Fresh-scented and colorful, freesias are corm-grown flowers that look wonderful in any fragrant or cutting garden. Classified into the iris family, there are approximately fourteen cultivars in the genus. Freesias are native to South Africa, with the exception of two varieties, which are native to central Africa. They are named after the German physician, Dr. Friedrich Freese, who discovered them.

Freesias were first imported to Europe at the end of the 19th century, and have been well-loved by many gardeners ever since. Although flowers are normally scented strongly when the blossom is white, freesias are different from other scented plants, as they are more highly scented when the blossom is pink or purple. If you are going to cut them for vases, make sure that you cut only when the flower has one bloom out. Don't let freesias stand near excessive heat, fruit, or vegetables, because they are sensitive to the gases produced in these conditions.

The flowers can add a splash of color to your landscape design, coming in pink, red, purple, white, yellow, blue, cream and orange. Freesias normally have dark green, slightly striped foliage and stems. They grow to approximately 18 inches high and spread out to approximately 8 inches. Space the plants 4 inches apart. The flowering time is summer.

Growing Freesias

Freesias require full sun and well-drained, relatively moist fertile soil. Therefore it is important to use quality fertilizer on your garden. Plant freesias 3 inches deep in the fall for spring-flowering corms and in the spring for summer flowers. Water relatively freely through the growing season. Store the dry corms at approximately 77 degrees F.

Recommended Varieties

Depending on what you want to grow freesias for, you can choose from a number of single or double-flowering cultivars. "Ballerina" is a graceful variety that produces showy white blossoms; "Oberon" has yellow blooms; "Blue Heaven" has blue-mauve flowers and "Red Lion" has reddish-orange blooms. All freesias are scented, making them perfect if you are planning a themed garden with all scented plants.

Landscape Design Tips

Freesias are great in containers and cutting gardens. They're quite sensitive flowers and need a lot of light and humidity, so you may want to grow them strictly as houseplants where they're not hardy. Otherwise, mass plantings look wonderful in borders.

Gardening Zones

Freesias should be spring planted in zones 4 to 8 and fall planted in zones 9 and 10.

Pests and Problems

The flowers can suffer spider mites, aphids, rot and wilt.