What are Freesias?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Freesias are South African bulbs which produce distinctively scented flowers. They grow outdoors in USDA Zones seven through 11, and they can also be forced indoors in cooler climates, or during the winter, when people may want a bit of color in their homes. Freesias are also very popular with florists, since they do well as potted plants and they have a long life once cut, making them suitable for flower arrangements.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Most people who have seen freesias don't forget it, because these flowers have an intense scent which is sometimes likened to citrus. Freesias generally produce a very sweet, rich scent, although it can become more peppery in certain soil types, and the smell can be very pervasive. Even a small planting of freesias in a garden can generate quite a cloud of scent, which can be very enjoyable.

Like other bulbs, freesias go dormant during the winter, putting up spiky green foliage in the early to mid-spring, depending on where they are being grown. Eventually, long stalks will emerge, with buds developing in a row along the stalk. The stalks tend to develop a bowed shape as the flowers develop. Freesias bloom in late spring to summer, again depending on where they are being cultivated, and the flowers have a fluted shape.

There are around 20 species in the genus Freesia, many of which are commercially cultivated. Freesias can be yellow, white, orange, blue, and violet, with some coming in a bicolored striped pattern. Many specialty cultivars have been bred to produce distinctive colors and an especially strong odor.

Freesias are very easy to grow, like other bulbs, making them a popular addition to the garden. They can be planted in a large, fragrant mass, or used in smaller clumps as accent flowers to add color and scent to the garden. Freesias contrast well with background shrubbery, and they tend to have a relatively low profile, which makes them well suited to the the edges of pathways and flower beds. Make sure to plant freesias in a well drained spot, and separate the bulbs every few years to encourage them to spread.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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