Glorious Gladiolus

This elegant beauty blooms in warm shades of pink, salmon, yellow, red; cool tints of lilac and lavender-blue; and peaceful white. Blooms open from bottom to top with petals that are frilled, ruffled, semi-ruffled, or plain.

Glads are grouped by flower size from miniature to giant. The larger ones are most popular with florists. While most glads are hardy to Zone 7 as a perennial, one (Gladiolus nanus) is hardy to Zone 5.

Common name: Gladiolus, sword lily

Botanical name: Gladiolus spp.

Plant type: Corm

Height: 3 to 60 inches tall

Zones: Hardy Zones 7 to 10 as a perennial (possibly Zone 6 with several inches of loose mulch during winter) for most varieties. Annual in Zones 3 to 10.

Family: Iridaceae (Iris)


Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Glads grow in a variety of soils, but loam or sandy loam gives best results. Good drainage is imperative.
  • Moisture: 1 inch of water a week.

Care

  • Mulch: Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch to help prevent weeds and conserve moisture.
  • Fertilizer: Add a balanced fertilizer to soil before planting. Apply fertilizer higher in potash when growth is 1/3 of final height. Keep fertilizer away from plant stems.
  • Pruning: Remove spent blooms.

Cultivars

  • ‘Mon Amour' (pictured) has flowers with pink and yellow highlights in midsummer to early fall. Grows 36 to 48 inches tall.
  • ‘Green Star' has lime-green flowers in midsummer to early fall. Grows 36 to 48 inches tall.
  • ‘Parade' has ruffled salmon-pink flowers in late summer. Flower spikes grow 32 to 34 inches tall.
  • ‘Pulchritude' has ruffled lavender-pink flowers with red marks. An early season bloomer, the flower spikes grow 30 inches tall.
  • ‘Sunsport' has ruffled ivory and deep yellow flowers from late spring to early fall. Flower spikes grow 26 to 28 inches tall.
  • ‘Zephyr' has ruffled, light lavender to pink flowers with cream-colored centers. It blooms late spring to early fall. Flower spikes grow 32 inches tall.

Garden notes

  • Purchase firm, plump, high-centered corms with smooth husks and no spots or dark areas.
  • Plant corms 3 to 6 inches deep and 3 to 6 inches apart in spring, depending on size of corms.
  • Plant in clumps of seven or more in a perennial garden or in rows in a cutting garden.
  • Plant a variety of cultivars in two-week intervals to achieve a longer bloom period. Some glads bloom late spring to early fall (Grandiflorus group); some early summer (Nanus group); and others early to late summer (Primulinus group).
  • Stake tallest cultivars to keep them from falling.
  • Where treated as an annual, lift corms six weeks after blooming, then cut foliage, shake off soil, and dry for a couple of weeks. Select best new corms and store in a dry, frost-free place. Discard old corms.

Pests

  • Corm rot, stem rot, gray mold, viruses, and aster yellows may occur.
  • Mites, thrips, and aphids may attack.

Propagation

  • Separate cormlets when dormant.

All in the family

  • The Iridaceae (Iris) family includes perennials with showy flowers and long narrow leaves such as crocus, iris, freesia, tiger flower, and crocosmia.