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How To Grow Gladiolus And Add Color To Your Garden

The gladiolus (Gladiolus x hortulanus) has been cultivated and loved since early times, but today’s range of color, size, and forms has far outclassed its early beginnings. These flowers make stunning bouquets. Wouldn’t you love to know how to grow gladiolus?

colorful gladiolus flowers

Gladiolus varieties and hybrids

Gladiolus is a member of a huge family of colorful and richly flowering varieties and hybrids. Most of the over 200 species come from South Africa, although some of the smaller flowering varieties come from around the Mediterranean, especially the eastern area.

Legends tell us of the important role that the Gladiolus played in ancient feasts and ceremonies and wall paintings of this historic plant where found in the ruins of Pompeii.

How To Grow Gladiolus

pink gladiolus flowers

The bulbs of the Gladiolus are called corms and are usually slightly flattened and covered with a mesh-like membrane.

It is the sword-like leaves which have led to the Latin name of the plant since the word ‘Gladiolus’ means “little sword”.

The flowers are trumpet-shaped and have clear, strong colors. Modern Gladioli produce stems to 5 feet tall, each bearing 25 or more florets (12-14 opening at one time). Miniature varieties grow to 3 feet and produce spikes of 15-20 flowers.

Plant Gladiolus corms in the spring. Purchase them at the garden center, or by mail order. Smaller corms are cheaper than large ones, but they will produce smaller flower spikes.

The seasons of the Gladiolus

In November – Inspect the corms to see if they are shriveling from too much heat, or developing rot from being kept too damp and cool.

May through June – Dust the corms with a fungicide, and plant the corms after all danger of frost has passed and the ground has warmed.

Choose a sunny location with rich, well-drained soil. Set each corm at 4-5 times the depth of its height, and 4-6 inches apart.

July through August – Give plenty of water in this growth period and add a weak liquid fertilizer every second or third time it is watered. It may be necessary to support the plants with bamboo canes.

Cut spikes when the lowest flower begins to open.

September through October – Dig the corms when the foliage yellows and dries. Cut the tops off just above the corm.

Burn the dried tops, or discard them in trash containers, and dry the corms in a shady, well-ventilated place. Dust the corms with a fungicide and store in a dark place at 40-50 F.

Gladiolus Pests and Diseases

  • Small, black patches on the corms are dry rot – use fungicide!
  • Gray, furry patches on corms are gray mold. If the attack is too bad, throw the corms away.
  • Clear, dark, or lighter stripes on the leaves in the summer are a sign of a virus attack. Once again-out with them! (But not on the compost heap.)
  • Pale patches on the leaves. This means thrips (the most serious problem in Midwest gardens). Fight them with a chemical insecticide. Many sprays at frequent intervals will be needed.

Gladiolus plants usually last about 3-5 years. Eventually either the corms will expire or the flowers will be discolored. If you live in an area when winter comes early, you might have trouble growing gladiolus.

Gladiolus bulbs sale

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Beautiful Gladiolus Flower Pictures

Today Gladiolus is available in a whole range of colors and heights. Here’s just a small sampling for your delight.

Yellow gladiolus with orange edging

I love this yellow-orange gladiolus. I have a few just like it in my garden 🙂

purple gladiolus flowers

What a pretty deep purple color!

Stunning white gladioli with purple and fucshia center

Nature is such a good artist! Just look at this white gladioli with the gorgeous combination of  pink and purple in the middle.

Purple and pale pink gladiolus

Beautiful pairing of deep purple and pale pink gladiolus.

Red and purple gladiolus

Another delightful color pairing: bright red and pale lavender flowers.

Beautiful field of multicolored gladiolus

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pastel gladiolus

field of gladiolus flowers

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Saturday 28th of May 2022

My gladiolus are wilting over. Not the flowering stalks, but the stalks that have not flowered yet. They look really dry… but it rained all day yesterday….yesterday all of the plants were fine. Now today, all are wilting over.

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Ashley Bogan

Monday 2nd of March 2020

I'm in the upstate of South Carolina. My Asian lillies, dahlias, day lilies, irises,and daffodils all do fine overwintering left in the ground. Would gladiolus be OK too, or are these less cold hearty than what I've mentioned?


Tuesday 3rd of March 2020

Absolutely, they do just fine here in VA, and SC is warmer.


Friday 22nd of June 2018

Will they tolerate the Florida heat? I’m in Tampa region. Hot, wet summers, moderate dry winters


Friday 22nd of June 2018

Probably not. They are fine in parts of FL, but you are in the South and it's way too hot :(