South African natives prized for the rich perfume of flowers. In spring, wiry, 1- to 1-ft. stems bear spikes of tubular flowers that reach 2 in. long and flare to 2 in. wide. Each stem bends at nearly a right angle just beneath the lowest bud. Narrow, sword-shaped leaves to 1 ft. tall grow in iris-like fans. Hardy to 20F.
The old-fashioned favorite F. lactea (F. alba) has white blooms with a powerfully sweet scent, but more commonly available today are hybrids (Dutch and Tecolote hybrids represent the majority of those sold) with single or double blossoms in yellow, orange, red, pink, lavender, purple, blue, and white. You can buy mixed-color assortments as well as named varieties in specific colors.
Plant in fall, setting corms 2 in. deep (pointed end up) and 2 in. apart in well-drained soil. Plants go dormant after bloom and need no irrigation until growth resumes in fall. In areas with high summer rainfall, it's best to dig them when foliage yellows and store the corms until it's time to replant in early fall. Freesias will self-sow if faded flowers are not removed; volunteers tend to revert to cream marked with purple and yellow. In Upper, Middle, and Lower South, plant 2 in. deep, 2 in. apart in pots and grow indoors in a sunny window. Keep room temperature as cool as possible at night. Freesias are easily grown from seed sown in July or August; they will often bloom the following spring. Flowering potted freesias grown from chilled and stored corms are available throughout the year.