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Their bright colours and heavy perfume make freesia a popular cut flower. Freesias are native to South Africa where they are winter growing plants and are frost tender. The modern hybrid freesias, Freesia × kewensis, are derived from crosses between Freesia refracta and Freesia armstrongii. Prepared corms planted outside in April will flower in late summer or they can be grown in a cool greenhouse for spring flowering.
Freesia corymbosa from RHS Lindley Library collection
Prepared corms are heat treated to mimic the hot dry South African. These are available in spring for flowering in July and August but will only flower at this time for one season. Plant 5cm (2in) deep in April, in moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Site in a sunny, sheltered spot with twiggy sticks or wire for support.
Unprepared corms: Available late summer for planting outdoors in August or September. Only suitable for very mild districts with very little frost and these corms can remain in-situ to flower in spring the following year.
Indoors, corms will flower from January to April if planted between August and December. An October planting should under ideal conditions, flower in March for a period of four to five weeks.
Freesias are usually increased by corm offsets.
They can also be grown from seed in about seven to eight months but may not flower for a few seasons;
Prepared corms are readily available in single colours or as mixes of single and double flowers.
There are a number of freesia species listed in the RHS Find a Plant. Bulb specialist R. V. Rogers lists a selection.
Heat damage: Temperatures above 15°C will result in spindly growth and quickly fading blooms. Excessive temperature fluctuations may cause deformed flowers which include separation of the first flower from the others by a long length of flowering stem; vertical, instead of angled flower head; ‘wheat ear’ appearance, caused by excessive elongation of flower bracts.
Frost damage: Depending on the severity of the frost, leaves may turn grey and translucent, then collapse or softening of the flower stem and collapse of flowers.
Pests: Susceptible to aphids, caterpillars and glasshouse red spider mite and mice and voles.
Diseases: Fusarium bulb rot, freesia mosaic virus and gladiolus dry rot fungus (Sclerotinia) can occasionally be encountered.
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