A New Twist On Freesia

A New Twist On Freesia

I am always surprised to hear growers say they think freesias are not an interesting product. Many say freesias are not in vogue, that they’re old-fashioned or a crop without profit. I say today’s freesia cultivars make excellent cut flowers, and with the right treatment they can be excellent potted plants, too.

Longwood Gardens visitors adore freesias. Over the years, they came to expect the eloquent presence and the pleasing fragrance of freesias in the winter and spring display. Not at all shy, visitors will tell me if the flowers are not displayed on time–or not scented enough.

In my mind, it is easy to see why people enjoy freesias. They are a timeless floriculture standard: the raceme-like flower spike consists of a number of flowers that bloom in sequence for an extended period of time. The blooms may be single or double, and they come in colors ranging from whites and yellows to reds, pinks and blues. And traditionally, freesias have been very fragrant. Certainly, for our visitors, the fragrance of freesias has become a trademark of Longwood’s late winter and early spring displays–right along with hyacinth, daffodils, hybrid lilies and our citrus trees.

All current cultivars have one thing in common that should be of interest to cut flower growers: they are tall and well suited for cut flower production. Recent breeding efforts have favored long strong stems with lots of flowers, although the foliage of some cultivars has often been rather disappointing. Also, growth habit and complicated culture requirements make freesias a poor pick for pot production–at least this seems to be the widely accepted opinion. It is my intention to illustrate that this assumption may be incorrect and, perhaps, ready to be put to a test.

Production

Most plants grown for Longwood’s display are produced in containers for easy transportation and transplanting into flowerbeds of the conservatories. This includes freesias. Expected crop proportions are specified by the display designer who likes plants that are tall and showy.

Due to their growing habit, freesias require staking and elaborate tying–a very time-consuming task. With all this TLC, I produce super-sized pot crops that make astonishing mass displays in the conservatory–but certainly would be impossible to sell to the consumer market. Perhaps due to my ever-changing production schedule and the need for extra plants, I need to either hold plants in the cooler–until bench space becomes available–or delay potting.

Following my regular schedule, corms are planted in October and November. These pots will come to flower in February and March, producing these oversized container plants mentioned. In addition to the regular production, this year’s schedule asked for an additional crop for April display. Due to this complicated schedule and limited growing space, the potted freesia corms were held in coolers at minimum temperatures. The temperatures of the growing compartment were also maintained low because the other crops in this compartment required very low temperatures.

In short, the April crop of freesia was being treated the wrong way. I was rather worried about all these compromises. I was not even sure I would have a crop, or if the crop would flower on time.

These plants came into flower this spring, but the crop was completely off specifications. While I normally grow plants about 36 to 42 inches tall, this year’s crop would be an absolute knockout pot crop if I was growing for the consumer market. The plants are now budded up and have an average height of 8 to 10 inches. The stems are sturdy and self supporting so they don’t need staking. The foliage is dark green, attractive and compact. The flower buds are normal size, so I am a bit anxious about how the stem will hold up once the flowers start opening–considering that ‘Yvonne’ is a double-flowered cultivar. Although I am very excited, our display designer is less enthusiastic about these midget freesias.

An Alternative Approach

When working with freesias it is advisable to find a supplier that works for you. Over the last five years, Leo Berbee Bulb Company in Marysville, Ohio has been my supplier of choice for freesias. For you, it will be important to determine if you like to work with prepared (pre-cooled) material or with standard corms. Standard corms require a pre-cooling treatment. Furthermore, the supplier should help you develop your planting schedule based on your local conditions.

Because Berbee knows how my production works, it has been extremely helpful finetuning my production schedule. Another important factor when working with freesias is to order according to the planting schedule. If corms are stored too long or at a wrong temperature, they will “pupate” and develop new side corms rather than grow a plant with flowers.

Freesias require a well-drained media. Most cultural mistakes are made by choosing the wrong media or by poor water management. If pots stay too wet, freesias will suffer root and bulb rot. However, actively growing plants should never dry out completely. The delicate root system simply desiccates and plants become victim to opportunistic infestations.

I use a specific Freesia mix consisting of the following components: 40 percent peat moss, 25 percent sand, 20 percent pine bark compost and 15 percent vermiculite. The pH is adjusted with lime to a range of 6.0 to 6.5, and I add RootShield at a rate of 1.5 pounds per cubic yard. Corms are planted into 6-inch fiber pots about one inch under the soil level.

