gladiolus

How To Grow And Care For Gladiolus

Gladiolus are one of the oldest and most popular choices among gardeners when it comes to beautiful flowering plants. They have tall spikes of flowers and are absolutely fascinating as decorations. Chances are you have seen gladiolus in bouquets more times than you can remember.

The flowering plants come in a variety of colors as well as sizes. If your gardening work requires cut flowers, then gladiolus are among the best choices. They grow quickly and can also be easily cultivated using gladiolus corms. Trust me, you’ll be glad-iolus you did!

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Growing Gladiolus

Gladiolus bloom in the summer, which means they are not meant for the winters at all. However, their corms can easily be preserved from which the flowering plants can be regrown within a couple of weeks. The taller types of these plants are grown using stakes and placed at the back of a garden as a complement to the shorter types.

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Here are some quick facts about the beautiful flowering plant:

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  • Latin name: Gladiolus
  • Other names: Glads, sword lily
  • Native to: South Africa
  • Invasiveness: Not invasive.
  • Tenderness: Classic perennial
  • Sun: Full Sun.
  • Water: Well-watered with at least 1 inch of water every week.
  • Soil: Well-drained, sandy, loam soil.
  • Hardiness zone: Zones 7 through 10
  • When to plant: Spring, when the soil temperature is at least 55 degrees F.
  • Spacing: 2 to 3”. If for show then at least 6”. Rows should be spaced between 20 to 36” inches.
  • Plant height: 2 to 4 feet.
  • Bloom period: Summer
  • Time to maturity: 70 to 90 days.
  • Container friendly: Shorter varieties are most suited for containers.
  • Fertilizer: 5-10-5 or 5-10-10
  • Toxicity: Toxic to pets. Will cause severe discomfort to humans.
  • Deer resistant: Yes.
  • Pest resistant: Considerably.

Gladiolus are excellent flowering plants that not only add color but also increase the volume of cut arrangements. They are the preferred first plantings for young flower gardens meant for perennials. They require moderate care, especially when it comes to fertilizing and planting the corms. However, it is nothing to be afraid of.

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Gladiolus also love sandy, well-drained soil. The corms can start rotting easily in any kind of moisture-retentive soil. They are also pretty tall plants, so you should plant them further into the soil than usual. This will protect them from strong winds knocking them over.

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The corms of gladiolus are similar in appearance to crocus corms but considerably larger in size. The bottom is small and flat and a brown fiber is wrapped around them. The most important steps in gladiolus care are how you plant them and fertilize them. 

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Water

Water them enough so that the soil remains moist. If your area is experiencing a drought, then regularly check on the plants and water them. During planting, water the corms thoroughly as well.

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Sunlight

Gladiolus are summer-blooming plants. As such, their flowers are the most vibrant when the plant receives full sunlight. However, the corms will still bloom in partial sunlight but the flowers will not be very colorful.

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Soil

The gladiolus grow the best in soil that is loamy and sandy. Keep them away from wet, heavy soil as much as possible since it will make the corms rot. If your garden beds have clay soil, then loosen it up to a depth of 12 inches and then plant the corms.

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Fertilizing

Gladiolus need regular attention when it comes to fertilizing. The best fertilizer will be the 5-10-10 or 5-10-5. Place it at the container’s bottom and then mix it with the soil thoroughly to avoid burning the corm. Add in an unfertilized soil layer, and then place the corm in the dug trench.

You can add fertilizers when the spikes of flowers begin growing. Then, you can add fertilizers again after picking the flowers.

Invasiveness

They can spread gradually. However, the corms take at least 2 years to spread by natural means. As such, the gladiolus are usually not classified as invasive.

Growing The Gladiolus in containers

If you want to grow gladiolus in containers, then a strong recommendation would be to pick out a shorter variety. Also, ensure that the pot has holes for drainage. Otherwise, the plant will not grow well. The container should be, at minimum, 12 inches wide and 12 deep. Plant the corm above at least 2 inches of soil from the bottom of the container. Always ensure that the soil is not waterlogged. It’s preferable to water the plants thoroughly once a week rather than 2 to 3 times per week.

Care & tips

Gardeners tend to plant new batches of gladiolus every 2 weeks from the middle of spring till the middle of summer. This will ensure a steady supply of cut flowers.

If your area experiences strong winds, then be sure to stake them so that the gladiolus do not grow deformed or with broken stems. In the winter, dig up and store away the corms.

You can do so 4 to 6 weeks after the gladiolus have flowered. After you dig up the corms, trim the leaves to within 2.5cm of the corm. Then store them in a well-protected, cool, dry, and dark place.

After the gladiolus flowers fade, keep tending to the plant until the leaves turn yellow, then brown, and finally dry up. Then empty the pot, or dig up the soil to recover the corms.

Common problems

Soft and crumbly corms are good indicators that they are not good enough. If the leaves on growing gladiolus are getting yellow, or it flowers prematurely, then it is probably a virus. Unfortunately, a virus problem usually requires you to replace the gladiolus.

If you are noticing “streaky” leaves, then the gladiolus may be suffering from a thrips infestation. Treat the corms before putting them into storage to avoid this.

Propagating The Gladiolus

Propagating gladiolus is as easy as simply growing them from fresh corms. The more years you spend growing and collecting gladiolus corms from them, the greater number of plants you can get in a season.

The History Of Gladiolus

The growth in these flowers’ popularity came in the 19th century. Victorian cutting gardens would always have these plants. The plants were so popular that Europeans would use them almost everywhere. As a result, the gladiolus also became the preferred choice for funeral bouquets. This led to gardeners associating the flower with death, and thus the flowers’ popularity fell sharply.

Then, in the 1980s, the gladiolus recovered from their association with death as the traditions around funeral bouquets changed. Today, they are just as popular as they were back in the 18th century.

Uses for The Gladiolaus

The gladiolus plants are absolutely awesome for flower cuttings. They look beautiful on the borders of flower beds, as seasonal replacements for vegetable gardens, and as simple indoor decorations.

The gladiolus should not be kept anywhere near pets as they will do severe harm. The plants’ buds are especially harmful. Even for humans, it can cause a variety of distressing symptoms, so do not ingest it in any form.

The gladiolus are one of the most common and popular ornamental plants. They take a bit of care, but once you start on them and get the hang of storing the corms, you can keep your garden fresh with gladiolus for a long time.

Mayukh Saha
Freelance Writer
Mayukh is a Content Marketer and Social Media Manager with over 5 years of experience in the industry. Mayukh believes in the power of content; how it can positively impact lives, scale businesses and touch people. In his spare time Mayukh likes to read about latest tech trends and loves to travel in the nature. You can reach him at [email protected]
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