The Gladiolus is one of the four most popular summer flowering bulbs because they are so darned easy to grow and they give such huge blossoms. They make excellent cut flowers and I’d recommend planting a few out back just for this purpose because once you have them, you won’t be able to resist snipping a few.
Native to South Africa, the glad is also known as the sword-lily because of its sword-like leaves. But there is very little trace of those originating species in the monster hybrids we all love to grow (and have been growing since 1841).
The large flowering gladiola can be classed into four groups:
This is the most numerous of the group with literally hundreds of hybrids available for your every garden-color whim.
The flowers on the butterfly types look like butterflies. Hard to imagine how we’d call them butterfly types if there wasn’t some resemblance. The flowers are smaller than the Large Flowering types and the flower color is often very strong and bright.
These all have the yellow flowering species Gladiolus primulinus in their genetic makeup. The upper flower leaf covers the other flower leaves, pistil and stamen acting as a little protective cap. It is difficult to see right inside the flower.
Small Flowering Glads
Many of these smaller flowering species are quite delightful in themselves and are marginally hardier than the large flowering types. Youll most often see Gladiolus colvillei, Gladiolus nanus, and Gladiolus tubergenii or their varieties (they too come in a wide range of colors) in retail shops.
- Plant gladiola in the full, hot sun.
- Plant about three to four inches apart.
- Put them three inches deep.
- They should grow to three to five feet high depending on the variety check the box label.
Bloom Times and Getting Flowers Most of The Summer
There are two techniques to get a longer bloom time.
- Gladiolus come in early, mid-season and late flowering varieties. Plant some of each for season long bloom.
- Also stagger the planting every two weeks to extend the blooming season from very early spring until late May or very early June.
When To Plant
Start planting when the local farmers plant corn. 🙂 Or when it is not too cold to put your wrist directly on the soil (If it is too cold for your wrist, it is too cold for your bulb.
Sometimes I’ll recommend more tender parts of your anatomy as soil temperature checking devices.) 🙂
If you plant early and then stagger your planting, you can have glads in bloom from July through September.
Which Side Goes Up When Planting
No, it doesn’t matter which side is up. The gladiola bulb will sort it out.
If your flower stem tends to twist and crook, I’d recommend a slightly deeper planting and then do two things.
- Ensure it never runs out of water and
- Hill the early growing stem like a potato.
This keeps the bulb (actually a corm) uniformly moist and cool and reduces stem-crooking dramatically.
Silver Streaking on Flowers
The other problem is thrips. This tiny fly gets inside the flower bud and causes flower streaking. (silvery streaks on the blooms)
Blue sticky cards are great thrip traps and you can regularly spray insecticidal soap to knock back any pests on the developing buds.
Keeping Gladiolus Safely Over The Winter
Dig the bulbs just before the first hard frost. Allow to dry thoroughly so the soil is dry on the bulb.
Simply brush off the dried soil and store cool, dry and dark until spring. Try to store in trays with some distance between bulbs if possible. That way, if one gets moldy it doesn’t spread to the others.
Check regularly for mold and discard any badly infected bulbs.
Getting More Glads
The small bulblets around the base of the corm when you dig it up in the fall (right before or after a frost) can be stored and replanted the following year. They will take 2-3 years to flower depending on soil fertility. Treat them exactly as you would a full sized corm.
Want Interesting Varieties?
Amazon has an good range of suppliers and varieties. Simply ensure the ratings for the supplier are what you’d expect.