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Gladiolus Flowers, Summer Bulbs for the Garden

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Gladiolus Flowers, Summer Bulbs for the Garden

Green Gladiolus Flowers

Photo © flickr user Ripplestone
If your previous exposure to gladiolus plants consists of a few stalks leaning this way and that in the flower garden, give this summer bulb, technically called a corm, a second chance. A mass of two dozen or more gladioli in bloom creates a garden spectacle of spiky blossoms, with some left over for the vase.

Latin Name:

Genus Gladiolus, Family Iridaceae

Common Names:

Gladiola, Glads, Flag Flower, Sword Lily

Zone:

Gladiolus flowers may perennialize in zone 8 and warmer, but most gardeners treat them as annuals.

Size:

3-4 feet

Exposure:

Full sun

Bloom Period:

Gladioli bloom from July until frost. However, the plants don’t bloom continuously, so planting new corms every two weeks will extend the blooming season.

Description:

Gladiolus plants produce trumpet shaped flowers that open from bottom to top on a sword-like stem, adding drama to the landscape and bouquets alike. Hybridizers have expanded the color palette so that few flowers rival it, short of bearded irises. Many modern varieties have ruffled or frilled petals, adding to their appeal.

Planting:

Planting glads too early won’t reward you with earlier blooms: Gladioli pout in cold soil, and may even rot. Wait until night temperatures reach the 60’s before you set out your gladiolus bulbs.

Any well-draining soil is fine for growing gladiolus bulbs. Although glads can tolerate shallow planting, placing them at least six inches under the soil’s surface provides support to emerging shoots.

When first frost strikes, you can dig your glad bulbs for winter storage. Dry them for a few weeks, and store them in a cool, dry place.

Maintenance:

Gladioli don’t need much attention after planting. If the weather is dry at planting time, you can water the bulbs once, but don’t water them again until you see shoots or you may encourage rot.

Fertilize newly emerged gladioli shoots with a balanced, 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer. Keep your glads off the ground with half round plant stakes, hoop stakes, or single stem supports, depending on how many glads are in your grouping.

Thrips sometimes bother gladiolus plants. You may not see the tiny winged insects, but you’ll notice brown foliage tips and flecked foliage. Treat thrips with insect soap.

Design Tips:

Gladioli look ungainly when they aren’t in bloom, but you can hide their awkward phase in the flower garden in two ways:
  1. Plant them in containers, and keep the containers out of sight until the plants are ready to bloom.
  2. Plant glads behind medium to tall plants that will come into bloom when the glads are finished, like zinnias or dahlias.

Varieties:

  • Atom: Red with picotee white border
  • Boone: Yellow with coral accents; said to be hardy to zone 6
  • Green Lace: Ruffled chartreuse blooms
  • Lucky Star: Unusual for its fragrance; white with red throats
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