While I plant 12 corms to a pot, for commercial purposes, 10 corms per 6-inch pot should be sufficient. The potted corms are normally brought to the bench right away. However, freesias can be started in a cooler with a temperature range of 48-55°F. I sometimes leave the pots in a cooler for up to three weeks, or until first shoots are visible. At this point, the pots need to go to the bench, otherwise shoots will stretch too much.
Suggested light levels are around 3,000 footcandles. Because I grow freesias during the low light winter months, I use supplemental light to ensure proper plant development. The growing lights provide supplemental light and extend the day to 14 hours.

Freesias need adequate nutrition and should be fertilized every 10 days. I have had good results with Peter’s Excel 15-5-15 CAL-MAG Special from Scotts-Sierra Horticultural Products Company. It’s a water-soluble complete fertilizer applied at a concentration of 150 to 200 ppm.

Temperature & Bench Time

Flower bud initiations for freesia will occur at temperatures below 48°F. I keep temperatures at 41°F because we are also growing other cool crops in the same greenhouse compartment. At this low temperature, my freesias usually require about 95 to 110 days, although the time requirement varies among different cultivars. This is about 20 to 25 days more than when freesias are grown at the regularly suggested temperature range of 50 to 60°F. The longer bench time is offset by improved crop quality. The growth habit is compact and sturdy and plant height is significantly reduced.

Market & Post Harvest

Freesias are ready for market when flower buds show slight pigmentation. At this stage, they should be shipped or placed in a cooler. Although freesias can be stored at 33°F for a few days, storage should be kept to a minimum because plants will deteriorate. Make sure there are no sources of ethylene in the cooler–do not store fruit and freesias in the same cooler. Ethylene will lead to a rapid decline of the flowers. Temperature management during storage and transportation, as well as at the sales location, is a must. At a temperature range of 62 to 68°F, freesias have a very long shelf life–up to four weeks–but temperature spikes over 70°F will reduce longevity of the crop to just a few days.

More Tests Are Needed

Because Longwood’s freesia display is popular with our visitors, one surely can speculate on a potential market for potted freesias. By late winter, people are longing for color and the scent of spring. Perhaps in the future, Dutch breeders will provide us with new dwarf cultivars suitable for pot production without the need for complicated growing environment modification and/or application of PGRs.

Until that time, low-growing temperature production perhaps could be the answer for growing potted freesias. For areas with inconsistent winter temperatures, a combination of PGRs and low-growing temperatures could provide the tools needed for producing consistently compact pot freesias. Growing crops at low temperature increased production time by about two to three weeks. However, the compactness of the pot crop was achieved without the use of PGRs. In addition, the minimum temperature input should provide for an improved carbon footprint–a more sustainable approach to crop production.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “A New Twist On Freesia

More From ...
Status of Marijuana US Map May 2015

May 29, 2015

Marijuana Legalization Updates

As of April 2015, 23 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some capacity. At the federal level, several bills are currently awaiting action. Here is an update on current state and federal marijuana legislation across the U.S.

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

May 29, 2015

Making The Decision To Produce Medical Marijuana

Should horticultural growers consider cultivating medical marijuana? That’s up to the individual grower, of course, and certainly a number of growers already have jumped in. We at Meister Media Worldwide, publishers of Greenhouse Grower and American Vegetable Grower, do not necessarily endorse nor oppose the production of medical marijuana. But we do feel it is an option worth exploring. We intend our “Medical Marijuana” series of articles to give you information you need to make your own call. We hope you find it useful, and we do welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas as we continue to cover what we’re fairly certain is only going to be an increasingly viable and growing market for this emerging crop.

Read More
Double Whammy Merchandise Display At CAST2015

May 28, 2015

Grow Inspiration To Grow The Horticulture Industry

We need to work together as the horticulture industry to inspire and instruct consumers with our plant knowledge and marketing expertise.

Read More
Latest Stories
Status of Marijuana US Map May 2015

May 29, 2015

Marijuana Legalization Updates

As of April 2015, 23 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some capacity. At the federal level, several bills are currently awaiting action. Here is an update on current state and federal marijuana legislation across the U.S.

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

May 29, 2015

Making The Decision To Produce Medical Marijuana

Should horticultural growers consider cultivating medical marijuana? That’s up to the individual grower, of course, and certainly a number of growers already have jumped in. We at Meister Media Worldwide, publishers of Greenhouse Grower and American Vegetable Grower, do not necessarily endorse nor oppose the production of medical marijuana. But we do feel it is an option worth exploring. We intend our “Medical Marijuana” series of articles to give you information you need to make your own call. We hope you find it useful, and we do welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas as we continue to cover what we’re fairly certain is only going to be an increasingly viable and growing market for this emerging crop.

