By Heather Rhoades
Gladiolus are a very popular flower for the garden. Despite the extra care these tender perennials require, a great many gardeners plant, plant and replant these tall, flowering spikes every year. And who can blame them. Growing gladiolus plants make a wonderful addition to the outdoor garden or the indoor flower bouquet.
About Gladiolus Plants
While gladiolus can now be found in most parts of the world, these flowers are originally from Africa and the Mediterranean.
Gladiolus are normally identified by their tall flower spikes that are covered with showy funnel shaped flowers. The flowers at the bottom of the spike will open first and then the ones above them will open and so on until the entire spike is in bloom. A gladiolus can bloom from spring through autumn, which is another reason for their popularity.
People commonly think that gladiolus come from bulbs. This is not true; they are actually produced from corms, which look very similar to bulbs.
There are over 10,000 cultivars of gladioli and every year a few dozen more are added to this number. Gladiolus are very easy to cross-breed, so it is almost guaranteed that if you can’t find one in the right color now, just wait and one will inevitably come on the market soon.
There are three groups of gladiolus:
- Grandiflorus Group: The plants in this group flower from late spring to early autumn. The gladioli in this group normally only produce one flower spike from each corm.
- Nanus Group: The plants in this group bloom in early summer. These are the gladiolus that are most commonly used for things like corsages and floral arrangements. Normally, each corm will produce a few spikes.
- Primulinus Group: The plants in this group will flower from early summer to late summer. These gladioli will produce one very thin spike per corm.
Gladiolus Plant Care
Gladiolus are propagated from either seed or through the multiplication of their corms. Some species will grow best when grown from seed but, for the most part, growing gladiolus corms is recommended for better results.
Gladioli grow best in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. Plant the gladiolus corms the same way you would plant most any other bulbs.
Generally, the care for gladiolus plants will consist of watering throughout the season, fertilizing the plants and keeping them protected over winter.
The corms of the gladiolus must be dug up and stored for the winter in all but the warmest regions. To store gladiolus, dig up the plants 6-8 weeks after their final bloom or before the first frost. Cut the stem off just above the corm. Dip the corm in a fungicide and allow the corms to dry for a few weeks before packing them away in a cool, dry place. Many people will only keep the corms that were produced by the plant that year and will discard any older corms.
Despite the work required to keep a garden full of growing gladiolus plants, adding some of these great cut flowers to your garden is well worth the work.