Gladioli are a bright and cheery addition to any home garden. Also known as sword lilies, these striking plants grow tall, and their beautiful blossoms come in many colors.
Because of their height, gladioli are often grown for cut arrangements. Their sturdy stalks tower above the bouquet and add an elegant touch. In gardens, they are a popular choice for the back of the flower bed, creating a colorful frame for the rest of the display.
To plant gladioli at home, you will need to purchase a set of bulbs or corms from a reputable source. You can even opt to have them shipped directly to you.
Until you are ready to plant, keep the bulbs in a cool, dry environment. Left unattended in low temperatures, they can last up to 12 months. Many find a garage or basement to be the perfect storage place until planting time.
Once you select the perfect spot, dig a hole for each bulb, about 4 inches deep. Place the bulb inside and be sure the pointed end is facing up.
Bulbs should be planted about 6 to 8 inches apart. Once each bulb is settled in its new soil home, cover it with soil and pat it down. Then, water thoroughly.
Add a thin layer of mulch around each freshly planted bulb. This will help the soil retain moisture and aid in weed prevention.
Your gladioli will be most happy in full sun. Find a spot in your garden where they will receive sunlight most of the day. Ideally, they should not be shaded by trees or buildings.
Gladioli will still grow in partial shade, but you'll likely notice they have fewer or no blooms.
A moderate environment is best for gladioli. They prefer soil that is well-drained and not soggy. After your initial watering, keep the soil moist without letting it get waterlogged.
The frequency of the watering schedule depends on the amount of sun your region receives. Before watering, check the soil with the tip of your finger. If the first two inches are dry, go ahead and give it a light soak.
Like all plants, gladioli grow fastest when they have the proper nutrients. A multipurpose 5-10-10 fertilizer will do the trick. These fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in amounts ideal for beautiful blooms. Most come in a liquid or spray version for easy application.
Gladioli will live their best life when grown in USDA zones 7 through 10. Here, they can be grown as perennials.
If you live in a colder zone, you'll want to dig up the bulbs at the end of the season and store them over winter. Doing so will allow you to replant them in the spring.
While your plant is blooming, take care to pluck off the dead flowers to welcome new ones at a faster rate. After your gladioli are done flowering for the season, cut the stalks back. Leave 2 or 3 inches of the stalk above the ground. This will let the bulb sit tight until next spring, or until you are ready to pull it for winter storage.
Gardeners in zones 7 through 10 can leave their gladiolus in the ground. When you are expecting a cold winter, spread a layer of straw over the flower bed to keep the dormant bulbs warm.
If you live in a zone colder than zone 7, you need to pull your gladioli bulbs for the winter. To do so, dig each one out of the ground and give it a good shake to remove excess soil. Let the bulbs dry in a warm, airy spot for at least two weeks. Once you have ensured all the bulbs are dry, wrap each one loosely in newspaper or light cloths and store them in a cool, dry location with good airflow.
Gladioli cannot be propagated from cuttings or stems. But with a little patience, you can start growing new plants from your existing garden.
Before fall strikes and temperatures plummet, dig up the bulbs. Most should have smaller bulbs growing off of them. Carefully remove these and store them for the winter. Come spring, you can plant them along with your older bulbs.
One of the biggest threats to healthy gladioli is rot and fungi caused by too much moisture in the soil. The flowers may lose their color and you may spot gray fuzz on your plant. When this happens, you need to act fast.
For plants that appear to be beyond hope, dig them out at the root and dispose of them. If the disease is caught early, use a spray fungicide to treat the infection. This can save your plant and keep the rot from spreading.
A few of the most common garden pests target gladioli. These include mealybugs, thrips, and aphids. Check your plants regularly for signs of infection. You may first notice leaves turning yellow or falling off. If you do spot a pest, find a natural pesticide. Spraying this on your flowers will keep the bugs away and ensure no harm to other plants and creatures in your garden.
Even though gladioli often are planted in the background, they can easily steal the show. Their tall stalks and bright blossoms are unmistakable.
When cutting flowers for an arrangement, line the gladiola stems behind the other flowers to provide a gorgeous backdrop for your other blooms. Consider alternating colors to really make a statement, or using a monochrome look for a true show-stopper.
Gladioli are sometimes mistaken for irises or freesias, and these are all part of the iris family. Irises bloom in the spring, while gladioli provide their cheer later in the year, during the warm summer months. Freesia are most popular for their powerful scent. All three can make a beautiful addition to your garden, blooming in different seasons.
Unfortunately, these beautiful blooms are not pet-friendly — gladioli are toxic to cats and dogs and can make curious children sick, as well.
If any part of the plant buds are ingested, they can induce vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy, so opt for a different flower if you have yard-roaming creatures, or plant them out of reach.
Gladioli come in a wide range of not only colors but sizes. Smaller varieties have flowers about 3 inches in diameter. Others grow blooms even larger than 5 inches. The versatile flowers come in blues, pinks, reds, yellows, stripes, and even deep velvety reds that can look black in the right lighting.