Read More
Double Whammy Merchandise Display At CAST2015

May 28, 2015

Grow Inspiration To Grow The Horticulture Industry

We need to work together as the horticulture industry to inspire and instruct consumers with our plant knowledge and marketing expertise.

Read More
Plant-Select_for-web

May 28, 2015

PlantSelect.org And FindPlants.net Assist Consumers Wit…

The recently launched PlantSelect.org and FindPlants.net websites offer growing and maintenance tips, where-to-buy information and design ideas to help consumers have success with growing and finding plants.

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

May 27, 2015

Cal-Poly Students And Faculty Ask Industry To Help Save…

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential, and/or recreational space. According to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head, the proposed changes directly affect the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department. The department is committed to making sure that its facilities remain invaluable teaching environments that enable its students to learn about crop, fruit and horticulture production, food safety and pest protection, in addition to providing sites for externally funded research projects that benefit the industry. Industry members are invited to submit comments to the university. According to Steinmaus, a recent eMail to the Cal-Poly community from the university president indicates that all of the input gathered through the end of May will be studied by the planning […]

Read More
Laura Drotleff

May 27, 2015

Growers Working Hard To Protect Pollinators — And Their…

Editor’s Note: This editorial was written and published just prior to the news coming out about Lowe’s phasing out neonicotinoids by 2019. However, that news doesn’t change the fact that growers have a long history as good stewards of their land and of the environment. As evidenced by the 2015 Top 100 Growers Report, the nation’s largest growers continue to adapt their production practices to be cognizant of environmental factors, worker safety, retailer preferences and consumer concerns. In light of Lowe’s announcement, growers who produce for the retailer are certainly working toward that mandate; but they’re also hopeful that the research currently underway will provide scientific reason for decisions made on production going forward. When the news broke last year that growers would be required to label plants treated with neonicotinoids at The Home Depot, and that other retailers were mandating growers to produce crops without neonics, I sucked in air and […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

May 27, 2015

Vote For Your Favorite New Annual For The 2015 Readers&…

VOTING IS NOW OPEN FOR: ANNUALS It’s time for you, our readers, to decide which variety is picked as the best new introduction in 2015. We’ve expanded our Readers’ Choice program to include a wider variety of plants. Breeders have entered their best varieties by category and the winners will advance as finalists to face off to win the Readers’ Choice Award. Categories are Annuals, Perennials, Edibles and the Best of the Rest. Finalists will be announced in June and the Readers’ Choice winner will be announced July 13 at Greenhouse Grower’s prestigious Evening Of Excellence event at Cultivate’15. Which annual is the most promising introduction? Vote here now! Thanks to our 2015 Medal Of Excellence sponsors, Landmark Plastics and Stockosorb by Evonik. Readers’ Choice Voting Schedule: Annuals – May 22 to May 28 (closes at 12 a.m. EST) Perennials – May 29 to June 4 (closes at 12 a.m. EST) Edibles – […]

Read More
Bee on a Sedum

May 27, 2015

Industry Associations State Their Support Of National P…

AmericanHort, Society of American Florists, American Floral Endowment and Horticultural Research Institute joined together to embrace key aspects of the federal government’s recently announced National Strategy for the Protection of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The long-awaited strategy has three major goals: reducing honey bee colony losses, increasing Monarch butterfly populations, and restoring or enhancing millions of acres of land as pollinator habitat through public and private action. According to the statement, the associations are studying the details, but they agree that the overall approach appears balanced and mostly sensible. The rest of the statement reads as follows: “The national strategy’s overarching goals dovetail well with the focus of the ongoing Horticulture Industry Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Program. Under that initiative, we have directly funded several priority research projects, and collaborated on additional research funded by others, to provide critical scientifically sound guidance for professional horticulturists. We are developing a grower […]

Read More
calliope dark red geranium

May 27, 2015

Leider Family Suffers Two Deaths

Industry veteran Jim Leider of Leider Greenhouses and his family suffered two losses this year, first with the death of his wife of 54 years, Peggy Leider, who passed away March 23, and more recently with the death of his and Peggy’s oldest son, Michael, who passed away May 24. Leider Greenhouses is a 117-year-old greenhouse operation based in Buffalo Grove, Ill., near Chicago. Margaret Lynch “Peggy” Leider, age 76 of Lake Bluff, Ill. and Ocean Ridge, Fla., succumbed to a long battle with cancer in March. Peggy attended Westchester College and Penn State University, and met her husband Jim at Cornell University. She moved to Chicago when they married, and was an avid supporter of the family greenhouse business, Leider’s Greenhouses. Peggy dedicated many hours of her time as a member of several organizations, including the Chicago Botanic Garden Women’s Board, Ravinia Festival Women’s Board and The Northwestern University […]

