a small dose of liquid seaweed feed when the plants are 5cm (2in) tall.
how to care for freesias
Water when planting and then water regularly once the freesias are growing, particularly freesias growing in pots.
If planted in good quality soil they won't need feeding. If the soil is poor or thin, they will benefit from a potash-rich, liquid feed – comfrey juice or liquid seaweed fertiliser works well. Feed them only once the plants are up and growing and about 5cm (2in) tall.
Both in the garden and in pots, freesias will need really good support to keep the foliage and flowering stems upright as they grow. In pots you can use round supports, which are held on a central cane, but a triangle or square of canes would do the job just as well. In the garden, use twiggy end branches of silver birch or hazel.
Cut off faded flowers at the base of the stem, but leave foliage in place until it has fully died back. This allows the bulb to store more food and produce flowers the following year.
Freesias are not fully hardy and won’t survive frosts. In warmer parts of the UK, you can mulch deeply and overwinter them in the ground.
If you are in a colder area, lift the plants in the autumn, either when the leaves yellow, or after the first frost. Cut the stems back to 2½cm (1in) and allow the corms to dry.
Once dry, remove the old, shrivelled portion, keeping only the new plump corms. These can be stored easily in a tray of sand. Keep them in a cool, dry, frost-free place. Plant again, when the ground begins to warm in late April. Stagger plantings to extend the flowering season.
- Plant freesia corms undercover in March and April.
- Plant directly outside in April and May once the risk of frosts has almost passed.
- Water newly planted corms.
- Deadhead faded freesia flowers.
- Cut flowers and freesias in bud for vases indoors.
- Lift freesia corms that are going to be stored over winter.
- Mulch heavily over any corms that are being left in the ground over winter.
- Fresh corms can be planted in September to November undercover for spring flowers.
- Any freesia corms planted in pots in autumn should be brought undercover to avoid cold weather and frosts. A cold conservatory or greenhouse is ideal.
pests, diseases & common issues
why are my freesias not flowering?
The browning foliage on your freesias should be kept in place until every leaf has died down. This allows the corms a chance to store energy and give a good display of flowers the following year. If that foliage was removed too soon, it will impact flowering. It’s also possible that frost damaged the bulbs, or perhaps the corms had been sitting around too long in their bag before planting – you might get the odd leaf, but no flower.
why are my freesia bulbs not growing?
There’s a chance mice or voles have made off with them. It could be the frosts that have damaged them, or perhaps waterlogged soil has led to bulb rot.
why are my freesias wilting?
Overwatering can cause freesias to wilt as they don’t like to sit damp. They can also wilt when they are too dry, so water well during dry periods.
It’s also possible the freesias are suffering from fusarium wilt, which is a fungal disease. Fusarium wilt causes discoloration of the stems and foliage, as well as stunted growth and yellowing and wilting leaves. If you suspect this is the issue, lift out the plant from the roots and dispose of it. The soil can also be affected, so you can either replace it with fresh soil, or avoid planting in that area for a few years.
why do my freesias have spots?
This could this be a type of bacterial soft rot – it will show up on the leaves as little spots, which then turn grey or brown. Make sure the soil isn’t too moist and the plant isn’t sitting in damp, and also make sure there’s good air circulation around the freesia. But if the plant is heavily infected it’s best to lift and destroy it.
frequently asked questions
what should you do with freesia bulbs after flowering?
It’s possible to lift and overwinter freesia corms.
are freesias perennial?
Freesias are tender perennials and they are unlikely to survive temperatures under 3ºC (37ºF). If you live in a warm part of the UK, protect the corms with a thick layer of mulch over winter, they will return year after year.
when do freesias flower?
Freesias flower from June to September. Freesias planted the previous autumn can be in flower much earlier. They are usually in flower about 4 months after planting.
do freesia bulbs multiply?
Freesia corms multiply by offsets.
how should you protect freesias?
Over winter, you may need to lift and store your freesia corms, particularly if you live in a cold area. In warmer parts of the UK, a thick layer of mulch is enough to protect them until the following spring.
how deep do you plant freesia bulbs?
Plant them at a depth of 2½-5cm (1-2in), pointy end up.
what month do you plant freesia bulbs?
There are various options here: you can plant them undercover in September to November for flowers in early spring. In a greenhouse in March and April, or directly outside in April and May once the risk of frost has almost passed.
do freesias need full sun?
Freesias are happy in a sunny spot or in light shade.
how to cut & arrange freesias
Some freesias will last 3 weeks in the vase when cut in bud. Remove any buds below the waterline. Either bought or homemade flower food is worth it with freesias. Use one teaspoon of vinegar and two of a thick sugar syrup to 1 litre of water, or two small flower food sachets. This extends the vase life by as much as 20% and helps the buds to develop.
The whites and yellows have the strongest perfume, with the deep reds next, followed by the pinks and mauves. The fragrance is fresh but with depth to it, like a delicious Alsatian wine. I love arranging them in one of two ways: either jumbled up together, a mixed bunch in a strong-coloured vase, or separated out and spread right down the middle of a table as a series of single stems.
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