Read More
water

May 27, 2015

California Growers To Voluntarily Cut Back Water Use

Farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have agreed to reduce their water use by 25 percent in exchange for assurance that they will not face further curtailment during the June-September growing season. The proposal was approved by the State Water Resources Control Board on Friday, May 22. “This proposal helps Delta growers manage the risk of potentially deeper curtailment, while ensuring significant water conservation efforts in this fourth year of drought,” State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus says. “It allows participating growers to share in the sacrifice that people throughout the state are facing because of the severe drought, while protecting their economic well-being by giving them some certainty regarding exercise of the State Water Board’s enforcement discretion at the beginning of the planting season.” Growers who participate in the program could opt to either reduce water diversions under their riparian rights by 25 percent, or fallow 25 percent of their land. In both cases, the […]

Read More
Four Star Greenhouse Proven Winner Plants At English Garden

May 26, 2015

Retailer To Grower: It’s Time To Offer Services To Loc…

Retailers wonder why mass merchants are the only ones to receive stocking, merchandising and plant care from growers.

Read More
Greenhouse Electrical System

May 26, 2015

Don’t Let Your Greenhouse Electrical System Come …

Ensuring your greenhouse has enough electricity to operate all the equipment that is installed takes planning and consideration of an operation's needs. Part one of two articles on greenhouse electrical systems covers choosing an electrician, meeting immediate and future needs and planning for back-up power.

Read More

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New …

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Inn…

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strat…

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
r3bv2 disease

May 20, 2015

SAF And AmericanHort Ask Government To Take Ralstonia O…

The Society of American Florists (SAF) and AmericanHort want Ralstonia solanacearum, Race 3, Biovar 2 (R3Bv2) taken off a list of animal and plant diseases that the federal government has determined could be misused as terrorist weapons. SAF and AmericanHort submitted formal comments together on the horticulture industry’s science-backed position on the matter. According to Lin Schmale, SAF’s senior director of government relations, extensive research has proven R3Bv2 does not belong on the government’s list of animal and plant diseases that can be misused as terrorist weapons. Every two years, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requests a public review of the Select Agent list, asking for comments on whether plant or animal diseases should be taken off the current list or added to it. In the floral industry, R3Bv2 can have a devastating impact on geranium (pelargonium) crops, Schmale says, and both the potato and tomato industries also could be adversely affected by introduction […]

Read More
Amy Daniel with daughters

May 20, 2015

Fall Creek Farm & Nursery’s Amy Daniel Suppor…

Amy Daniel, marketing and brand manager at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, has a passion for marketing and branding that led her into the green industry early in her career, when she and a friend started their own agency, and she began helping her parents — then owners of a retail nursery — with marketing services. Daniel’s career in the field started in the 1980s, after she finished college with degrees in journalism and advertising. It wasn’t long before she began to feel frustrated with the status quo in the industry. She and a friend from college, agreeing there was a better way to do things, decided to start a business. “I guess now looking back, we were probably young and naive, but it all worked out really well,” Daniel says. “We started our own advertising agency/marketing and PR firm. I ran that for two decades. It was very successful.” […]

Read More
CCGGA-Scholarship-Winners

May 20, 2015

Central Coast Greenhouse Growers Association Awards 201…

The Central Coast Greenhouse Growers Association (CCGGA) is awarding 20 scholarships this year to high school and college students. CCGGA-member nurseries raised money for the scholarship fund and each donated a portion of the fundraising sales to the fund, which is open to students currently enrolled in college for the following year. The scholarship program is also available to students of employees who work at CCGGA-member nurseries One of the organization’s goals is to continue encouraging future generations to enter the horticulture field and to promote higher education within the families that work in the local nursery business. The 2015 CCGGA scholarship recipients are: Aloysia Shea – Nipomo High School Andrew McHaney – CSalinas High School Angel Flores – Righetti High School Beatriz Barajas – San Jose State University Carolanne Garibay – Monterey Peninsula College Cladia Lavina – Salinas High School Erica Marquez-Ibarra – San Jose State University Jorge Zarate […]

Read More